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More guns alone not the answer

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Are we safer by making it easier for citizens to carry guns? The Ohio General Assembly thinks so. At least six bills seek to expand the rights of gun owners. There’s ample data to suggest that more guns don’t promote safety and that with more guns the number of unintended deaths increases.

Legislators don’t seem to care about data. Then maybe they should take a minute and listen to what fighter pilots have to say about self-defense in the air.

Fighter pilots live by the paradigm, “Keep your head on a swivel.” It’s the enemy aircraft you don’t see that will shoot you down. Some 80 to 90 percent of downed pilots never see their attacker—until it’s too late. Tied to this paradigm is, “The first guy to get a missile in the air wins.” Start a dogfight in a defensive posture, and you’ll likely die.

How do these paradigms relate to guns and self-defense?

All the guns in the world won’t save you if you’re not alert to your surroundings. If guns alone were the answer, we wouldn’t have armed police officers being ambushed and killed.

On occasion we hear about an armed citizen stopping a shooter, but those situations likely involve a shooter who was caught off guard. An armed judge in Steubenville, Ohio, with help from a probation officer, killed his attacker, but that’s the exception.

A third fighter pilot paradigm is, “fight like you train.” When the shooting starts, it’s too late to think about how to maneuver your jet. If you’re unable to react instinctively, you’re going to die. Fighter pilots regularly practice aerial combat maneuvering, memorize the capabilities of their weapons, and study the strengths and weaknesses of enemy aircraft.

If you don’t regularly engage in repetitive training under a variety of high stress scenarios and think you can take out a shooter and not kill or wound bystanders, your arrogance will be your undoing.

Time Magazine carried a sobering article on Jan. 16, 2013, about how the brain reacts and bullets get sprayed in gunfights. New York city cops involved in gun fights typically hit their targets only 18% of the time. When they fired at a shooter outside the Empire State Building in the summer of 2012, they put 10 bullets in him but also hit nine bystanders.

The story of a gun fight in an apartment illustrates how disorienting things become when the shooting starts. While running for cover and dragging his wounded partner, veteran Chicago cop Jim Glennon didn’t realize he had dropped his gun. After taking cover behind a corner, Glennon pointed at the shooter with what he thought was his gun, but he was just holding his hand out in front of him, pointing it in the shape of gun like a kid at play.

Responding to the question whether teachers should be armed, Glennon expressed his concern. “Cops aren’t trained well enough, so what do you think they’re going to do with the teachers? It’s not enough to carry a gun.” Ryan Millerbern, a former policer officer in Colorado, talks about how he has struggled under gunfire to perform basic functions. He thinks it’s “very unrealistic” to assume armed teachers would perform competently in a gunfight.

The gun lobby has created the fiction that “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad gun with a gun.” The reality is, a gun will protect you only if you don’t let the bad guy get the drop on you. But it’s impossible to be vigilant all the time. Full-time vigilance would freeze your ability to do anything else.

What’s the answer? The nation has to become proactive.

The gun lobby says that by carrying a gun, you’re being proactive. No, being proactive means taking steps to prevent a problem from occurring.

Let’s be proactive and get the guns out of the hands of bad guys.

Mandating background checks for all gun sales would be a good start. Recognizing that gun violence is a public health issue—some 30,000 people die annually from gun homicides and suicides—and funding research of the factors that contribute to gun violence would be a good second step. Next, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should have an updated system to track the source of guns used in crimes; the present system is inadequate.

But the gun lobby doesn’t like any of these ideas. Its existence and financial well-being depend on inciting fear and spreading the fiction that more guns alone are not the answer.

[This post was published in the Columbus Dispatch on Oct. 3, 2017.]

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Jack D’Aurora write for Considerthisbyjd.com

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Discussion

  1. Ben Zambito  October 9, 2017

    My dad and I were discussing this article last night at dinner – great to see it in the dispatch.

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  2. Gary L. Sigrist, Jr.  October 9, 2017

    More guns are not the answer, but neither are ‘common sense’ gun laws. We need gun laws that make good sense.

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  3. Bruce Lackey  October 9, 2017

    Thanks for making a number of rational points. Keep up the good work.

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  4. Charles Rodenfels  October 9, 2017

    Well Jack….I trust you know your stuff relative to the world of fighter pilots. Points well made.

    Of the 30,000 people who die annually from gun homicides and suicides it should be noted 2/3rds of those deaths are suicides. I’d much rather see funding for mental health. I’m fairly confident the research you suggested to identify “factors that contribute to gun violence” would point significantly to mental health…a dirty little illness in this country that so many health care institutions/systems do not want to fund. Fifty years ago the State of Ohio had easily a dozen State Hospitals ( a nice term for psychiatric hospitals) to “care” for mental health patients. Today….I can not point to more than one or two mental health facilities in the State of Ohio. I seriously doubt these facilities disappeared because we’ve successfully addressed Ohio’s mental health problems.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  October 9, 2017

      I’m aware of the 21,000 or so suicides per year. Hard to believe, just the same. I think a multi-faceted approach is warranted: better mental health care for those who need it and some mechanism to prevent guns from being so accessible to those with mental health problems.

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  5. Ron Plymale  October 9, 2017

    As usual, points well taken. But I’ve already made up my mind so why bother with rational analysis. When the Trump Brown Shirts are clamoring at my door with a warrant issued by a Trump “yes man” magistrate directing i be carted directly to jail for speech “contrary to the national interest” I don’t plan to go down without taking a few of them with me. I fully appreciate that I won’t last long and there may be collateral damage but such is the price of resistance.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  October 9, 2017

      And all this time I thought you were a man of peace. Who knew?!

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  6. Matthew  October 9, 2017

    You have three reasonable recommendations, Jack. For a number four, I’d love to see our society have an honest and thoughtful national conversation on the causes of violence in our country–not merely limited to gun violence or even physical violence. Human life is not valued as it should be. The government guarantees the right to kill children in the womb, it kills criminals (some falsely accused), it starts and perpetuates wars to project and protect economic interests, and it always has an “enemy” to justify its military spending or its domestic injustices. If our government is setting the example, then the horrific acts of violence among us may be a natural consequence.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  October 15, 2017

      I agree. Violence has almost become a norm within society. We’ve lost touch with how easy and how frequent the taking of lives have become.

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  7. Tony Gugliemotto  October 10, 2017

    Our valiant and brave legislators are all for protecting citizens’ 2nd amendment right to bear arms everywhere…….except in their office.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  October 15, 2017

      I appreciate your sentiment, Tony, but Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) is sponsoring H.B. 310, a bill that would let elected officials carry guns into their places of business. The reasoning behind the bill is a bit unsettling: As Vitale sees it, “if someone knows someone can defend themselves, they might keep their rhetoric at an acceptable level.” Does this mean, people who protest against public officials might need to stay quiet or risk being shot by their representatives?

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