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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
ContributorAre we willing to address gun violence?

Are we willing to address gun violence?

Here we go again. Another mass shooting. Another community in pain, especially when so many were so young and innocent. And another cry for Congress to do something. And then the same explanation that gun reform won’t prevent mass shootings and we need to protect our second amendment. And all of our condolences will soon melt away. Deja-vu.

Until we truly look at ourselves in the mirror, we are going to see this happen again. Those calling for a time of healing must realize that until something changes, there cannot be any real healing. I think that there are three major challenges that we, as a nation, must resolve to make happen before things can get better: education on guns, the will to cause change, and investing in programs that create situations to proactively reduce gun violence.

Education

In 2021, Americans bought almost 20 million firearms, according to the Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting group.(1) One might think we’re going to war. Certainly, the various hate crimes against Asians and other groups, the increase in property crime, and COVID-induced mental challenges all contributed to us needing to feel safe. But, I wonder if folks knew some of the data below, whether they still would have gone ahead and bought so many firearms…

This is why education is so important:(2)

 

  • The number of US deaths in 2019 from gun violence is about 4 per 100K people, which is 18 times higher than the average rate in other developed countries. The data shows that where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths.(3)
  • Almost a third of US adults believe that there would be less crime if more people owned guns, per an April 2021 Pew Study. However, multiple studies show that where people have easy access to firearms, gun-related deaths tend to be more frequent, including by suicide, homicide, and unintentional injuries.
  • While personal safety tops the list of reasons why American gun owners say they own firearms, 63% of US gun-related deaths are self-inflicted. Over 23,000 Americans died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in 2019. That number accounts for 44% of the gun suicides globally and dwarfs suicide totals in any other country in the world.
  • At six firearm suicides per 100,000 people, the US rate of suicide is, on average, seven times higher than in other developed nations. 
  • One of those studies, conducted by researchers at Stanford University, found that men who owned handguns were almost eight times as likely to die of self-inflicted gunshot wounds as men who didn’t own a gun. Women who owned handguns were 35 times as likely to die by firearm suicide, compared to those who didn’t, according to the 2020 study, which surveyed 26 million California residents over a more than 11-year period.
  • Gun-related deaths were reduced after the introduction of stricter laws in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Germany.

 

Political Will

While the clamor for change is loudest after tragedies, voters haven’t seemed to hold our politicians accountable. In a recent Gallup poll, only 52% of Americans said that they wanted gun control laws stricter, 35% wanted them to stay the same, and 11% wanted more lenient gun laws.(4) What happened to the fervor? We need an overwhelming majority to be for change, especially during elections. Another Pew Research Center poll showed that 38% of Americans agreed with the Republicans on gun policy while 37% of us agreed with the Democrats.(5) Without any significant majority, politicians feel no pressure to make any changes. And with a large lobbying group contributing to campaigns to keep or weaken current laws, we end up where we are today. It is clear that mass shootings will continue, but they will not cause any legislative action until there is enough political will. And that starts with voters making it a high enough priority for candidates and politicians.

 

Creating situations to prevent gun violence

While many point to the mentally ill as resorting to gun violence, research doesn’t agree. In fact, the prevailing conclusion is that the large majority of people with serious mental illness are never violent.(6) 

There is some interesting research that gun violence is linked to the difficult situations that people need to navigate, especially young people. It is based on the idea that the people who inflict harm on others are not bad people by their nature, but make bad decisions during enormously difficult situations, and having readily available guns exponentially compounds their mistakes. Perhaps then the focus should be on investing in ways to reduce the environmental factors that push them into those difficult situations, or at a minimum, teach them how to effectively deal with those situations.

Consider this example, from one of Chicago’s most effective violence intervention programs, Becoming a Man (BAM).(6) Teens are paired up; one is given a rubber ball, and the other is given 30 seconds to get the ball out of his partner’s fist. Inevitably, the two teens end up on the ground, wrestling and fighting to get — or keep — the ball.

After the teens switch roles and the same struggle occurs, the BAM counselor asks why no one just asked their partner for the ball. They usually look surprised and say something along the lines of, “The other guy would have thought I’m a wuss.” The counselor asks the partner if that’s true. The usual answer: “No, I would have given it to him. It’s just a stupid ball.” (7)

Teaching tools for how to de-escalate what are perceived as difficult, insurmountable situations can help to prevent violence, especially gun violence. We need to invest and bring more of these conflict-resolution strategies to the community at large.

Other programs, such as Sandy Hook Promise’s Say Something, teach students and adults how to look for warning signs and threats, including on social media, of someone at risk of hurting themselves or others, and how to speak up to a trusted adult before a tragedy can occur. This should be done at a community level.

 

Steve Kerr is right — but it’s time to take the fight to them

The night of the Texas shooting, before the Warriors game, Steve Kerr made an impassioned plea:

“When are we going to do something? I am tired. I am so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families out there. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough…So I ask you, Mitch McConnell, and all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and the school shootings and the supermarkets’ shootings — I ask you, are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our church-goers? Because that’s what it looks like. That’s what we do every week. I’m fed up. I’ve had enough. We can’t get numb to this. We can’t sit here and just read about it and say let’s have a moment of silence.” (8)

He is absolutely right. But while he called for the Senate to take action, I say we need to “take the fight to them” to address the three issues I have listed. 

First, though, we need a large enough voice. So, how about the NBA partners up with the National PTA, with its 20,000 units representing over 3 million members? The PTA already has a position statement on gun safety and violence prevention that focuses on universal background checks, a federal ban on assault weapons, and a robust education program around gun safety and violence prevention.(9) This partnership would provide a big enough stage to provide education on guns so folks who are interested in purchasing guns can make an informed decision, as well as provide a conduit to offer de-escalation programs, gun buybacks, proactive awareness, and communication.

Then, what if this team joined forces with groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, Giffords, San Hook Promise, and Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence? Together, this would be a force to be reckoned with for candidates and politicians to address issues like HR 8 and others. 

Maybe we can get Steve to join us, after he leads the Warriors to their seventh championship.

References:

  1. www.forbes.com/sites/joewalsh/2022/01/05/us-bought-almost-20-million-guns-last-year—second-highest-year-on-record
  2. www.cnn.com/2021/11/26/world/us-gun-culture-world-comparison-intl-cmd/index.html
  3. www.cnn.com/2022/05/26/politics/gun-violence-data-what-matters/index.html
  4. news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx
  5. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2022/01/PP_2022.01.25_biden-year-two_REPORT.pdf, pg 19
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4211925/
  7. www.youth-guidance.org/bam-becoming-a-man
  8. www.cnn.com/2022/04/23/opinions/surprising-solution-to-gun-violence-ludwig/index.html
  9. www.cnn.com/2022/05/25/politics/steve-kerr-uvalde-texas-school-shooting-gun-control/index.html
  10. www.pta.org/home/advocacy/ptas-positions/Individual-Position-Statements/Position-Statement-Gun-Safety-and-Violence-Prevention
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Rob Jung
Robert Jung has lived in Milpitas over 24 years, and has over 18 years of experience in the high-tech industry, with companies such as IBM, Data General, Amdahl, and Cisco Systems. He has served as a Trustee for the Milpitas Unified School District and a Chairperson/participant on various MUSD committees, and has been President of several PTAs throughout his 16+ years as an active member. The Founder and President of the Milpitas Community Educational Endowment, Robert is a strong supporter of public education in Milpitas. He has also been active in Santa Clara county nonprofits for several years, including service in United Way and Second Harvest Food Bank. He is currently an investor and a partner in RJLC Partners, LLC.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. We’ve all herd that “DO SOMETHING!!!” over and over. The reason nothing gets done is because the primary question that will resolve it remains unanswered: what law are you going to write that will prevent a criminal from getting a gun? It’s not the law abiding citizens you have to worry about, they obey the law. It’s the criminals! Until you answer that question and act on it, nothing meaningful will get done (maybe some symbolic action like more background checks (see primary question)) and everything else is just repetition of things what have been said a 1000 times. And remember, Dems voted down having armed guards in schools and want to defund the police.

    • It is amazing how many right-wing (and wrong) talking points Mr. Mercado can stuff into one posting while still avoiding a real solution. The real reason nothing gets done to regulate guns is the corruption of our government by the National Rifle Association — which the right-wing activist judges on the Supreme Court authorized. (Mitt Romney, for example, got over $13M from the weapons industry.) As a result, there are now more guns in America than there are people, a bizarre situation that no other developed country in the world experiences.
      .
      It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more guns there are — particularly lacking any incentives to secure them safely — the more gun deaths (accidental, homicide, suicide) there will be. The average of all countries in the world is 9.86 guns per 100 civilians. The United States is highest in the world at 120.5 guns per 100 people. Yemen, which is in the middle of a war with Saudi Arabia and dealing with an internal insurgency, comes in second at 52.8. This year, almost 11 out of 100,000 children (aged 1-24) died from guns while only 8 per 100K died from car crashes. And most all of those child gun deaths, mass shootings, and school shootings – which don’t happen in any other developed country in the world – are entirely preventable if we simply follow the example of how we regulate cars: require competency tests, insurance (as does San Jose), and registration.
      .
      Instead, the NRA, still flush with an infusion of cash from Russia, has succeeded in lobbying 25 states to allow anybody to carry a concealed gun with no background checks, no training, and no permit, regardless of their criminal or violent history. To combat such stupidity and many other examples resulting from too much money in our politics, MoveToAmend.org is working to get money out of politics and restore our control over huge corporations.
      .
      Find the longer version of these points at https://hartmannreport.com/p/will-this-finally-be-the-time-republicans

      • Here we go again. Rob and his partisan parrot speak. And of course, he doesn’t answer the primary question. Hey Rob, what law would you write that would keep criminals from getting guns? Guns are a right in America, but crime is not. What other countries do is irrelevant. The real solution would be to make gun violence painful for those who commit it. But with the liberals in CA eliminating bond, reducing sentencing guidelines, etc. all they’ve been is easy on criminals. They complain about crime yet let criminals off. What happened to the 3 strikes law? Ignore the magpies and vote for real penalties for violent crime.

        • Still no solution to the problem, Don? Congressional Republicans are just as ineffective at solving our problems.
          .
          Your question is silly because we already have laws against criminals getting guns. Just like we have laws against assault, robbery, and fraud. Laws don’t prevent all crime, but they do reduce it. We don’t live in a perfect world that operates according to your desires.
          .
          What other countries do is absolutely relevant to what the U.S. should do because – as with universal health care that every other developed country in the world offers – the public health outcomes are better when guns are well regulated.
          .
          Your belief in some sacred 2nd Amendment myth is disproved by history: The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-History-Second-Amendment-Hartmann/dp/1523085991/

          • Guess you didn’t read my post Rob. My solution is right in there. And of course, you evade answering mine. Am I surprised? Nope. Facts don’t matter when you have an agenda.

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