In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Dallas and the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, much of the reaction has been highly polarized, with some people blaming Black Lives Matter protesters for supposedly inciting violence against police officers. Officials say a gunman shot and killed five police officers Thursday at a Dallas protest against police shootings of black men, in a bout of violence that didn’t end until police using explosives delivered by a robot killed the suspected gunman. Seven other officers and two civilians were also injured.
The suspect, who died in a parking garage, was Micah Xavier Johnson, authorities say. Johnson was a U.S. military veteran who had served in Afghanistan, and told negotiators he was upset about police shootings and wanted to kill white police officers.
The message here is clear: It is possible to oppose all forms of violence. People can oppose and want to prevent racial disparities in police use of force, violence against police officers, and mass shootings — all at the same time. It is not a simple either-or.
Unfortunately, the reality is that any movement against any kind of social or political injustice is always prone to having someone take things to a radical, potentially violent extreme. But such extremists shouldn’t be able to stifle what’s otherwise a legitimate criticism or valid political discourse.
I am dejected by all that is reported and wonder if we have lost our way. Have we lost our Moral Compass? Police now feel that they have a target on their backs. How do they do their job when they fear for their lives? The Economist reported that police shootings last year were reported to be 458 in the UAS as compared to Japan-0, Britian-0, and only 8 in Germany. Another issue is the huge disparity in the homicide rates where in the 2000 the US homicide rate was 6.10/100,000 as compared to Italy- 2.50/100,000, etc, which to continue the comparison 3X the rate in Canada, 4X in the UK and 10X the rate of homicides in Germany. So we in the US have some major issues that we need to address and not just the new gun laws
As Kevin Drum, a blogger at Mother Jones, previously wrote: People and groups have to be free to condemn abortion or police misconduct or anything else — sometimes soberly, sometimes not. And it’s inevitable that this will occasionally inspire a maniac somewhere to resort to violence. There’s really no way around this. It’s obviously something for any decent person to keep in mind, but it doesn’t make passionate politics culpable for the ills of the world. We can’t allow the limits of our political spirit to be routinely dictated by the worst imaginable consequences.
Politics are again raising their ugly heads, from the locals politicos, Congress and yes to the President. But we should be looking at the best strategy to decrease the continual violence. Let us look at some data.
Does Australia’s gun control policy — a government buy back of civilian-owned guns and strict laws limiting access to guns — offer useful insights for the U.S.?
No, according Timothy Wheeler, MD, a retired Los Angeles head and neck surgeon, who played a role in Congress’s decision to withhold funding for CDC studies of gun violence, who termed Australia’s buyback “a full-fledged mass confiscation.”
“The 1996 National Firearms Agreement’s so-called ‘buyback’ of civilian-owned firearms was in fact a full-fledged mass confiscation, with severe criminal penalties for noncompliance. And the confiscation included not only semiautomatic rifles of the kind most popular in America today, but pump action rifles and shotguns as well — the vast majority of privately held long arms,” Wheeler wrote in an email to MedPage Today.
Wheeler said Australia’s law also “disallows” self-defense as a “genuine reason” for owning a firearm. “This would be a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, whose Second Amendment was interpreted in D.C. vs Heller as affirming a right to own a firearm for self-defense. An Australian-style mass confiscation of the people’s guns would be legally, politically, and tactically unthinkable in the U.S.,” he wrote.
By contrast, Denise Dowd, MD, of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City praised Australia saying “I think it’s great Australia did what they did.”
George S. Everly, Jr., PhD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who said he had consulted numerous times in Australia, also found their study very exciting, but he pointed out that it would be a mistake to assume causality because the results “may be attributable to other factors not controlled for nor measured.” And he was concerned that “this debate in the media focuses on gun control to the exclusion of mental health issues.”
The study is observational and it is difficult to establish a causal relationship between the gun policies, known as the National Firearms Agreement, and rates of death by guns, the authors warned. They noted a greater magnitude of decline in non-firearm suicide and homicide deaths than the decline of firearm suicide and homicide, making it impossible to say definitively that the decreases came because of the gun law reforms.
On the other hand, there was no evidence that people had substituted other lethal methods for guns in committing suicide and homicide. From 1979-1996, the average annual rate of total nonfirearm suicide and homicide deaths was 10.6 (95% CI 10.0-11.2) per 100,000 people, an average increase of 2.1% per year and an annual trend of 1.021 (95% CI 1.016 to 1.026). In the years after the law, the average annual rate was 11.8 (95% CI 11.3-12.3) per 100,000 people and the average decline was 1.4% per year with an annual trend of 0.986 (95% CI 0.980-0.993).
“The experience in Australia over the past 2 decades since enactment of the National Firearms Agreement provides a useful example of how a nation can come together to forge life-saving policies despite political and cultural divides,” wrote Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, at Johns Hopkins University, in an accompanying editorial. “Australia has comprehensive regulations to limit the misuse of handguns as well as long guns that are more restrictive than anywhere in the United States, even in those communities with the strictest gun laws.”
The suicide by firearm rate was declining before 1996, but it declined at a significantly faster rate after the new laws (ratio of trends 0.981, 95% CI 0.970-0.993). A similarly accelerated decrease in firearm homicide fell just short of statistical significance, however (0.975, 95% CI 0.949-1.001).
In the 13 years leading up to the Port Arthur shooting, there were 13 mass shootings that killed 104 people and wounded another 52. The ensuing gun control laws banned semi-automatic long guns and required all firearm owners to demonstrate that they have a need for the gun and be free of violent crimes in the last five years. They must also demonstrate “good character” and pass a gun safety test, according to the authors.
Data were drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Shootings by police were not included in this analysis, and researchers used three models to estimate firearm death trends both before and after the introduction of the National Firearms Agreement.
“I see some suggestion of late-onset weapon substitution for suicide, in the slow increase in non-firearm suicide beginning in 2007,” wrote Garen Wintemute, MD, MPH, director of the violence prevention research program at the University of California Davis, in an email to MedPage Today. “This should not take away from the clear downward trend overall since the policy was put in place.”
Nonetheless, Everly said there are cultural similarities between Australia and the U.S. There is, he said, “Very much a rugged ‘cowboy’ like culture in some areas. Yet, sophisticated urban as well. If there is any culture in the world that might generalize to the US it’s Australia. These findings will certainly strengthen the argument that the societal cost of access to rapid fire weapons far outweighs any potential benefit.”
But Dowd doesn’t think Australia’s action could inform the debate in the U.S., noting that “no amount of data, studies, evidence published in a medical journal will change what is currently a most disheartening political situation with regard to gun policy in the USA. … It simply does not matter what ‘scientists’ ‘researchers’ or ‘experts’ come up with in terms of recommendations around guns at this point.”
That sentiment was echoed by Adam Winkler, a professor of law at the UCLA School of Law, who noted, “We have far more guns in the US than in Australia, and the gun lobby is far stronger here. Moreover, my understanding is that rates of gun ownership have climbed back up in Australia and are now near the level prior to the buyback program. It’s hard to believe that potential mass shooters decided not to kill because they would have to use a handgun. Most mass shooting in the US, for example, are committed with handguns.”
The results published in JAMA don’t point to a clear benefit for the gun law: gun deaths declined but the decline was not statistically significant, as Wheeler pointed out.
“Tellingly, the authors themselves admit in the last sentence that ‘it is not possible to determine whether the change in firearm deaths can be attributed to the gun law reforms.’ This conclusion is buttressed by their comments earlier that the decline in firearm homicides after the 1996 law was not statistically significant, and that non-firearm homicides and suicides decreased even more than those done with firearms. … The red flags of doubt are seen throughout this article, and the authors themselves admit their study’s weaknesses.”
Gun control advocates point beyond isolated incidents to broader trends, like data showing that tougher state gun laws are correlated with fewer gun deaths (a statistic that includes not only homicides and accidents but also America’s many gun suicides).
And to the degree that stricter gun laws keep gun ownership levels down, it could mean less violent crime. I thought that I would include a number of graphs showing the various states and their gun laws:
The authors of the JAMA study had obvious conflicts, Wheeler said, with one being a member of the Coalition for Gun Control (Australia) and “Second author Philip Alpers is the founding director of the gun ban organization GunPolicy.org and is a delegate to the U.N.’s project to ban private gun ownership worldwide, the so-called Programme of Action. Mr. Alpers, although he holds the title of Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Sydney School of Public Health, apparently has no college degree and no evident qualifications other than being a premier gun prohibition activist. These are insurmountable shortcomings for authors of a supposedly peer reviewed scientific article in a journal with the reputation of JAMA.”
Dr. Webster states that “Australian citizens, professional organizations, and academic researchers all played productive roles in developing and promoting evidence-informed policies and demanding that their lawmakers adopt measures to prevent the loss of life and terror of gun violence,” concluded Webster. “Citizens in the United States should follow their lead.”
I am tired about hearing and reading more politicization of this epidemic as well as the total disrespect for our laws and those that have to enforce the laws. Criminals do bad things and those who carry guns, often illegally, are the worst. They are usually responsible for the violence that has spread to radical groups and the radicals promote bad things occurring during peaceful demonstrations. I watch the supposed peaceful demonstrations as the “peaceniks”/activists throw rocks at the police. This all as we argue about whose lives matter and watch the fading out of free speech. How horrible to watch and hear and it indicates a very poor outlook for our future, especially who we are considering for our future leaders. How many more deaths will we read and hear about in our newspapers, on the Internet and on cable stations and who will we blame?
Please wake up Americans!!!