Guns Destroy Lives

There is another similar saying, one I believe, but when those three words are uttered, they shut down conversation. So instead, I am going with this new phrase: Guns Destroy Lives. These words are probably more provocative, but also probably more definitive and demonstrative, because they do more than just being used to kill people.

photo cr. ABC News

Before I start, as I always do when I broach the subject, I must state the usual disclaimer. I am not anti-gun. I am for gun control. Now that you know I am not out to take away your 'rights', let's get into this, once again, in the aftermath of the Uvalde, TX school shooting that as of this writing took 18 children's and one teacher's lives.

Let's revisit quick one of the arguments against gun control: they are tools. They are not. They are weapons. They were and are designed to injure and most likely kill living beings. Killing something with them is not using them incorrectly, it is their purpose. They are not designed for protection, to injure, they are designed to kill. Yes, some are meant to be used to kill animals, not people - i.e. hunting. But many weapons, and the majority used in individual or mass murders, were designed for the purpose of inuring human beings. For 2nd Amendment touters, it doesn't even say 'guns' or firearms, it says the right to bear 'arms'. Arms is a synonym for weapons. So if you are in the camp agreeing that arms means guns as far as your rights then you must accept that it means weapons, and I don't think its necessary to define a weapon. I could go on forever, but let's move on.

Whatever possible consensus on a definition of guns and their purpose, American culture has a dangerous, almost mythological, obsession with them. Nature magazine has a great article with extensive research on the legitimization of gun violence. I see gun ownership as a public health issue not dissimilar to drugs. Their very presence causes havoc and has far-reaching effects on the lives of countless people. 

The family and friends of victims and yes, the friends and family of the killer. Let's not forget the life of the shooter, if they survive. It's easy to label shooters as criminals, or crazy, but sure, a small percentage are self-defense and those people are affected. But its more likely that it will be used on the shooter themselves. Suicide, and suicide attempts, are a huge factor in gun use, with 54% of all gun-related deaths being self-inflicted. That's right, even with the mass shootings and the murders in cities that garner most of the attention, the most likely use of a gun is suicide. They also are the most lethal form of suicide, with 85% of suicide attempts with a firearm ending in death (compared to the most common method - drug overdose - which only ends in death 3% of the time). Part of that high mortality is because guns are immediate and mostly irreversible - they do what they were designed to do. Other methods give time to reconsider even after the act and reconsider or seek help. The life a firearm destroys could be your own, followed by your friends and family.

The very presence of guns, their simplicity and ease of access, directly relates to their usage. Their history, mystique, and reputation can make it easy for someone to have malevolent thoughts and then immediately act on them. They also cause unintentional injury and death - most tragically when youth have access to them. Unintentional injuries from firearms account for 37% of all firearm injuries. That means over one-third of all injurious uses of a firearm were unintentional. For all the arguments that they are useful, needed, for self-defense, in the end they are far more likely to cause unintentional injury or death, or purposeful self-inflicted death - suicide. Only a few hundred deaths in the US are considered justifiable homicides. And though unintentional shootings do not often end in death, the injuries themselves cause physical, mental, and financial harm to the victim and the shooter.

Entire communities are affected by living in fear of guns. Fear of guns leads to ownership of guns because of the misplaced idea that guns stop people with guns. Scientific American reports on this fallacy, showing that about 30 careful studies show more guns are linked to more crimes: murders, rapes, and others. They also escalate situations. Fear of being the victim of a shooting can lead to a preemptive strike outlook, thinking that shooting first is a form of self-defense (we see examples of this in police shootings, or shooting of police). The after effects of gun violence also involve legal, financial, and physical and mental impacts on individuals and entire communities. 

We must work on common sense, actionable means to reduce gun ownership. One of those ways could be to regulate their manufacture. If ownership laws can't be agreed upon because of differing views on the 2nd Amendment, we can look at reducing the manufacturing, distribution, and sales.

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