An average of 88 people per day die in this country from firearms. It is becoming nearly impossible to discuss this issue rationally due to the politics. Let’s try for a minute to cast aside the grandstanding and look at the data which is available.
Two thirds of the deaths are suicides and most of these suicides are committed by the elderly and those living in rural areas. Those, who abuse alcohol or other drugs, feel isolated and have access to guns are most likely to suffer self inflicted gunshot wounds. In fact, guns are the most common cause of suicide in the elderly.
Unlike rural areas, cities suffer more homicides than suicides. Waiting periods, according to the data, do not decrease homicide rates, but do reduce the risk of suicide.
Very few people with mental illness commit violence toward others, despite being more likely to be violent. In fact, patients with mental illness who are successfully treated are less likely to use guns violently than the general population. Furthermore, limiting access to all mentally ill patients would be a gross overreach.
What to do? Scientific research will help answer questions such as whether conceal and carry laws decrease or increase the risk of gun violence;which mentally ill patients should not have access to weapons and whether a waiting period ultimately leads to fewer deaths. What about assault weapons? Do they actually prevent or cause more deaths?
One interesting idea would be to train gun shop owners to recognize suicidal customers or those with dangerous mental illnesses and then let law enforcement decide whether or not to grant them access to guns.
Physicians should inquire about guns in the house, especially with the elderly and mentally ill. Are these guns safely locked? Are there children who might have access to these guns? I believe that as a doctor these are legitimate and important questions to be asked.
Simply blurting out some mindless political posturing will do nothing to help us. What is truly needed is unbiased data.