Let's be honest about the purpose of a firearm. It is not a decoration for the wall of your den or a trinket to display for your friends. It is a device created for the sole purpose of killing a person or an animal. Let's put aside the matter of whether you own a rifle for use in hunting animals. What remains are handguns. Handguns are designed specifically to kill people with maximum efficiency. So here's the critical question Americans need to ask: Are we, our loved ones and our community safer if we and our neighbors own handguns? Let's try to answer that question in a FAQ format.
How common are deaths and injuries from handguns in America?
Well, don't other countries have a problem similar to ours?
All right, I understand that there is a human cost to gun violence, but is there also an economic cost that affects me as a taxpayer?
I have heard that if the majority of people own guns, criminals would be frightened and crimes would be prevented. So, if there are more gun owners in my state than in surrounding states, members of my family should be safer. Is this true?
My sister is divorcing her husband and they are fighting over custody of the kids. Her husband owns a handgun. Is she in greater danger from domestic violence because of the gun?
I worry about my kids, too. Are they in greater danger because we have a gun in our house? Their friends' parents also own guns. Should I worry about that, too?
But people say having a gun in our house is necessary for protection. If someone breaks into our house, shouldn't we have a gun to defend ourselves? And, if we shoot someone like that, isn't it a "justifiable homicide' rather than a crime? Surely having a gun in our house makes us safer?
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a federal judge were murdered in Tucson, Ariz., by an armed psycopath. Wouldn't it have been better if bystanders had concealed weapons to kill him before he was able to fire so many bullets?
Isn't it true that gun dealers must do background checks to prevent selling guns to known criminals and people with psychiatric illnesses?
There is reason to feel optimistic that good sense may prevail, and Americans will finally recover from their long, unwholesome romance with guns. The NRA promoted notion that "packing heat" is as American as apple pie is coming under attack. Experts are questioning the wisdom of easy access to deadly weapons that has caused the death and misery of so many Americans. It is becoming obvious that we need the same restrictions on gun ownership as exist in almost every other civilized country.
Let's conclude with a story that you might very well read in the Wheeling News- Register, Feb. 24, 2015: The NRA has lobbied mightily and has finally convinced the West Virginia State Legislature to pass an unrestricted concealed carry law; most citizens now carry their pistols every day for self-defense. It is the final round of the Big East Basketball tournament in Morgantown pitting WVU against its closest rival Pittsburgh. In the stands, a drunken student, enraged by a taunt he has heard, draws his weapon and fires several shots. Hundreds in the stands duck for cover while reaching for their loaded weapons. Dozens rise up and start firing at the person they believe to be the shooter. A few guess right and bring him down. Many others guess wrong, and shoot instead the first person they see with gun in hand. In the ensuing crossfire, several students die and many others are injured.
Alan M. Ruben, M.D.