Friday, December 28, 2012

Tragedy's Legacy — New England Journal of Medicine

Tragedy's Legacy — New England Journal of Medicine :

by Garen J. Wintemute, M.D., M.P.   December 26, 2012
"Sandy Hook, Oak Creek, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Columbine: “it can't happen here” places where terrible things did happen and 95 people died. Contrary to widespread perception, however, such events are uncommon. Their frequency is not increasing, and they account for only a small fraction of firearm-related deaths and injuries. On average, 88 Americans died every day from firearm violence in 2011, and another 202 were seriously injured. In 2012, for the first time, there will probably be more firearm-related homicides and suicides than motor vehicle traffic fatalities.
The United States has become an extreme example of what could well be termed “global gunning.” With less than 5% of the world's population, we own more than 40% of all the firearms that are in civilians' hands: 250 million to 300 million weapons, nearly as many as we have people, and they are not going away anytime soon. We have made social and policy decisions that, with some important exceptions, provide the widest possible array of firearms to the widest possible array of people, for use under the widest possible array of conditions.
The most egregious policies have been enacted at the state level — “Stand Your Ground” laws, for instance, which have been used to legitimize what many people still call murder. Justice Louis Brandeis rightly praised the states as the laboratories of our democracy, but in some of them, experimentation with firearm policy has taken a frightening turn.
We are paying the price of those decisions. Too often, our children and grandchildren are paying it for us. Payments will continue. Can we do anything to reduce them? I believe the answer is yes."

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