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Getting all worked up over firearms & gun control
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

There are more than 310 million firearms owned by American citizens.

Every time a prominent politician - president or otherwise - says they're making a big push for tougher gun laws the sales of firearms go up.

The Center for Disease Control notes 11,209 of the country's 16,121 murder victims in 2013 were killed by a firearm. Some like to toss suicide-by-gun into the total. For 2013, 21,175 of the 41,149 people that committed suicide did so by using a gun.

During the past seven years based on a USA Today analysis of CDC data, 934 people have been killed by firearms in mass murders as defined by the FBI as four or more deaths. Mass murders account for just under one percent of all homicides committed by using guns. Of those, 57 percent knew their killers as the shootings were classified as domestic violence.

Police will tell you it is rare that a criminal who uses a gun in a commission of a crime - whether it is fired or not - bought it at a gun shop or went through a background check. The guns used were stolen from others, mostly law-abiding citizens.

On the list of leading causes of "unnatural deaths" not attributed strictly to old age or a disease, firearms homicide ranks a distance eighth at 11,209 behind tobacco, 529,000; medical errors, 195,299; alcohol abuse, 107,400; vehicle accidents, 42,000; suicide 41,000; and drug abuse 25,500.

Americans - judging by social media frenzy and political posturing - are more likely to get worked up about gun control not in 99 percent of the murders as we treat a stranger getting killed in a mugging with the same deference that we view a stranger killed in an auto accident. The only time we pay attention is mass murders just like it takes a traffic accident with a high body count to do the same.

President Obama's plan to expand gun checks to include mandatory background checks by those selling guns over the Internet seems logical and legal given how e-commerce is subject to the same laws as brick and mortar businesses. The president trying to do much unilaterally beyond that could arguably exceed his constitutional authority.

It is clear under the Constitution that Americans have the right to own guns. And like all other rights including free speech it is not an absolute right.

All the background checks in the world won't reduce the ability of criminals to steal guns to commit crimes or kill people. What Obama's expansion to Internet buyers' background checks does is keep criminals from taking advantage of technology to make their actions harder to detect by law enforcement.

As for the nearly 33,000 gun deaths in the United States that some pushing for tougher gun control laws banter about, it is disingenuous to collapse two issues into one - murder and suicide.

Take away suicide deaths by gun and that leaves 11,209 murders committed with a gun.

Now for a startling tidbit. Scan various newspapers across the country and you will come up with gems like this one out of New York City: "Of the 334 murders in New York City in 2013, it appears only 29 victims did not know their killer."

According to the report in the New York Post you're more likely to die in your bathtub, die in an earthquake or die in a plane crash than be murdered by a stranger in New York.

The same holds true in countless other cities and states. That is of little comfort to the murder victim's survivors but it perhaps points to other avenues that may be more effective at reducing the murder rate whether it is by firearms or other means. Given mental issues and previous convictions for domestic violence can be viewed as a legitimate precursor for violence that could lead to murder expanded background checks make sense. They shouldn't be perceived as a threat to Second Amendment rights.

The latest volley in the gun control debate is the result of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino that left 16 dead. More background checks wouldn't have helped there given there was essentially a straw buyer.

Tougher gun control laws won't stop terrorists. People who plan elaborate schemes in which they are willing to die can be pretty resourceful.

Tougher gun control won't stop common criminals. They get their weapons the old-fashioned way - they steal them.

Effective background checks that cover Internet purchases may make it more difficult for impulsive angry people, those with a clear disposition to domestic violence, and mental issues from getting their hands on a gun. Will background checks stop all violence from happening? Not by a long shot.

Some argue requiring people to secure the weapons that they keep in their home when they are away would go a long way toward reducing the number of guns in the hands of two-bit criminals that either steal them in burglaries or buy them from a fence.

Working to reduce domestic violence, getting law-abiding citizens to securely store their guns, and making sure that anyone who sells weapons via a commercial venue - store, gun show, or Internet - must participate in background checks of buyers are probably the most viable and acceptable solutions to try and put a lid of some sorts on gun violence.

Trying to make law-abiding gun owners culpable and finding ways to limit their ownership of firearms would be akin to penalizing safe motorists by restricting their ability to drive in a bid to reduce the carnage caused by reckless and unsafe drivers.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.