As you know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also my daughter’s birthday. Neither my husband nor I have any Irish heritage but because of her birthday, we always feel a kinship. We used to dress our daughter in green clothing which she really didn’t like. There are many photos of her looking a bit unhappy until she got old enough to decide for herself what she was going to wear on her birthday. I don’t think she wears green much any more on this day.
I know that there is the saying that the Irish have luck on their side. There’s the 4 leaf clover and the Blarney Stone, green beer, etc. But a lot of people are unlucky when it comes to guns no matter what day of the year it is. Every day close to 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries- many from suicide. It doesn’t have to be that way and anyone who is a survivor of a family member who has shot him/herself feels pretty unlucky that that person had access to a gun.
Veterans, after a vote in the House yesterday, will be unlucky enough to be able to legally purchase guns even if they have been identified as having mental illness severe enough to deem them prohibited purchasers. This makes absolutely no common sense.
And what could possibly go wrong?:
“About 170,000 disabled veterans are deemed mentally incompetent by the VA,” NPR’s Quil Lawrence reports. “A guardian makes legal decisions for them, and their names go on an FBI list so they can’t purchase guns. House Republicans sponsored the Veterans’ Second Amendment Protection Act to change that.”
Opponents of the bill say that easing gun ownership for mentally disabled veterans would make them a greater threat to themselves. As recently as 2014, an average of 20 veterans per day died from suicide, according to statistics released last year by the VA Suicide Prevention Program. Between 2001 and 2014, the VA said, the suicide rate among U.S. veterans rose by more than 32 percent. (…)
On the other side of the issue, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., said, “When a determination is made that a veteran is mentally incompetent or incapacitated — for whatever reason — that determination is made to protect them, not to punish or deprive them.”
Critics of the bill include retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Speaking to Quil about why he opposed the bill, Chiarelli said, “Every single study you can read on this shows you that people in crisis — because suicide is such a spontaneous event — when they separate themselves from personal weapons the incidence of suicide goes down tremendously.”
America is unlucky enough to have a corporate gun lobby that doesn’t really care about what would be in the interest of public health and safety. If they did, they would not have pushed this ludicrous measure with their lapdogs in Congress. They claim to care about unfairness and rights but the bottom line is that there are some people who should not be able to access guns, period.
Many disagree with what the House just did but when you have absolute power, you think you can force anything on a country that doesn’t want this. Do the families of the Veterans who can buy guns even though they shouldn’t and then kill themselves with said gun feel lucky on this day?
You know the answer.
This article in The Trace highlights efforts to try to prevent suicides on military bases.:
Military suicides used to be rare. Throughout the 20th century, the suicide rate among active-duty service members was lower than the population at large. But after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the numbers began to climb. In 2006, for the first time, the Army’s suicide rate, routinely the highest among the branches of the armed services, surpassed that of the national population. By 2010, suicide had become a military crisis. That year, there were 163 suicides in the Army, an 87-percent increase from five years before.
It is a population that is especially vulnerable: many service members return from combat with some degree of post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, both of which can contribute to depression and suicidal thoughts. Easy access to guns, which prove fatal much more often than other means of attempting suicide, may exacerbate the problem.
While it is laudatory that the military has made efforts to deal with the problem of suicides among the military it is also disturbing that there is clear denial among some that suicide is a health problem faced by many in our military. Denying the facts does not lead to real solutions. And clearly the fact that the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress are willing to either deny the facts or knowingly reverse good policy that could prevent some military suicides is disturbing at most.
As I said, we are unlucky to live in a country where some of our leaders are either outright lying or denying the truth.
Ireland has had its’ own problems, of course, like all countries do. But one thing they don’t worry too much about is gun homicide and suicide. Why? Strong gun laws that prevent senseless shootings. Let’s take a look at the laws here:
Ireland has some of the least permissive firearm legislation in Europe. In order to possess a limited range of hunting and sport-shooting firearms,1 gun owners must renew their firearm certificates every three years.2 3 Although small arms-related death, injury and crime remain relatively low, rising rates of gun violence and firearm ownership in the Republic ― in particular the possession and misuse of handguns ― have become sources of national concern.4 In 2009, the private possession of handguns was curtailed. Licensing of all pistols and revolvers using centrefire ammunition was capped through ‘grandfathering,’ with new licences restricted to a limited range of small-calibre .22 rimfire handguns and .177 air pistols.3 5 The possession and use of realistic imitation firearms in a public place is prohibited.6 7 Ireland is an active supporter of the United Nations process to reduce gun injury (UNPoA).8
As a result, gun homicides, suicides and gun crimes are low according to these numbers:
Of the 84 homicides reported by police in 2007, 18 (21 per cent) involved firearms ― eight fewer than the 26 gun homicides in 2006.29 Although the rate of firearm homicide in Ireland remains comparatively low (0.61 per 100,000 population in 2006, and 0.41 in 2007),30 31 gun killings have increased markedly since 1991, when the rate was 0.03.32 From 1995 to 1999 the firearm homicide rate averaged 0.28.33 34
Of 8,547 suicides recorded in Ireland from 1980-2003, 725 (8.5 per cent) were completed with a firearm.35 In the years 2001-05, the proportion averaged seven per cent.36 If the average number of firearm suicides reported in 2001-07 (33 per annum) remained steady during 2008, the annual rate of gun suicide in Ireland that year would be 0.74 per 100,000 population,36 31 down from 0.94 in 1991.37
Gun suicide is six times more common in rural areas than in cities, and 94 per cent of victims are male.38 Although total suicides (all methods) rose in Ireland from 200 per annum in 1980 to nearly 500 in 2003, gun suicides remained relatively static, averaging 31 self-inflicted shooting deaths each year over 23 years, with an annual high of 50 and a low of 14.39
In the five years from 2001-2005, the Garda reported 1,690 robberies and aggravated burglaries committed with firearms, for an average of 338 per year. A peak year was 2004, with 428 armed robberies and burglaries.40 In the years 2003-2007, fewer than one in five gun crimes resulted in a conviction.41 In 2009, the Department of Justice reported a 31 percent decrease in crime involving discharge of a firearm, while the number of firearm possession cases increased by 8 percent.42
In addition there are some common sense policies in place to make sure public safety is protected:
It is illegal for any civilian to use, carry or possess a firearm or ammunition without a valid firearm certificate which correctly specifies the owner, the weapon, the ammunition and its maximum permitted quantity. (…) Applicants must prove ‘good reason’ for ownership of the firearm applied for, and the Garda must be satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearms ‘without danger to the public safety or security or the peace.’ If the ‘good reason’ for firearm possession is target shooting, the owner must belong to a police-approved rifle or pistol club. Where application is for a restricted firearm, the applicant must have ‘good and sufficient reason for requiring such a firearm’ and must additionally demonstrate that ‘the firearm is the only type of weapon appropriate for the purpose (….) An applicant must provide proof of identification and age, proof of competence with the firearm concerned, and proof of secure storage for weapons and ammunition while not in use. Potential gun owners must, when making an application for a firearm certificate, give written permission for the police to consult a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist to confirm the applicant’s good physical and mental health, and must nominate two additional referees to attest to the applicant’s character. Minimum qualifications for character referees are set out in the Garda Commissioner’s Guidelines as to the Practical Application and Operation of the Firearms Acts, 1925-2009.53 54 55
Though attesting to character can lead to conflicts and potential mistakes, at the least, the Irish government cares about people who have mental health issues getting access to guns. In America, we do not- at least some do not anyway.
The solution to the problem of people who cannot manage their affairs, Veterans with clear mental health difficulties and others who are known to family members or friends to be of a state of mind that having a gun would pose a potential risk to themselves or others is to find ways for these people not to have guns.
A gun violence restraining order or protection order is one solution that is not going anywhere in most states that have introduced a bill for public safety.
Never mind public health and safety. That is not on the top of the list these days in a Republican led government that is slashing programs, lying about serious matters and denying the true state of American people in need.
Back to the beginning of this post- there are a lot of unlucky people in America whose lives have drastically changed because a gun was available to someone who should not have had one or because of a totally avoidable accidental discharge. The incident below is just one of many occurring far too often in America:
The parents of a 12-year-old boy who was shot to death while home alone with his younger brother were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter.
Damian Holmes, 12, and his brother, 9, were left home alone Tuesday night in the 3300 block of Michigan Avenue when they found a gun and started playing with it, police said.
A round struck Damian in the head about 10:35 p.m; police are not saying who fired the shot.
The boys’ father came home and took the 12-year-old to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Until we make it clear that loaded guns in homes pose a risk to those living in the home, this will continue to happen in unlucky America. Until we hold adults responsible for being irresponsible with guns, this will continue to happen in America. Until we insist that gun owners lock their guns up, unloaded, to insure that guns are not stolen, or accessed by young kids and teens, this will continue to happen.
Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Calling all responsible gun owners……
Even officers of the law need to follow these common sense ideas about guns. In Minnesota, an officer’s gun was stolen and used in a shooting. Now someone is dead as a result. This is all senseless.
It’s more than luck. It’s responsibility and changing and the conversation, the culture and the laws. Until we do that, we will be less safe- especially when Congress is in session. As Mark Twain once said:
- “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
- Simple: No one’s life, liberty or property are safe while Congress is making laws.
May the luck of the Irish be with you today. Stay safe out there. And as we consider what Congress is all about concerning rolling back common sense gun laws, I would like to believe this: