Good morning. As I write this I sit in my cabin coronavirus hide-away looking at the sun begin to shine across the lake. It’s Easter week-end. We will not be spending Easter with our family as we often have done on this holiday week-end at our cabin. Instead, it’s just the two of us. We will connect with our kids and grandkids via one of the various apps designed to hold face to face virtual conversations. It will have to suffice. Instead of hugs it will be a chance just to see everyone and know they are OK.
Our daughter is a health care provider but not one on the front lines in a hospital. For that we give thanks this week-end. Her job has been affected by the coronavirus in that her healthcare system has had to furlough doctors, physician assistants, nurses, lab techs and others because they are bleeding money. She has taken a one week furlough without pay as have thousands of other professional staff so the hospitals can serve the coronavirus patients. She is lucky that has a job and that it is essential as she answers patient calls and has seen some patients in her office who are not COVID related. So far in Minnesota, we have had fewer than many other states but we know it’s coming here. My county has experienced an increase in cases of late.
Just as the pandemic has caused confusion, distress, disastrous changes to life as we know it and death, so has gun violence. Gun violence prevention advocates have been talking about and writing about our concerns that the surge of gun buying left possible because gun shops have been deemed essential businesses during the pandemic will result in increased probability of suicide, domestic shootings and unintentional shootings. It’s happening. Gun deaths have not been reduced during the pandemic as you might think could happen. There are fewer people out and about on our streets so certain types of gun violence are likely reduced due to young urban men shooting at each other. We won’t know this for sure until we can do more study and research during and after the pandemic surge abates.
Brady is keeping track of shootings though so we have some data. It is not pretty. We know people are dying of coronavirus now- a new disease requiring data so we know exactly how many people have the disease and how many are dying. This is crucial to stemming the disease and getting us back to some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately our testing capabilities are woefully inadequate to the task at hand. In spite of what our President says, we are not testing enough people so we can track the disease and figure out how to get our economy up and running.
Just as we have not done enough research into the causes and effects of gun violence and kept better figures about deaths and injuries. Facts matter. Research matters. Understanding reality matters. In order to cure and reduce deaths, sickness, and injuries we need facts. But when some with an agenda keep the facts away from the public and stop research, we are left with ignorance- on purpose. The CDC, now struggling to provide us with the information we need and the testing that is crucial, was stopped from researching gun violence years ago in an attempt to keep us from learning the facts about gun violence. Thank you corporate gun lobby and the elected officials who allowed this to happen. ( sarcasm intended)
After shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland, others have filled the void. The Trace is one example as they write about and provide crucial information about our gun violence epidemic. The Gun Violence Archive has provided us with information about daily shootings that has proved to be invaluable in understanding the spread of gun violence around he country.
Just a little from the new Brady tracking of shootings ( above link):
The COVID-19 global pandemic risks exacerbating gun violence in all of its forms, including domestic violence, unintentional shootings, firearm suicide, and everyday gun violence. So far, the devastating results have left public health and government officials pleading for an end to the violence, as gun violence victims compete for space and vital resources inside our health system’s overcrowded intensive care units.
“Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.”Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a fellow in surgical critical care and trauma surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.
When our nation overcomes the COVID-19 global pandemic, the epidemic of gun violence will not have paused. One woman will still be shot and killed by a former or current partner nearly every 16 hours; eight children and teens will still be unintentionally injured or killed due to an unlocked or unsupervised gun in the home; and Black men will still be 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with a gun.
When you look at the incidents of gun violence, broken down by “category” you can see the number of domestic related shootings, the number of unintentional shootings, the number related directly to coronavirus, and the number of suicides (less information available about suicides because of lack of reporting)
I participated in a Webinar this past week sponsored by Brady to learn more about our response to the surge in gun buying and what that will mean for our families. It is not a pretty picture. I learned that some of the reasons people are buying guns is because of the fear of a breakdown in our society, a fear that law enforcement will be sick with the virus and unable to respond to threats to safety, and fear of prisoners released during the pandemic ( most of whom were convicted of non- violent crimes).
These are scary times for sure. We already knew that we had a gun violence epidemic and that gun deaths and injuries have been on the rise in recent years. Now we know that because of the current pandemic, gun violence may increase more. Guns don’t wear out. Many of the gun buyers during this surge of purchases are first time buyers making even some of the gun shop owners nervous. The guns will be in homes long after the pandemic abates. That means, inevitably, more deaths and injuries. Common sense tells us that this will be true. More guns = more shootings and more death and injury. That has always been true.
The key to stemming this tide of violence, if we can do so, is to strongly encourage safe storage of guns. Guns must be stored unloaded and locked away from those who should not be able to access them. We know that small children are curious and can access guns easily when they are left unsecured. We know that suicides are more successful with guns than other methods. We know that domestic abusers use guns to threaten and injure or kill spouses and partners. We know these things.
And we cannot have this discussion without talking about expanding background checks to all gun sales. If a domestic abuser wants a gun he ( or she) can easily get one through a private sale. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are very important now that so many guns in homes where the risk of someone being a danger to him or herself or someone else is very real. Also making sure gun sales do not proceed after the 3 day wait ( called the Charleston loophole) without a background check is more important than ever but the U.S. Senate has failed to even hear that bill after it passed in the House last year.
Now more than ever stronger gun laws are essential to pass. That should be an essential service to our communities and our families.
Check out End Family Fire for all the reasons we should be concerned about the risks of guns in homes.
Please talk to friends and family about guns in their homes at this stressful and volatile time. Please tell them to store guns safely if they feel they must have them. Guns will not protect us from the coronavirus. They will make us less safe. Please talk to friends and family who may be experiencing domestic strife to make sure guns are kept away from abusers and to be mindful of the risk they pose to our families. Domestic abuse organizations are still working and are a resource for victims of abuse. Please refer those who you think may be at risk for suicide to the suicide hotline. There has been an unfortunate exponential increase to the calls to the hotline.
There is so much more to write about and I will be doing so in the coming days about the surge of gun buying in the midst of a pandemic and the risks of guns in the home. Please stay safe at home and spend some virtual time with your families on this holiday week-end.
Below are some resources for families.
Suicidehotlines.com At this site you can find hotlines specific to your state.