Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

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Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis
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By Robert Bernstein

Gun Violence as a public health crisis was the topic of the most recent Humanist Society talk. It might seem this was an amazing coincidence as it came just before the latest round of mass shootings.
But such mass shootings are becoming so frequent that it just emphasizes the importance of this topic.
Toni Wellen founded the Coalition Against Gun Violence 24 years ago with Eileen Pritikin. Wellen asked for a show of hands of how many have been touched by gun violence. A couple of hands. How many are gun owners? A couple of hands.
She first talked about a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) as a way for family members to take guns from someone they think is unfit to have a gun. The California law was written by Das Williams after the Isla Vista massacre. has more information about the GVRO and how to obtain one.

60% of gun deaths are suicides. And the majority of those are white males over the age of 65. Family members often have to face the difficult decision to take away the car keys from a loved one. That is also a time to take away the guns.
Lois Capps introduced the GVRO bill at a Federal level in 2016. Salud Carbajal reintroduced it. And Dianne Feinstein introduced it in the Senate. It has bipartisan support, but it has not been passed.
California has many gun laws for good reason. The purchase process checks that the buyer is a responsible gun owner.
In California the buyer has to take a test and wait ten days. In contrast, in Arizona a person can fill in a form and walk out with a gun on the spot.
Many people impulsively go to buy a gun with the idea of homicide or suicide. The Goleta Post Office mass murderer woman could not buy a gun in California. She went all the way to New Mexico to get one.
There is no gun registration in the US but there is licensing. If there were registration it would be with the Department of Justice and it would have to be renewed every two to five years.
For 24 years her group has worked to pass such a law, so far without success.
In California it is not allowed to buy a clip with more than ten bullets. The Colorado shooter had a 100 bullet clip. The effect was devastating. With a smaller clip there is a chance for a crazed shooter to be stopped when reloading.
California also does not allow the purchase of more than one handgun per month. This restriction does not apply to rifles and shotguns. This year there is legislation pending to extend to those guns. People who buy multiple weapons often sell to those who should not own one.
There are currently 20 laws pending in the California legislature.
Wellen presented a graph that showed that California gun death rates from 1993-2017 were less than in the US overall. She argued that this shows that the California laws do make a difference.

There was a mass shooting at Port Arthur in Tasmania in Australia in 1996. The Conservative Prime Minister of Australia demanded a buyback of all assault weapons. There has not been a single mass shooting in Australia since then.
New Zealand had few gun laws. But a recent mass shooting led to immediate enactment of gun laws.
The US is different. We have one mass shooting after another with little meaningful action at a national level. One difference is the National Rifle Association (NRA).
There are 40 shootings each day in the US. 9-10 involve children.
The way the US was founded is part of the reason. The Revolutionary War led to many people having guns. After the Revolutionary War most people did not have guns in their homes.
But during the Civil War people were issued rifles and went home with them. People got used to having guns in the home and using them to kill.
In contrast, Australia was founded as a penal colony. The prisoners were not necessarily violent. There was no violent founding of the country. They just had to make the best of a challenging environment.
In the US there is a swelling of public opinion now against gun violence. We pay $20 billion/year for the effects of gun violence in the streets. Including helping those injured for life.
A group called States United To Prevent Gun Violence opened a gun store in New York City. People came in thinking they might buy a gun. Instead, they were offered guns that were part of historic massacres or other tragedies.
A hidden camera showed how people responded as they were offered a gun used by a child to accidentally kill his brother. A San Diego mass shooting gun. A Sandy Hook killing gun. A gun used by a child to shoot his mother.
It made them think twice. Here is the video we were shown:

Over 1300 guns have been collected in Santa Barbara in a local buyback program. It is anonymous and people are given a Smart and Final gift card. Many participate because they have children at home.
They get some money from the City of Santa Barbara, but not enough. They have never gotten any grant money and depend on individual donations. The City of Goleta said no.
Many who participate are ex-felons who are not allowed to own a gun anymore. Otherwise the gun would sit in a closet and be illegal for them.
Wellen explained that it is no longer enough to talk of prayers and tears unless that leads to awareness and action. It is time to demand a plan to end gun violence.

40,000 Americans die each year from gun violence. If it were a disease we would demand action. We must treat it in exactly the same way: As a public health threat to be solved.
I noted that radio talk show host Thom Hartmann has offered a very practical solution: Require gun owners to purchase liability insurance exactly as car owners are required to do.
This would have at least two benefits:
1)       If someone is harmed with a gun, there is compensation to them and/or to their families.
2)       If a person is unfit to own a gun, they will not be insurable and will have to give up the gun.
Wellen claims that the insurance companies have resisted such a law. I would argue that this approach has not yet even received widespread consideration.
Another listener asked what can be done to get rid of the Second Amendment. In the past, this was narrowly interpreted. But in 2008 the Supreme Court expanded the interpretation in the Heller decision. They ruled by 5-4 that an individual has a right to own a firearm, even though the Second Amendment refers to a "well regulated Militia".

In recent years medical people have organized around this issue of gun violence. The NRA pushed back and said doctors should "stay in their lane". The doctors pushed back with the hashtag #thisisourlane
The medical professionals described having to tell a family their child has died. Having to operate on people who have been shot many times.
One safety program that requires no laws: "Asking Saves Kids" (ASK). This has parents asking if there is an unlocked gun in your house before letting your child go there to play.
One of the most effective laws needed at a Federal level would be a universal background check. As it is now, even if one state enacts good laws, a criminal or mentally disturbed individual can just go to another state with lax laws.
And this check must be done for every gun sale. As it is now, there are many gun sales that get no check at all. Most infamous is the "Gun Show Loophole". This enormous loophole exempts a large percentage of "private sales" from any kind of background check. Ending this "loophole" is an obvious and important action that can be taken.
This will happen when people demand this change from their elected officials.
As I write this, there is a massive effort to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to reconvene the Senate. They are demanding a vote on the bills that have been sitting on his desk for months.
Notably, House Resolution 8 which has been on McConnell's desk since February without any action. It is also called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.
Toni Wellen invited people to visit their Coalition Against Gun Violence web site at

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a-1594029608 Aug 10, 2019 11:05 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Fire fighters are useless. After all there are still fires. That is the logic of saying gun control laws are useless.

Soccer-Fan Aug 09, 2019 07:01 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Prohibition was mentioned in comparison with gun control. We can only guess the outcome of stricter gun laws but we know for a fact prohibition was a failure. Hundreds died from the bad alcohol distributed to speakeasies, crime increased and and the mafia had a brand new reason to be in business.

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 01:19 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Like the old saying goes: "Ban people from owning guns, and only the criminals will have the guns." What this says is that the bad guys are always going to have the guns no matter what laws you come up with. Just look at Chicago...dear Lord they are butchering each other in that lovely city.

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 01:27 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

@1:19 - Criminals don't follow laws, surprise surprise. So, what's the point of having laws? Addicts will get high no matter the laws, so should we just make all drugs legal?

LCP112233 Aug 09, 2019 11:06 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

In other news. The public health care crisis in the progressive state of california has hit an all time high due to vagrancy and toxic litter. So much that patients are showing up with Y. Pestis. Which is the cause of the bubonic plague and a Cat A bio-terror threat category. As well as a typhus outbreak in LA due to human waste, hypodermic needles and rodents. Lets ban rat poisoning too.

LCP112233 Aug 09, 2019 12:45 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Chip. Indeed. How often do you see a fox roaming the streets of LA eating rats anyway? I personally know a phlebotomist that is doing testing on the lung of a patient with Y. Pestis. Actually today. This is all very frightening, as is the gun violence, and lunatics in this Country.

Chip of SB Aug 09, 2019 12:32 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

It's interesting you bring up the plague issue. I read in the news recently that Dr. Phil has warned that an outbreak of plague is imminent in the LA area. Plague is endemic to the region, and the rat population is out of control. Dr. Phil said there was nearly an outbreak back in the 1920s, but heroic efforts by doctors at the time averted catastrophe. California recently outlawed all of the most effective rat poisons, second generation anticoagulants. It would be tragic if that attempt to protect wildlife leads to the needless deaths of the most vulnerable residents of LA.

sea dog Aug 09, 2019 11:05 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

it is impossible to solve a problem unless you identify what it actually is. 'Gun violence' is a made up term to take responsibility off the shooter and blame an object. One thing most gun killers share is no father in their life. Many also end on 'happy pills' with side effects of murder and suicide. All the gun control in the world wont fix this. The term 'white Nationalist' is all the rage these days but black people have done 72% of the mass killings this year ?

jqb Aug 09, 2019 02:06 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

"it is impossible to solve a problem unless you identify what it actually is." Ok: the problem with your comments is racism and lying.

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 11:52 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

SEADO- handgun homicides and mass shootings by domestic terrorists are two entirely different beasts.

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 11:20 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

SEADOG - quit blaming everyone else. The Gilroy shooter had a father, so did the El Paso shooter... guess what? So did the Dayton shooter.

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 10:30 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

They sell guns at the BX on VAFB. I find it ironic that the No Guns X sign greets you at the base entry but once you enter the BX, you are in a gun store. Surely the military does not have to sell guns next to diapers, children's shoes, and toys.

Soccer-Fan Aug 09, 2019 06:51 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Well said. We should appreciate and enjoy the lovely days and warm evenings while they are around. Fall and Winter when they arrive seem seem to be never- ending.

Concerned4Calif Aug 09, 2019 09:05 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

We are fed a steady nightly diet of murder and gunfire by Hollywood. Children have probably witnessed a million bloody murders before the age of 18. No wonder they are desensitized to killing another human. Just try to watch an hour of TV without seeing a gun or worse a murder. Hollywood aggrandizes guns as a sign of power and gaining control over other. Such power is attractive and addicting. Until we demand less gore out of Hollywood we will continue to be “shocked” when it happens for real in our streets.

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 10:27 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

LCP - if people can't be trusted to watch movies and play video games, then how in the world can you trust them to own guns????

a-1594029608 Aug 09, 2019 10:25 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

CONCERN4CALIF - If violent images cause mass shootings, then why aren't more mass shootings carried out by combat veterans? I mean, they've witnessed blood and gore first hand.

patrick Aug 08, 2019 08:05 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Thanks, Robert. Your recaps are always interesting and informative. We do need effective gun control and a ban on assault weapons.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 04:02 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

People are so sensitive. A different opinion is ok. For some reason people only want to read/view/comment with likeminded individuals instead of crossing the aisle and understanding both sides. This goes for all political affiliations.

EastBeach Aug 09, 2019 10:56 AM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

I wonder how many of all those who have been gunning down people would clear a psych screen? My guess is a lot would pass. And even if a mandatory psych screen was proposed for gun ownership, the GOP and NRA would lobby against it anyways. So I agree the mental illness angle is a bit of a red herrring.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 01:47 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

The 1st Amendment has limits, so why can't the 2nd Amendment have them as well? Do you people really think the right to own whatever gun you want is more important than the right to free speech?

Chip of SB Aug 08, 2019 04:22 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

I have heard variations of this argument before, and I must confess I don't quite get it. Are you saying the founding fathers believed that nobody should be able to own guns as a general proposition and felt the need to add an exemption to clarify that soldiers could have guns? I always thought it went without saying that soldiers would be armed. Why would they have made that amendment number 2 after free speech? That seems to suggest the right to bear arms was important to the founders. If they truly intended that people should not be allwoed to own guns, then did they even mention it in the bill of rights? It seems like they would have just omitted the second amendment altogether in that case. Am I missing something?

PitMix Aug 08, 2019 03:35 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

If I have the right to peaceably assemble, do you have the right to own a military weapon and kill me and 20 of my friends? Who decides that conflict, the 5 conservative nuts on the Supreme Court? There is an op-ed going around that summarizes the discussions about what the founders meant by a well-regulated militia. Basically, they meant the National Guard because they thought standing armies were dangerous to the republic. Not private ownership of weapons of war.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 02:25 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

The 1st Amendment is broader than free speech, but it's correct that there are virtually no limits to one's freedom of speech within its text. Read it for yourself: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 02:15 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

@ 2:10 - ummmm.... do you seriously think that's the ONLY limit to the 1st Amendment? School starts soon, go on back and give it another shot.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 02:10 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

LOL, the only limits to the 1st Amendment are the inability to yell "Fire" in a public space. Even slander is a civil offense. Try again.

macpuzl Aug 08, 2019 01:38 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

People who think that owning a military style firearm protects against a tyrannical government are completely ignorant about modern military firepower and tactics. Redneck wannabe Rambos who need a firearm to feel macho wouldn't last 15 minutes against concerted military action. The 2nd amendment is a complete anachronism, and these days is just an excuse for gun worship. Just as there are limits on 1st amendment rights to prevent abuse, the 2nd amendment needs rational limits. Sportsmen who hunt and target shoot will survive just fine without large magazine capacity and semiautomatic operation.

jqb Aug 09, 2019 02:21 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Taking up arms against the U.S. is treason, punishable by death it says so in the U.S. Constitution. But gun fondlers would have us believe that the 2nd Amendment is intended to ensure the ability to commit treason.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 08:48 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

There is always a chance many of us in the military may side with the Redneck wannabe Rambos . Mull that one over :)

macpuzl Aug 08, 2019 05:40 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

On further contemplation, 2:38 PM's admiration for the Taliban does serve as a good analogy for the racist gun worshippers in this country: misogynistic, violent, ignorant, and theocratic.

macpuzl Aug 08, 2019 05:14 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

The yokels in Kandahar are a tyrannical government, fighting against people with principles about killing others. Your weak analogy fails.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 04:00 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Pitmix, it make me sad that you think "that drone has flow already". To me this means that you don't think that US citizens can stop a tyrannical government. Maybe you're right. But I figure if a government perceives that it can rule tyrannically, it will do so. And if that happens you and I can sit in some FEMA camp and have a laugh about the old days. Peace, brother.

PitMix Aug 08, 2019 03:41 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

The only way those guerillas have a chance is if the occupying force doesn't want to kill everything that moves. If they are waging total war, militias would have no chance against the modern army. And when we were willing to suffer thousands of casualties, we were able to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan as an occupying force. But if you want to hang on to the fantasy of defending your cave against the guvmint, feel free. I believe that drone has flown, already.

GeneralTree Aug 08, 2019 02:58 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

The locals who slipped in and out of Iran freely with military grade armaments. Yeah, ok, those locals.

a-1594029608 Aug 08, 2019 02:38 PM
Gun Violence: A Public Health Crisis

Reminds me of those local yokels in Kandahar. Once upon a time someone told them they wouldn't last 15 minutes against a concerted military effort. Then they kicked the USSR out, and they'll be done with the USA next. I figure there will be a few million US-citizens that will feel the same under similar circumstances.


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