5 Ways to Reduce Gun Deaths
It’s not about mass shootings, but about stopping the quieter deaths that happen daily.
Mass shootings justifiably grab the headlines. Las Vegas: 58 dead, 500+ injured; Sandy Hook: 20 children, 6 adults slaughtered; Charleston, South Carolina Emanuel AME church: 9 dead; Pulse Nightclub: 49 dead, 58 wounded; San Bernardino:14 killed, 22 seriously injured, and on and on. Inevitably, each mass shooting reignites a national debate over guns and regulation of guns.
Also, inevitably, nothing changes. Gun advocates and reformers retreat to their respective corners and legislators retreat to their bunkers while they wait for the smoke to clear and memories to fade. On to the next crisis and the next news cycle.
In the meantime, while the hand wringing, prayers, and debates fill the airwaves, internet and print media, carnage continues in the homes of America. Carnage that dwarfs the number of mass shooting deaths. Suicide by gun. Accidental shootings, murder/suicides with guns. Domestic violence by gun. Children injured and dying by gun.
With over 330 million firearms in the United States (compared to 275 million cell phones), laws will never eliminate gun violence. However, by focusing on the causes of the tens of thousands of yearly gun deaths, laws can be passed that can reduce yearly gun deaths, including:
Universal Background checks. Requiring background checks for private gun sales at gun shows, through the internet or between individuals can reduce gun sales to felons, straw buyers (buyers who can legally purchase a gun for themselves, but are illegally purchasing a gun for a prohibited buyer) or buyers with misdemeanor domestic abuse convictions. A universal background check would have prevented the private sale of the semi-automatic handgun used by Radcliffe Haughton to murder his wife and two others in the Azana Spa in Brookfield, WI.
Reinstate or extend the 48-hour-waiting period for transfer of purchased handguns. A study of suicide survivors revealed that 70 percent of responders said they made the decision to shoot themselves within one hour of the attempt; 24 percent said the decision was made within 5 minutes. If someone without a gun is contemplating suicide, a 48-hour-waiting period could prevent the impulsive gun buy and suicide attempt, something a background check won’t do. The waiting period could also prevent an emotional handgun purchase made to retaliate in a fight or for use in an escalating domestic violence situation.
Safety locks: Background checks and waiting periods are far from perfect solutions. Many households already have guns, giving people access without having to go through background checks or waiting periods. The presence of the gun allows for the impulsive suicide attempt, the shooting of the spouse, the accidental shooting by the child who finds the loaded firearm in his mom’s glovebox or his dad’s bedside nightstand. However, a law passed in San Francisco requiring guns to be kept in locked boxes or equipped with trigger locks was held to be constitutional. Such a law could reduce the distraught teenager’s access to his parents’ firearms and prevent a suicide or prevent a child’s playing with the loaded gun that grandma bought for protection and kept “hidden” under the mattress.
Mandatory registration: The legal consensus is that mandatory registration does not violate the Second Amendment. Mandatory registration could be used to require a gun owner to undergo certified safety training in the safe use and storage of firearms and the real risks of guns in the home. (There is a 3 times greater risk of a gun homicide, 3.5 times greater risk of suicide and 4 times greater risk of accidental death than in homes without guns.) It could also verify the gun buyer has a safety lock if legally mandated.
Smart Guns: The technology is here for guns that only the owner can fire. Straw buyers cannot buy a smart gun and give it to the real buyer, the criminal/prohibited purchaser. Children cannot accidentally fire a smart gun purchased by another family member. A criminal cannot steal a smart gun and use it to commit crimes. A friend or family member cannot loan a smart gun and have it used in a domestic violence situation. Smart guns do not solve the problem of the 330 million guns already sold, but smart guns will give buyers an option to protect themselves and everyone else in the household and would reduce criminals access to guns through straw buys, theft and firearm trafficking.
While none of these measures will eliminate all gun violence, that should not be the test of whether they are sensible policies. If they can reduce suicides, accidental shootings, domestic violence and the availability of guns to criminals, then they are surely sensible. When the gun debate begins to focus on the causes of daily gun deaths rather than the sensational mass shootings, real solutions and real change can happen and we will all be safer.
The U.S Supreme Court did not hold that the Second Amendment precludes any regulation of the sale and use of firearms. A fact driven debate by state and federal legislators focused on addressing the causes of the vast majority of daily gun deaths could easily result in regulations that would reduce deaths without violating the current interpretation of the Second Amendment and allow law abiding gun owners access to firearms.
Patrick Dunphy. 1976 graduate of MU Law School, co founder of Cannon & Dunphy law firm, represented 4 City of Milwaukee Police Officers in 2 lawsuits against local gun store for selling guns to straw buyers.
More about the Gun Violence
- Rep. Robyn Vining Supports “Wear Orange” for Gun Violence Prevention - State Rep. Robyn Vining - Jun 7th, 2019
- Rep. Zamarripa Statement on Wear Orange Weekend - State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa - Jun 7th, 2019
- Op Ed: Suicides Up Since Gun Waiting Period Ended - Chris Walker - Apr 21st, 2019
- Representative Lisa Subeck Praises Federal Background Check Expansion Act Introduction - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Jan 9th, 2019
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Background Check Expansion Act To Reduce Gun Violence - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Jan 9th, 2019
- Senator Larson & Representative Bowen: Call on Gun Manufacturers to Prioritize “Smart Gun” Technology and Other Gun Safety Measures in Order to Reduce Gun Violence - State Sen. Chris Larson - Sep 13th, 2018
- School Safety Grant Program Avoids Larger Issues of Gun Violence - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jul 24th, 2018
- Most School Shooters Get Their Guns at Home - State Rep. Terese Berceau - May 22nd, 2018
- Governor Walker Orders Flags to Half-Staff Following Tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas - Gov. Scott Walker - May 18th, 2018
- Bryce Releases Statement on Santa Fe High School Shooting - Randy Bryce - May 18th, 2018
- Why Student Activists Did 50 Mile March - Will Kenneally - Apr 20th, 2018
- Roys Marks 19th Anniversary of Columbine Shooting - Kelda Roys - Apr 20th, 2018
- Marchers Seek Gun Control - Margaret Cannon - Apr 5th, 2018
- Giffords Endorses Rebecca Dallet for Wisconsin Supreme Court Against Gun Lobby Backed Candidate - Rebecca Dallet - Mar 30th, 2018
- Mayor Tom Barrett Applauds Passage of Bill Prohibiting Straw Purchasing - Mayor Tom Barrett - Mar 28th, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs $100 Million School Safety Plan into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 26th, 2018
- Republicans Again Did Nothing to Address Gun Violence - State Sen. Chris Larson - Mar 20th, 2018
- School safety package is rushed, needs significant fixes - State Rep. David Bowen - Mar 20th, 2018
- Tom Palzewicz Releases Comprehensive Gun Safety Reform Plan - Tom Palzewicz - Mar 20th, 2018
- Dana Wachs Responds to Gov. Walker’s Short-Sighted School Safety Plan - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Mar 15th, 2018
- Gov. Walker fails to act on gun safety - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Mar 15th, 2018
- No Child Should Ever Feel Unsafe in School: Governor Walker Calls $100 million Special Session on School Safety - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 15th, 2018
- I stand with our children - Ald. Chantia Lewis - Mar 14th, 2018
- National Walkout Day: I Sit in Solidarity with Students - State Rep. Jimmy Anderson - Mar 14th, 2018
- Youth Council measure urges support of National School Walkout Day and March for Our Lives - City of Milwaukee Youth Council - Mar 13th, 2018
- Mayor Tom Barrett, City Leaders Call For Gun Safety from Children - Mayor Tom Barrett - Mar 12th, 2018
- The State of Politics: School Safety Bill Renews Gun Debate - Steven Walters - Mar 12th, 2018
- The Intersection of Guns and Race - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Mar 8th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Cosponsors Critical School Safety Legislation - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 6th, 2018
- Representative Subeck Statement on Governor’s Comments on School Safety - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Mar 1st, 2018
- Roys calls on Walker to pass common sense gun reform during proposed special session on gun violence - Kelda Roys - Mar 1st, 2018
- Op Ed: Thoughtful Discussion Needed on Guns - Kyle Hagge - Mar 1st, 2018
- Guns, Grief and Grace - Elizabeth Baker - Feb 28th, 2018
- The time for action on gun violence is now - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Feb 28th, 2018
- The Contrarian: The Real “Gun Nuts” - George Mitchell - Feb 26th, 2018
- Did Michael Screnock Promise the NRA He Supports More Guns in Schools? - One Wisconsin Now - Feb 23rd, 2018
- Universal Background Checks Fail on Party Line in WI State Assembly - State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff - Feb 21st, 2018
- Bryce Calls on Speaker Ryan to Meet with Students from his District - Randy Bryce - Feb 21st, 2018
- Republicans block school shooting precautions - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Feb 20th, 2018
- Passage of Senate Bill 408 - State Sen. Chris Larson - Feb 20th, 2018
- Republican Bill Would Put Guns in Wisconsin Schools - One Wisconsin Now - Feb 19th, 2018
- Speaker Ryan Chooses Campaign Donors Over South Florida Teacher - Randy Bryce - Feb 17th, 2018
- Dana Wachs Calls for an Overhaul of Assault Weapon Laws and Other Measures to Fight Domestic Terrorism - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Feb 16th, 2018
- GOP Chair of State Assembly Committee on Education, School Principal Shares Article Romanticizing Guns in Schools in Aftermath of Florida Mass School Shooting - One Wisconsin Now - Feb 16th, 2018
- Data Wonk: The More Guns, Less Crime Scam - Bruce Thompson - Oct 18th, 2017
- Op Ed: 5 Ways to Reduce Gun Deaths - Patrick Dunphy - Oct 16th, 2017