Guns On Trial – Again

Every time someone goes on a shooting rampage, guns become the defendant in the court of public opinion instead of the loon doing the shooting. There are rational arguments, both pro and con, concerning firearm laws and gun ownership, but some statistics indicate that outrage over guns may be more fueled by ideology than practical concerns of public safety.

In 2006, there were 30,896 deaths from firearms. This is further broken down to: Suicide 16,883; Homicide 12,791; Accident 642; Legal Intervention 360; Undetermined 220. If the suicide and legal intervention deaths are removed, there were 13,653 deaths from firearms that one could argue may have been prevented by stricter gun laws.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued statistics for the year 2007 showing that there were 14,406 alcoholic liver disease deaths and 23,199 alcohol-induced deaths, excluding accidents. Add to this the estimated 12,998 people killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes and the grand total of alcohol-related deaths for 2007 becomes 50,603.

Ignoring higher estimates concerning alcohol-related deaths (75,000 per year), the above statistics indicate that alcohol use is a considerably larger public safety issue than guns. If the enormous economical and social impact of alcohol abuse is considered, guns don’t come close to having the negative impact that alcohol has on our society. Yet, guns overshadow alcohol as a concern.

Since gun ownership is a hot ideological issue, it is subject to the hyperbole that has become a staple of all ideological arguments. Thus, we get Spike Lee pompously and erroneously declaring that “…the United States of America is the most violent country in the history of civilization” because it does not follow his personal opinion of gun ownership.

Forgetting for the moment that there is no reason to ask Spike Lee for his opinion on this, his inane statement sucks all credibility out of his argument. Zealous hyperbole never wins an argument; it only stops rational debate. There has been far too little rational debate over guns. In fact, there is far too little rational debate on all ideological issues; and far too many issues have been hijacked by ideology.

David J. Hentosh

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