Monday, June 12, 2017

Guns are unsafe and should be banned

Gun violence in this country is pervasive and unacceptable.

According to the Washington Post there are now more guns in the US than people. And people with guns tend to either shoot themselves, intentionally or by accident. 

 Untrained owners of handguns imagine the weapons being used for self-defense and may be surprised when a  curious child kills another, or the owner accidentally shoots  a friend or relative  in the dark, or occasionally in a fit of rage, kills a member of his family.

As we know, long guns and pistols were never used for sporting events. Firearms trace back to the Renaissance, where they were developed to penetrate armor.  Contrary to what the National Rifle Association claims, guns were never widely used for target shooting, or plinking, and the second amendment to the Constitution specifies that gun ownership be restricted to members of a militia. 

After an individual (usually a man) kills several people with a gun, an understandable perception forms that the person has or had "mental problems."

This stands to reason because otherwise, why would anyone shoot a bunch of strangers? Research by the U.S. Army found that  a high percentage of soldiers in World War II would intentionally fire over the heads of enemies, because the idea of killing a person is considered a sin, is so defined by major religions, and seems indefensible. 

That research involved soldiers, who are trained and does not include people with serious mental illness. In fact, the American Journal of Psychiatry says:

Even if one assumes a direct association between violence against others and serious mental illness, the focus must be narrowed to the population of individuals with serious mental illness associated with less than 3% of all violence (Fazel and Grann 2006). Furthermore, current research suggests that in general there is a minimal relationship between psychiatric disorders and violence in the absence of substance abuse (Martone et al. 2013). Thus, the assumption that all persons with mental illness are a “high-risk” population relative to violence gen- erally and gun violence in particular lacks supportive evidence. 
This study, among others, found that "less than  3 percent of all violence" is carried out by people with diagnosed mental illness.  Yet almost everyone would agree that the man at Virginia Tech, the man at the nightclub in Orlando, the man who killed at Sandy Hook, the man who shot people in a theater showing a Batman movie, and etc., must have serious mental issues.

So either shooting people is a rational act -- it isn't -- or many people with serious mental health problems are going undiagnosed and untreated. 

Is 3 to 4 percent a realistic figure? If so, efforts to stop gun violence by stepping up mental health screenings hardly makes sense. One if also forced to conclude that mass shootings are acts of rational people, which flies in the face of common sense. 

The gun industry and lobby are glad to blame shootings on mental illness as a way to distract people from the real issue:  handguns and rifles do no good, are not necessary, and citizens without guns are safer than gun owners in the U.S. 

The solution to gun violence is elementary. Gradually eliminate private gun ownership. Get rid of firearms. 

Will that ever happen? Don't hold your breath.

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