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  • Phylls H. Moore

Reading, Writing, & Common Sense

According to Brene Brown, PhD, author and professor at University of Houston School of Social Work, "The ability to think past either/or situations is the foundation of critical thinking, but still, it requires courage. Getting curious and asking questions happens outside our ideological bunkers. It feels easier and safer to pick a side. The argument is set up in a way that there’s only one real option. . . . The only true option is to refuse to accept the terms of the argument by challenging the framing of the debate. But make no mistake; this is opting for the wilderness. Why? Because the argument is set up to silence dissent and draw lines in the sand that squelch debate, discussion, and questions—the very processes that we know lead to effective problem solving."

This struck me as I watched responses to my friend, Ken's, Facebook post. He was moved to post after the school shooting incident in Florida on February 14, 2018. School safety and gun control are emotional issues, but we will have to have the conversations that lead to problem solving. We have to start at the points we can agree on. The first and only one at this point is that children must be safe in school. The other might be the fact that all of the mass shootings in recent history in schools, churches, concerts, movie theaters, etc. have been executed with a gun that serves no purpose but to kill, the AR-15. Doctors who treated patients following the Florida shooting described injuries unlike any they had treated in the past. Organs were pulverized due to the high velocity of the bullets.

In a comment, I lauded the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for their willingness to confront legislators about the need for greater school safety. Many of the legislators took significant amounts of money from the National Rifle Association. These students are the leaders of the future and they have witnessed a situation that will forever change their view of the world. I had a sense of hope about their social action. However, a former classmate immediately responded these same students would drive a car while texting and listed statistics about distracted driving. Huh? I only meant to compliment the student survivors of a horrendous tragedy, but okay, here's some bullshit to deal with. Driving a car, chewing gum, drinking alcohol . . . choices. Getting shot with an AR-15 while in school, not a choice. Homicide. A major fallacy in the analogy between motor-vehicle crashes and shootings is that crashes are almost always accidental, and shootings almost always intentional. Yet, I am asked by this man to yield. Yes, that's the word used, yield. In other words concede, relinquish, surrender. Wait, I thought we were trying to solve a problem? I've seen this tactic used on dogs where you roll them over on their backs until their leg falls to the side in submission. Well, that was before "Me Too" I guess, when you could ask someone to yield.

David Hemenway, PhD—one of the nation’s most influential injury researchers points out, "Funding for gun research at the nation’s leading public health institute has been going in the wrong direction. Since I graduated from college [in 1968], there have been more civilians killed by guns in the United States than soldiers have been killed on the battlefield in all of the wars in American history by any means,” said Hemenway, Director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. On an average day in the United States, 320 people are shot with a firearm, and approximately 90 people die from a gunshot wound.

In 1986 I used a violence prevention curriculum published by the Institute of Public Health. National institutes and the Center for Disease Control were researching gun violence and the impact on public health because American tax payers foot the bill for these health costs and they are enormous. One of the statistics I shared with the gang members I worked with was that if they had a gun in their homes, the people in the household were three times more likely to be shot. (This statistic applies to everyone, by the way.) These guys didn't necessarily care about a gunshot to themselves, but they didn't want their little brothers and grandmothers to be shot. I checked this statistic and it is still true. However, something has changed since the '80's and it's disturbing.

In 1996 the NRA accused the CDC of conducting studies to support gun control. These accusations were based on the fact that the findings of studies being done by the medical community pointed to gun violence as a significant health crisis. According to editorials and articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association this issue is and continues to be a significant risk to Americans -- "What would happen if on one day more than 50 people died and over 10 times that many were harmed by an infectious disease in the United States?" I recall the hysteria over Ebola and far fewer people were effected. In addition some of the links to this research from these institutions no longer function.

Considering the statistical risk of having a gun in the home, I would propose that we can expect the same results if school teachers are armed, as suggested by our leader. I'm listening, but I'm not hearing anything to convince me otherwise, so far. Just in the last few days I've heard of a teacher leaving a loaded gun in a unisex bathroom on a school campus and another shooting herself in the leg at school. Yeah, what could wrong here? I suspect that if mass shooters can attack on military bases and other places with security, teachers aren't going to be much help, although I know some would want to try.

Medical professionals, especially pediatricians are frustrated about the inability to get research to support the need to address gun control. Social workers and doctors will tell you that accidental shootings of children is a bigger loss than the victim. I worked with a young man experiencing behavior problems. He had PTSD. The incident he relived several times a day was the accidental shooting of his three year old brother. Many years after he moved away, I learned he committed suicide. I have no idea how this family managed to cope. I think about this family when I try to process the argument "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

I'm posting some links here for anyone who wants to read more about research, gun violence. our legislators, etc. We need to continue discussing this issue. It won't be resolved by name calling. I'm trying to do better. We have a responsibility to arm ourselves with the best information we can garner and, in my opinion, neutral research by credible institutions would help. However the appropriations committee has pulled funding for further research on gun violence. You be the judge, good or bad. Other countries have managed to curb mass shootings and the single factor in Australia and the UK has been gun control. The legislation in both those countries was proposed by their prime ministers following mass shootings in 1996. In both cases gun violence has been reduced.

I currently am for reasonable gun control, a compromise with responsible gun owners and stringent vetting of gun buyers, no loopholes. I don't think this is too much to ask for the safety of citizens and especially school children who are sitting targets, or worse, running, screaming targets. I yield to anyone with a better idea. Anyone?

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