Saturday, December 22, 2012

Let's get serious about protecting our children

We're going off the rails again, not wanting to let a good crisis go to waste.

It is a tragedy that 20 children were murdered at school, right before Christmas.

Making certain types of guns, certain capacity magazines, or even complete gun ownership illegal (or administratively impossible) won't bring them back.  Worse yet, it won't prevent this in the future.

We call this a tragedy--someone who should never have had access to these weapons got them and did this.  It happens every day--convicted felons get firearms all the time.

Someone should have had this person committed--his mother tried, but since he was an adult, it was administratively difficult.  And he murdered her for it.

We can't simply lock up all the crazy people.  That particular power--for the government to decide who is or is not sane, and incarcerate them for it--is one of the most useful tools for the oppression of dissent in history.  We could try to make access to mental health care easier, and there is merit to that... except there's always the problem of the system being stretched to capacity right now, and unless we're willing to make huge investments in training and resourcing healthcare providers, (in an economy teetering on a "cliff") then that answer won't work, either.

The gun industry, not surprisingly, has been doing a, if you'll pardon the pun, booming business since 2008.  I attribute that to the rise in popularity of Zombie movies and TV shows like Doomsday Preppers. you mave have other ideas as to why it has done so well even in such a greatly depressed economy.

Should we tie purchasing a gun to mental health checks, just like we do background checks?  Are you willing to put your medical history in a database, one run by the government, that is notoriously bad at securing personal information?  Doesn't that alone violate your right to privacy?  Should we tell people that they need to sacrifice one right to exercise another?

As an aside, how do we break down the mental health issue, anyway?  Would ANY doctor declare someone fit to purchase a gun, after they've sought or been forced into treatment, knowing that in our race to blame someone when bad things happen, their name would fall squarely on the blame line?  Has any mental health professional ever declared someone "cured and incapable of relapse?"

By the way, 20 is a drop in the tragedy bucket.  Every day, that many children die in car accidents.  But we aren't looking to make buying, owning, or operating cars any harder.
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2009, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, more than 30% died from drowning.1,2  Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools.2 Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1-4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies (birth defects).1 Among those 1-14, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.1
 (Emphasis added)
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. [cited 2012 May 3]. Available from: URL:
  2. Laosee, OC, Gilchrist, J, Rudd, R. Drowning 2005-2009. MMWR 2012; 61(19):344-347. )
So if we're trying to avoid tragedy, we need to get serious about banning swimming pools and kids in cars.  We can talk about arming security guards or teachers (not a bad idea) but there will still be school, mall, and theater shootings.  These shooting will almost always be done by mentally ill people or terrorists.  We can never catch all of the crazies, no matter how big the butterfly net, and  we obviously can't stop all the terrorists.  The real secret to security isn't that you stop every attack, it's that you make yourself a harder target than the next likely target.  Make the schools impenetrable, then this will happen on school buses and in public parks.  make those impenetrable, and it will happen at children's hospitals (where they are busy treating the thousands of children injured in swimming pools and car accidents.)

The point I'm making about pools and cars is that it is a far greater risk of injury to children, yet no one is making any stink about it, because it isn't in the news every day.  There is not enough bleeding to lede, I suppose.  Even if it did make the local news, it wouldn't get picked up nationally.  (Can you imagine a nightly news "Death Pool" or "Toll Booth of Death" tallying the reports of children dying across the nation?  And here's the worst part:  of the swimming deaths, every single one was 100% preventable.  Of the car deaths, some are preventable. 


But don't let me tell you, let the CDC tell you:

While shocking and senseless shootings give the impression of dramatic increases in school-related violence, national surveys consistently find that school-associated homicides have stayed essentially stable or even decreased slightly over time.
According to the CDC’s School Associated Violent Death Study, less than 1 percent of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school. So the vast majority of students will never experience lethal violence at school.1
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School-associated student homicides—United States, 1992–2006. MMWR 2008;57(02):33–36.\


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