July 11, 2024
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July 11, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

With a terrible war raging in Israel, worldwide antisemitism on the rise, and an election year in which we are being forced to choose between two presidential candidates that no one particularly likes, it’s strange that the hottest topic in The Jewish Link these days is the newspaper’s decision to run an ad for a store selling handguns.

No doubt this is an emotional issue for many people. I personally am scared to death of even holding a gun, and the thought of owning a pistol is impossible for me to even imagine.

With that said, I have no objection to a store legally selling handguns advertising its product in The Jewish Link, and I have no reason to fault the paper for accepting such an ad, especially since there seems to be an increasing demand to purchase guns for protection by responsible members of the Orthodox community.

However, what I would like to discuss is why our country as a whole needs stronger gun control laws, and why the statistics prove that gun control can save lives, contrary to what some gun advocates are suggesting. And why, if you are thinking about purchasing a gun for protection, you might want to think twice about it.

I’m certainly no expert on gun control, but I’ve read articles and studies on this subject … and I believe I have a basic understanding of the issues that are involved.

First, let’s look at the gun ownership numbers. The United States has approximately 377 million guns—that translates to roughly one gun for every citizen. Approximately 77 million (30% of the adult population) report owning a gun.

As of 2022, the firearm death rate in the United States was 14.6 deaths per 100,000 people. This figure includes deaths from homicides, suicides, accidental discharges and legal interventions involving firearms. This rate is significantly higher than many other countries, including Canada, which had 0.57 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021, and the United Kingdom, which had 0.013 deaths per 100,000 people. The total number of gun deaths in the U.S. in 2021 was 48,830, with the majority being suicides (26,328) and homicides (20,958). Japan has one of the lowest rates worldwide—.02 deaths per 100,000 people—and it also has some of the strictest rules of any country in the world when it comes to owning a gun.

Have you ever heard gun enthusiasts claim that cars kill more people than guns, yet we don’t ban cars? The ironic thing is that the auto industry could serve as a perfect model for how the gun industry might be regulated. We don’t ban cars, but we do impose regulations—and limit access—to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been very successful, as the death rate per 100 million miles driven has been reduced to 1.24 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, significantly less than the rate it was during prior decades. Seat belts, a lower speed limit, child safety seats and airbags are some of the regulations that have been instituted in the past 50 years, which have contributed heavily to the reduction in auto deaths.

Why not take the same approach for guns? Here are just a few regulations that can be instituted, which I think could significantly reduce the number of gun deaths in our country: 1) background checks (22% of guns in this country are currently obtained without one); 2) federal legislation banning the sale of guns to anyone under 21 years old; 3) trigger locks on guns; 4) protection orders that would keep guns out of the hands of those guilty of domestic violence; and 5) smart guns that fire only if fingerprints are recognized or a PIN is entered.

Smith and Wesson made child-proof guns back in the 19th century. Why not bring back that technology today? After all, if someone steals my smartphone, it’s useless without a password … the same should be true of guns. Some combination of smart guns and safe storage would also reduce the number of firearms stolen in the United States each year, which amounts to about 200,000 guns and unfortunately gets into the hands of criminals who are not shy about using them.

It is true that guns are occasionally used to stop violence. But contrary to what the National Rifle Association suggests, this is very rare. There are only a few hundred justifiable homicides by a private citizen using a firearm each year in the United States, a tiny percentage of total gun deaths.

The problem is that relaxed gun laws often make it easy not only for the good guys to get guns, but also for the bad guys to get guns. There is overwhelming evidence that more guns lead to more violent deaths and injuries. One recent study found that a gun in the house is associated with an increased risk of a gun death, not only by suicide but also by homicide. People living with a gun in the home are twice as likely to be victims of homicide than those in gun-free households.

Critics will say that these kinds of regulations wouldn’t prevent mass shootings. That’s true, and this might not stop a deranged individual who is able to obtain a gun from killing scores of people. Mass shootings always capture our attention, but they are not the main cause of gun deaths. Much more typical is a husband who kills his wife or a man who kills himself. Some will say that if a person wants to kill himself, there’s nothing we can do. In fact, evidence suggests that if you make it a bit more difficult to kill yourself with a gun, suicide rates drop. In states with the strongest gun safety laws, gun suicide rates decreased over the past two decades, while states with the weakest laws saw a 39%t increase.

Instead of focusing only on the guns themselves, perhaps we should place more focus on who gets access to them. A gun is usually safe in the hands of a 40-year-old woman with no criminal record, but it’s a lot more dangerous when it’s used by a 20-year-old convicted felon with a history of domestic violence. Yet our laws more often have focused on weapons themselves (such as the assault weapons ban) rather than on access to them. In many places, it’s more difficult for a person to register to vote than to purchase a gun.

More Americans have died from gun violence, including suicides, since 1970 (about 1.5 million) than in all the wars in American history going back to the Revolutionary War (about 1.2 million). And it’s not just drug dealers and other criminals who are the victims. More than 2,500 children under 18 years old were killed with a gun in 2021.

For those who are skeptical that gun laws don’t make a difference, consider what happened in two states, Missouri and Connecticut. In 1995, Connecticut tightened licensing laws, while in 2007 Missouri eased gun laws.

The result? Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that Connecticut’s handgun licensing law was associated with a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides in the state. When Missouri repealed its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007, which had required background checks and licensing for handgun buyers, research indicates there was a 14% increase in firearm homicides in Missouri.

There are no perfect solutions. The Second Amendment needs to be respected. And unfortunately, the gun lobby is very strong, which makes instituting regulations difficult, even if they might make rational sense.

But automobiles are a good reminder that we can make inroads through a public health approach: Just as car safety improvements have reduced auto deaths significantly, gun safety regulations could also reduce firearm deaths in America—which could potentially save thousands of lives each year.

It’s time to address this issue in a thoughtful way.

Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the author of “Meet Me in the Middle” (meet-me-in-the-middle-book.com), a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life.  He can be reached at [email protected].



Total number of guns in USA: https://www.thetrace.org/2023/03/guns-america-data-atf-total/

Gun ownership: https://www.marineapproved.com/gun-ownership-statistics-in-america/

Gun deaths: https://bit.ly/4cxplud, https://bit.ly/4eUHWCg

Japan: https://www.southwestjournal.com/world/gun-deaths-by-country/

Auto deaths: https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/2023-Q2-traffic-fatality-estimates

Background checks: https://bit.ly/45X9umd ,

Smith and Wesson: https://bit.ly/3XOo2md

Gun in the house: https://bit.ly/3WaW036

Stolen guns: https://bit.ly/3VMrhrG

Justifiable homicides: https://www.statista.com/statistics/251894/number-of-justifiable-homicides-in-the-us/

Suicide rates and gun control: https://bit.ly/3XQkIa3

Gun deaths versus wars: https://bit.ly/3LftEOT

Kids under 18: https://pewrsr.ch/3xV0UYw

1995 CT law: https://bit.ly/4bDGDoa

Missouri law: https://bit.ly/45SkW2D

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