Blog | Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Health and handguns

There have been eight mass shootings in the United States this year and at least 61 since 1982. The Connecticut community of Newtown is grieving for its 20 slain children and 6 adults. The towns of Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, Minneapolis and Clackamas, to name a few, are still grieving for their lost children and adults to gun violence. Now is the time to stop this craziness.

As President Obama said, "Surely we can do better than this." This cannot be a political, Blue vs. Red, North vs. South, Right vs. Left issue. It is every one's issue now. As a nation we are not doing enough to keep our children safe.

The rifle used by Adam Lanza, the mass murderer in Connecticut and by James Holmes, who killed 12 people in a movie theater in Colorado in July, and by Jacob Roberts who killed two people in a shopping mall last week, was an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon. This means it can rapidly fire multiple high-velocity rounds. These rifles, along with Glock semiautomatic pistols (also found at the scene) are efficient killing machines and are completely legal to buy in gun shops and online. The pistol costs less than $500 and you can buy both online and "add to your cart," oh so easily. Sadly, the guns used by Lanza were legally owned by his gun enthusiast mother.

NRA attorney Stephen Halbrook, argues that the number of people unlawfully killed with these semi-automatic weapons is "really quite small." When you add in the violence in our poor neighborhoods with millions of these weapons in circulation, it is not a convincing argument.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has 1.7 million Facebook fans. After the shooting in Connecticut, the NRA Facebook page has gone dark and there has been no public statement.

Gun makers, sellers, ammunition companies, and gun accessories are big business and the NRA may care more about protecting the money flow than by protecting citizen rights to bear arms. Our failure as a nation to regulate (and outlaw) dangerous firearms is literally killing us. Surely no-one needs a semi-automatic weapon for hunting or for self-defense. There is no justification that would make any sense to a rational person.

Beware of the NRA coming forth after their moment of silence to defend these weapons by saying (as they did after the Denver movie theater massacre), "The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake. And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake."

This has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with protecting law-abiding citizens. We have regulations that keep us safer in cars, safer with our food supply, safer with medical care and pharmaceuticals and even regulations for schools and pre-school. Now we need regulations that keep us safer from gun violence.

We cannot prevent unbalanced people from existing but we can make it harder for them to massacre and then take their own life (as often happens).

Now is the time for banning semi-automatic weapons and large rounds of ammunition. Join EverythingHealth and make your voice heard.

This post originally appeared at Everything Health. Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, is an ACP Internist editorial board member who blogs at EverythingHealth, designed to address the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st Century.