Firearms and Society

In our region, a conversation about the role of guns should begin with reassuring our neighbors who are hunters that we are not proposing to take away their hunting rifles and shotguns. Showing respect to our neighbors and valuing their lifestyle is part of our daily lives. In our region, these weapons cause few injuries or deaths.1

Military style assault weapons are different and, as we have once again recently seen, can cause great harm in society. The risk of one person causing widespread death with military style assault weapons outweighs their value. Almost all hunters take pride in dispatching their game with only one shot. Military style assault weapons are not designed for this type of shooting. Although statistically these weapons are responsible fora small proportion of gun related deaths, these tragedies lead to national trauma. The presence of these military style assault weapons places our law enforcement at risk and leads to further militarization of our communities. I support a Federal ban on further production of military style assault weapons and a buyback program to reduce their numbers. This will require allocation of significant money, but it will be well spent. Reasonable limitations on the right to bear arms are consistent with the Constitution, a viewpoint held by even the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Handguns cause the greatest number of firearm deaths and injuries, but also pose the biggest problem in terms of being a diffuse issue with the largest Constitutional and political obstacles to regulation. To solve the problem of misuse and abuse of handguns, we must better understand the issues. We must allow the scientists at the Center for Disease Control and National Institute of Health to study the links between handguns and death rates, particularly suicides. These studies are currently limited by law (the so-called “Dickey Amendment”), despite the urging of multiple health care and public health organizations that this policy be reversed.2 Allowing public health professionals into the conversation will bring facts and policies which may allow us to develop more effective laws. What is needed in urban America may be different than rural America, and we need to study and understand these differences. I agree with theAmerican Medical Association which has supported reasonable regulation of handguns, including requiring waiting periods, background checks, and mandated penalties for crimes committed with firearms or possession of illegal firearms.3

We need to do better.

1 http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/congress/ny/21.

2 http://files.www.drsforamerica.org/blog/blogs-from-dc-climate-change-and-health-at-the-white-house/CDC_letter_4-6_FINAL.pdf.

3 AMA Calls Gun Violence “A Public Health Crisis” at https://www.ama-assn.org/ama-calls-gun-violence-public-health-crisis.

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