The Norman Transcript

January 21, 2013

Benefits of gun laws outweigh gun hazards

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

I appreciate Bill Dragoo’s discussion on gun ownership and its relations with cigarette smoking. I, too, see many parallels, but my viewpoint is different. Dragoo suggests that more gun laws “will have no more effect than anti-smoking ads...” However, I think most people agree that anti-smoking laws and educational advertising have been tremendously successful. Like the gun lobbyists of today, the cigarette lobbyists of the 1950s and 1960s ran the show, working hard to suppress all scientific studies that detailed the dangers of cigarettes. Despite their best efforts, people began to understand the health risks of smoking, and with public pressure, in 1964 the surgeon general officially recognized these risks. Legislation soon followed — beginning with advertised these risks on cigarette labels, then stopping advertisements to children, television and billboard ads, and finally, curtailing smoking in public places. Now, 20 percent of all Americans smoke, down from 42 percent in 1964. What if we could have the same success rate in reducing gun violence?

Now, many people have guns because of a legitimate fear of intruders while other people enjoy hunting, which has a long history in this country. However, while some people have successfully fended off intruders, the number of people killed with guns, including accidental deaths, murders, suicides, and killing sprees, far outweighs the number of lives saved by guns. Because of these statistics, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have concluded that the safest home for children is a home without guns. However, gun owners’ rights trump these safety issues, thanks to the Second Amendment. Despite this, couldn’t we at least think of better ways to protect children from guns? Currently, child access prevention laws (CAP) don’t exist at the federal level, and in only half the states (including Oklahoma, thank you!), yet only eight states hold owners accountable for a child injured with a loaded gun left out. We clearly need more accountability on this issue.

Dragoo then brings up another important point concerning the arming of his 78-year old mother, who I can only assume is a safe gun handler — a lucky exception at her age. Dale Russakoff’s article “Guns in Frail Hands” published in the New York Times in 2010 provides a starkly different experience than Dragoo’s, where Russakoff details his attempts to divest his 90-year old mother, who has mild Alzheimer’s, from her gun, which she kept at her nursing home loaded and wrapped in a scarf in her dresser. No legislation supported his efforts to remove her gun, as no age-related restrictions exist on gun ownership. This is markedly different from laws governing the driving of a car, where 100 percent of all drivers must have a license, to be renewed every four years, sometimes with restrictions based on visual or physical impairments. The Veteran’s Health Administration has become increasingly aware of the issue of age impairment, and has found that 40 percent of elderly veterans with mild to moderate dementia have guns. Yikes!

These are just a few of the many issues that need study as we seek to reduce gun violence. Fortunately, we have good models for how to proceed in making our country safer, if only we would look carefully at factual information, ask questions, and talk about the issue. I appreciate Bill Dragoo’s letter from which I could continue this dialogue.



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