Two weeks ago, on Oct. 12, a man by the name of Scott Evans Dekraai killed eight people in a bloody massacre at the hair salon where his ex-wife worked in Seal Beach, California. Apparently, Dekraai snapped over a child custody dispute with his wife over their 8-year-old son, charging into the salon wearing a bullet-proof vest with guns blazing.
The shooting threw the issue of gun control into the national spotlight once again, with each side taking their predictable positions. Gun-control activists argued that if handguns were banned, this horrible tragedy never would have occurred, while gun-rights activists countered that such a ban would be a violation of federally protected rights and, if other people in the salon had been armed, it is unlikely so much blood would have been shed.
Both sides have legitimate arguments, but one thing is certain: More has to be done to limit tragedies like this from occurring, because deaths due to gun violence in the United States are far too common. While there have been approximately 6,000 American deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been 100,000 American deaths from gun violence here in the United States during that same period. That’s twice as many Americans deaths than there were in Vietnam.
Last year, of the 12,996 murders in the U.S., 8,775 were committed with a firearm, and nearly two-thirds of those with a handgun. While it is true that it is ultimately a person pulling the trigger (as gun-rights proponents love to remind us with their “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” catchphrase), a gun is much more lethal than other forms of weaponry.
Imagine two people in a heated argument; what situation do you think is more likely to cause a fatality — if both are armed with knives or with handguns? It cannot be denied that a gun is a much more dangerous weapon compared to others and that potentially increases the chances of someone being killed.
Gun-rights proponents argue that guns are important for protection and deterring crime. They argue that they should have the right to sufficiently defend themselves from anybody that might attempt to cause harm to themselves or their property — a legitimate claim, considering guns are used defensively over and over in the U.S.
But while owning a gun may protect you from being victimized by crime, it ironically also significantly increases the chances that you or someone you love will be killed.
• The New England Journal of Medicine found that having a gun in the home made it nearly three times more likely that someone in the family would be killed.
• A 2007 Social Science & Medicine study found that states with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm homicide and overall homicide.
• A 2001 Accident Analysis & Prevention study found that states with more guns had higher accidental death rates. The mortality rate was seven times higher in the four states with the most guns compared to the four states with the fewest guns.
• A 2004 study in Arizona found that children who use a firearm to commit suicide have fewer identifiable risk factors for suicide, such as expressing suicidal thoughts. Thus, gun suicides appear more impulsive and spontaneous than suicides by other means.
Going back to Seal Beach, is it reasonable then to have expected the victims in the hair salon that day to have carried handguns if they had known of the deadly consequences that owning a gun could pose to both them and their family? Are we all relegated to this fucked-if-you-do, fucked-if-you-don’t choice when it comes to guns? Is our only choice to live in a crazy “wild wild west” world where everyone walks around with pistols on their hips if we want our society to be free from the horrors of Seal Beach, Fort Hood, Tucson and Columbine? The answer has to be “no”; there must be a middle ground that protects both our individual liberties and our collective livelihood.
A good start would be stricter gun regulations when it comes to who can buy and possess firearms, especially handguns. Psychological evaluations should be an absolute no-brainer; all of the perpetrators of recent mass shootings, including Seal Beach, Tucson, Virginia Tech and Fort Hood, suffered from serious emotional or mental problems — the 22-year-old Tucson shooter had even been rejected by the army on psychological grounds.
In order to buy a firearm, you should have to pass a mental examination conducted by a mental health professional, and you should have to repeat that examination every few years for as long as you possess any guns. When you renew your driver’s license, you have to get your vision screened to ensure you don’t pose a risk to society. Why should gun ownership be any different?
Daily Nexus columnist Riley Schenck finds a .44 revolver a whole lot more threatening than 20-40 vision.