Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: It’s time to talk about guns

Shooting deaths are an epidemic in America, and we need to start doing something serious about it.

November 12, 2017

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The shooting at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has rightfully reignited debates over guns in America.

Even if Devin Kelley — who used an assault rifle to kill 26 people, including eight children, while they were attending church last Sunday — had been the first person to use a gun to kill dozens of people, it would warrant a conversation. Of course, Kelley wasn’t the first. Far from it. Barely a month earlier, Stephen Paddock barricaded himself in a Las Vegas hotel room with a cache of weapons and used an assault rifle modified to allow for rapid fire to shoot from his hotel window at a concert crowd below, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more.

And it’s not as if the Texas and Las Vegas shootings are isolated incidents. They are simply the ones that grab the most attention because the acts are so heinous and the body counts so high. But the reality is mass shootings occur almost daily in the United States.

Through Thursday, there had been 309 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks gun violence. Those mass shootings claimed 402 lives and injured 1,650 more. Among the statistics are the three people who were killed and two others who were injured in a mass shooting on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence on Oct. 1.

In 2016, 456 people died and 1,537 were injured in 383 mass shootings. In 2015, 367 people died and 1,327 were injured in 333 mass shootings. That’s 1,225 dead and 4,514 injured in 1,025 mass shootings in less than three years.

And that’s just the mass shootings. There have been 13,323 deaths this year as a result of gun violence in America. Nine of the deaths have been in Lawrence. One was in Eudora.

Yet the conversations that should be happening aren’t — conversations about implementing safety restrictions that could prevent accidents, about broadening background checks on gun buyers, about banning individuals on the no-fly list from purchasing guns, about banning bump stocks and other gun modifications whose sole purpose is to kill more people more quickly. They aren’t being discussed in Congress, they aren’t being discussed in the Senate and they aren’t being discussed in the White House.

At the state level, the only conversations being had about guns is how to accommodate more of them in public spaces now that exemptions have expired and concealed carry is the law in Kansas.

Skeptics will argue that the debate is pointless, that nothing can be done, that no one can stop a person bent on shooting people at school, in a church, attending a concert or wandering Massachusetts Street.

That’s a cop-out.

Gun violence is a growing epidemic in America, and communities like Lawrence are certainly not immune. Inaction is unacceptable. It’s time to talk about what can be done. It’s time to try to prevent the next mass shooting.

Comments

Brock Masters 1 month ago

Might have been nice if you had offered up meaningful and Constitutional solutions.

Here is my post from the LTE on the same topic

The problem is those in power do not care about ending violence in our country. Gun control is a political football. Neither side wants to end violence because it is too lucrative politically and financially.

The solution to ending, to the degree possible, violence in this country is to take the focus off gun bans and limitations. This approach is not effective and shuts down real conversations.

Low hanging fruit solution - PSAs on gun safety and offering free training on gun handling, storage and safety.

Fund the background database to include the mentally ill and require all health professionals to report patients under their care for depression, and other mental health issues that can cause a person to be suicidal or harm others. To narrow it you could limit to those receiving medication to treat the illness.

Fund more affordable and accessible health clinics

Fund education in areas where a good education is lacking. Along with this fund school nutrition programs. Nutrition is key to learning.

Admit we have a culture problem in many communities and figure out how to end the culture of drugs, gangs and violence.

Is this the magic solution? Of course not, but it is a start and yes it will cost money, but we squander enough money on stupid stuff to fund this 10 times over.

Ken Lassman 1 month ago

Thanks for starting the conversation, Brock. Who knows? Maybe the comment section can continue that conversational quality for a while, and one thing that I think would help would be to include in that discussion exactly how to move things ahead. Because I think the absence of a process on how to move ahead is what is preventing gun violence from being stopped. Most people in our society do not benefit politically and economically from gun violence, or would relinquish those financial/political rewards if they knew it would really lead to ending/greatly reducing gun violence.

So my question is this: exactly what would it take to implement the measures that you are suggesting? I can get behind airing PSAs on gun safety and offering free training on gun handling, storage and safety. How do we get these things started?

I can also fully support a good database that tracks mental illness and suicide-prone tendencies. What is the best way to make this happen?

The same with health clinics, good education and nutrition and implementing programs to end the culture of drugs, gangs and violence.

Many of these programs are being targeted at the state and national level for reduced funding and elimination, and have been politicized as being wasteful and ineffective programs that take the control away from local communities. So in addition to the "how" questions, an essential piece of the puzzle is to be able to gauge the effectiveness of the measures taken, both in terms of efficient use of the funds and what impact it has on accomplishing the stated goals of the program.

What distinguishes all of this from what has been done in the past? After all, all of the items that you list have been tried/are already being implemented. What I hear from you that might be new and different is that they could all be rolled up into one package called "gun violence reduction and prevention initiative." Would that give conservatives and liberals alike the cover to be able to vote for such programs?

Brock Masters 1 month ago

I agree tha most people don’t benefit financially from gun violence. My comment was directed to those in power. Politicians on both sides use it to get re-elected and the NRA and anti-gun groups use it to gin up fear to generate revenue.

We have to stop fighting with one another and join together to demand our elected officials do something to stop violence. I avoid dying gun violence because we must focus on all violence.

I don’t know how to change peoples minds about the need for these programs. How do we get them to see this as an investment and not an expense? One step is to stop focusing on the gun. Focus on violence. Think about a conversation with the most ardent gun rights person. Start off by saying, we need to limit gun ownership and you shut down the conversation. Start by saying how can we work together to protect yourself 2nd amendment right while stopping violence and you may have a meaningful conversation.

Some of the things I mentioned can be taken at the local level. I think Lawrence shutting down the range in its city and making it hard to open a new one is counterproductive. We say people need training but close down training facilities.

The city can also provide more mental health access. Sure it will cost money but maybe we’d have it if we didn’t give it away to developers....but that is another story for another day.

Carol Bowen 1 month ago

A good data base would provide facts for the discussion. Unfortunately, an ammendment to some bill prevented the Center for Disease Control (CDC) from collecting data on gun related incidents. That, and a resistance to a national database prevents consistent record keeping. The Texas shooter, for example, would have come up twice related to violence in public records regardless of the military’s error. So, I’d say, start with information. Oops, I mean establish the means to collect and reference information. I’d rather have the CDC collect data than the FBI.

Brock Masters 1 month ago

I see no reason not to study violence. CDC and FBI have different focuses so both should collect and analyze.

Ken Lassman 1 month ago

So getting back to your suggestions: have you taken the online free gun safety course offered by concealedcarryonline.com? It's offered by an organization with an apparently very low profile called american firearms training (it has somehow avoided being listed in Wikipedia and has no reviews of itself on the internet as far as I could find with a quick search). Their curriculum supposedly prepares you for applying for concealed-carry permits in many states, but don't know if it includes information that research indicates could have a positive impact on reducing suicides, accidental discharge, etc--I would certainly hope so. I'd be interested in whether you know anything about whether they are providing the kind of free training that you were talking about, which, of course would have to be supplemented by some hands-on instruction, which would presumably cost money.

Another free class is the Traditional hunting safety class offered through KDWP, but having never had to take it (I am old enough to not have had it required) I suspect the focus is on hunting safety more than gun safety as a separate topic.

Brock Masters 1 month ago

I went to the site but couldn’t figure out how to access the free class. Without seeing it, but reading the description this is what I am talking about but also in person training. It isn’t an original idea but one that occurred to me when hearing about car seat checks. Forget what group, but they hosted an event for people to come in and see if they had installed their child car seats correctly.

The focus that I have in mind is safety to prevent accidental shootings and also a review of the laws. People need to know how to handle and store a gun safely and the consequences of shooting someone even when doing so legally.

Of course this doesn’t address all problems but it might stop children and others from being shot accidently.

I’ve taken several paid training classes and have taken hunter safety. I do practice regularly.

P Allen Macfarlane 1 month ago

Here is my post to a LTE that continues the conversation:

"Low hanging fruit solution - PSAs on gun safety and offering free training on gun handling, storage and safety." Brock, I totally agree with you, but it has to go further than that. When a gun owner is placed in a situation where a shooter's gun is already drawn or where the element of surprise of surprise is on the side of the shooter, tips on gun storage and safety are not enough. If the point of making guns more available to individuals the point, training them in how to use them in extremely stressful situations is needed. Otherwise, they might be so immobilized by fear that they shoot innocent bystanders. Furthermore everybody should be required to be licensed and not just once, but only for a short period of time with the opportunity of renewal on completion of some refresher training. We license individuals to drive and as part of the process, they are required to actually drive safely in traffic. We do that because we care about individuals not getting hurt by the actions of someone not specifically trained in how to be safe and not trained in how to navigate our streets and highways with a vehicle. It has always been curious to me that we do not license or require any training of anyone owning a firearm, an object that is at least as dangerous as a car could be.

I would like to add that just because gun ownership is a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights doesn't mean that everybody should have one. There needs to be a gatekeeper that everybody has to pass to make sure that ownership is justified.

Brock Masters 1 month ago

P the difference between gun ownership and driving is one is a right and the other isn’t. Everyone cannot currently own a gun. There are restrictions in place now and we should make sure that the database for background checks is complete.

I agree about training but it should be free and voluntary. Free because not all can afford to pay and the poor should never be priced out of exercising their rights. Voluntary because there is no provision that states people must take training to exercise their rights whether it is to vote or speak Mandatory training would be akin to requiring counseling before having an abortion. Both are wrong.

Kendall Simmons 1 month ago

In other words, your "meaningful and Constitutional solution" is actually to do nothing.

Brock Masters 1 month ago

Kendall, based on my posts in this thread how did you arrive at that conclusion. Even in the post to which you replied I offered solutions and didn’t suggest we do nothing. What is the point of trolling me if you want solutions? You don’t have to agree with my solutions, but offer something constructive. It isn’t hard.

Follow the lead of Ken Lassman and others like him. We disagree but we have. Civil conversation and often find common ground. Just like with P. I disagreed with some they said and agreed with some.

Your comment does make me chuckle since it is so ridiculous considering all that I did offer up as meaningful and Constitutional solutions.

Stacy Napier 1 month ago

"There have been 13,323 deaths this year as a result of gun violence in America"

Yes and there are at least 30,000 deaths each year as a result of vehicular traffic crashes in America. Yet we don't outlaw cars. Cars aren't protected or even addressed by the US constitution. What is wrong with people that keep letting people get behind the wheel who end up killing people. What is to stop this carnage? We can't keep the cars out of hands of drunks, or suspended drivers. We can't keep the cars out of hands of speeders or distracted drivers. We must take a serious look at outlawing cars all together.

Brock Masters 1 month ago

I realize your post is a little tongue in cheek but there is a lot of truth in what you wrote. The government could require two things that would save lives while driving but people would scream bloody murder.

1 they could require a GPS governor system that did not allow a vehicle to exceed the posted speed limit and 2 they could require alcohol interlocks that would prevent starting the car when your blood alcohol exceed legal limits

Also, the internet is used for all types of crime and is the cause for many deaths so why not require a background check and permit to use it?

This goes to my point that it isn’t about stopping violence. Gun control is really about scoring political points and generating revenue.

Daniel Kennamore 1 month ago

Cars are highly regulated.

From driver's license requirements to car registration and safety requirements for seat belts, crash safety requirements, etc.

Further, if a car is involved in a crime the police can nearly instantly trace it back to it's current owner.

If we treated cars the way we treat guns those deaths would be orders of magnitude higher.

Most gun control advocates are just asking for the same level of thought into reducing the number of deaths that cars have.

John Middleton 1 month ago

Should we treat guns the way we treat cars?

OK.

No age limit to buy a car, no age limit to guy a gun.

No background check to buy a car, no background check to buy a gun.

Have a license in one state? It is good in all states.

Want to sell your car to a person you don't know? No problems.

OK to drive your car out in public where everyone can see it, OK to carry your firearm out in public where everyone can see it.

No limit on the horsepower of a car nor on the amount of gasoline it can carry, no limit on the caliber or capacity of a gun.

No restrictions on how scary you make your car look, no restrictions on scary black guns.

Well, then, how about we treat cars the way we treat guns...

Scary looking cars and high capacity cars would be banned.

You could only buy a car after a background check and a possible waiting period.

Your license to use your car might be reciprocal in another state... or it might not be, but YOU are responsible for knowing those laws.

You would need special training and a permit to park your car where people couldn't see it.

If the police were called to a disturbance at your house, all of your cars would be confiscated and you would have to hire a lawyer to get them returned to you.

If two or more people were killed in an automobile accident, liberals would scream for more "common-sense" car restrictions.

And, of course, the cars owned by liberal politicians would be exempt from all car-control laws.

Stacy Napier 1 month ago

Really? I didn't have to go through a background check to get my driver's license like I did to purchase a hand gun

Jim Phillips 1 month ago

Please! Someone explain to me what law could be passed that would have prevented any mass shooting! Last I knew, murder was against the law. That law didn't help anyone of the murder victims. It's also against the law for convicted felons to possess firearms. How does that help? Shooting from a moving vehicle? Illegal! Ransomly firing into a crowd? Yup, illegal. Discharging a firearm in the city limits? A crime.

By definition, anytime a crime is committed, a law is broken. Seems like a simple statement, but there are many who believe that a new law will automatically reduce crime and cause people to alter their behavior. That is not exactly common sense.

Liberals accuse Second Amendment supporters of not having any common sense about gun laws. Exactly where is the "common sense" in punishing people who have never committed a crime (i.e. gun owners)? If you extrapolate the mantra of "punish the masses because of the illegal actions of a few" logic to immigration, then you must deduce that they are very much pro-Trump immigration policy. I seriously doubt that they are. Where is the common sense here?

You still want to talk about "common sense" as it pertains to gun laws? Fine! Prior to 1968, an adult could open any Sears and Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalog and order handguns, shotguns, and rifles over the phone. Just give the operator your charge card number and the item would show up on your door step within a few days. Then the anti-gunners began screaming about common sense gun laws. That led to the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. And all was well in the world...until 1969 - when the anti-gunners began screaming about needing common sense gun laws. For years, the pro-gun side gave in and more gun laws were passed and that never appeased the anti-gunners. They continually screamed about needing common sense gun laws.

Here we are in 2017, almost 50 years later and it's still the same argument from the left about needing "common sense" gun laws. The problem with the Liberal rant about gun owners' lack of collective common sense is that Liberals keep changing the definition of "common sense" to suit their continual whining.

Kendall Simmons 1 month ago

So you think that keeping certain people from purchasing guns won't change anything? Or that, say, banning bump stocks won't change anything?

We're not expecting perfection, Jim. Just hoping for logical improvements.

Bob Summers 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Jim Phillips 1 month ago

Whom do you want to keep guns away from that are not already banned from buying them, Kendall? Please tell me exactly how the bump stock is responsible for killing anyone.

Mike Riner 1 month ago

Well you can't hardly keep mentally ill folks from buying guns since with all the "privacy laws", doctors cannot alert law enforcement if some nut-job wants a gun.

Michael Kort 1 month ago

Yes,.....we are on the merry road to now where......doing " The Senseless Strut " .......we seem to always vote for that one here in Merica .

If we can not control the sale of MERDEROUS weapons as a nation, them at least let us tax it along with ammunition sales and figure out how to dispense those taxes as just death benefits to all non criminals, to bury victims, support remaining spouses, dependent children, etc...........without it being used to give congress or the president a pay raise .

Even poorer people can obviously afford killer bad automatic weapons as the Texas Church Shooter went well armed to kill and he wasn't a rich man as the Las Vegas shooter was .

Oh No !........that would make the merchants of death by unfettered sales or those who's guns are easily (?) stolen ( thru careless storage ) to be at least partially financially responsible for the monsters that they make !

Why ?,......we can't do that ! ! !.......That's UNMerican and we have a God given constitutional right to create total social mayhem, unfettered,..... and bear our arms without bearing any of the costs to the lives and families of others, who are senselessly killed every day in easy to get a gun Merican .

Michael Kort 1 month ago

What goes around never seems to ever come around in the moment in which the transaction starts which is why pay back is a problem that we seldom see for what it really is .

We have blindly weaponized the world,....... indiscriminately...........and so it is our fate at home....... that we blindly do weaponize ourselves and death is just a few highway driven miles away for some killer..... or maybe just living next door, in our very own midst, unnoticed .

Chris Warman 1 month ago

You have to ban cars and trucks too, and knives, and light sabers............

Carol Bowen 1 month ago

FYI. The ammendment that prevents the CDC from analyzing gun violence is called the Dickey ammendment, attached to an appropriations bill in 1997. There have several attempts to reverse the ammendment sincethen.

Gary Stussie 1 month ago

There are roughly 32,000 deaths a year from firearms. 60% are suicides. That’s 19,200. 3% are accidental. That’s 320. 4% are justified. That’s 1,280. 33% are homicides. That’s 10,560 … 80% of those homicides are gang-related. That’s 8,448. So accidental and non-gang related killings are 1,712 out of 312 million people.

In 2015 alone, there were 35,092 motor vehicle deaths (highest level in 50 years). Of these 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers … the primary distraction? … sending texts while driving.

Appears that if you don’t intend suicide, hang out in the hood, or are not planning a crime, your odds of being killed by a texting driver are greater than being killed by a firearm.

Guns are power … and we are seeing the lengths that the “ruling class” will go to acquire and maintain power. The 2nd Amendment is there for a reason!

Ahmed Mamdouh 1 month ago

I agree tha most people don’t benefit financially from gun violence. My comment was directed to those in power. Politicians on both sides use it to get re-elected and the NRA and anti-gun groups use it to gin up fear to generate revenue.

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