Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The public's right to know about gun violence data

While the Minnesota public and legislators are focused on massive budget cuts and how they should occur, something else is happening in a legislative committee. There is a proposed amendment that seemed to come out of nowhere concerning the reporting of statistics concerning gun injuries and deaths. The language is as follows:

Subd. 5. Firearms data. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the commissioner of health is prohibited from collecting data on individuals regarding lawful firearm ownership in the state or data related to an individual's right to carry a weapon under section 624.714." According to Heather Martens, Executive Director of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, in a recent action alert to members, " The amendment is being touted as harmless, intended only to "protect the privacy" of conceal and carry permit holders, but the language outlaws the collection of data by the Department of Health on anything relating to gun ownership. This could threaten any future ability to 1) determine what kind of gun has been used in an attempted suicide 2) determine the source of gun with with a child has been accidentally shot 3) find out from a shooting victim's family whose gun was used in the shooting."

So now we can see what the gun lobby is up to. If we can't see the data about gun injuries and gun deaths as the victims come to an Emergency Room, then maybe we won't know there is a problem in the first place and we won't try to pass laws to prevent such injuries and deaths. It's pretty simple. Let's just pretend we don't have a problem and maybe no one will notice that people who shouldn't have guns still get them. Maybe the public won't care if having loaded guns in their homes leads to more deaths and injuries. Maybe the public won't notice that people are dying from gun deaths at 30,000 a year. Maybe the public won't notice that gun suicides account for most of the gun deaths in our country. And maybe no one will notice or care that almost every day accidents with guns account for the injuries and deaths of children and others.

So now, we in Minnesota who do care and do want to know about these things, are forced to fight an amendment that the gun lobby has successfully managed to get heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Never mind that when those of us involved in the Protect Minnesota Campaign came before the Crime Victims subcommittee of the House Public Safety Committee we had to fight to get that hearing. And then, of course, our proposal was voted down by the Crime Victims subcommittee of the House Public Safety Committee. But now that the gun lobby has an amendment, it has received a hearing and the committee is arguing over whether to include it in the Health and Human Services committee bill.

There is hyperbole and hypocrisy as far as the eye can see. It is continually frustrating that the gun lobby is so successful in getting their stealth measures in front of elected bodies while those of us fighting for common sense and trying to prevent people from being shot, can barely get a hearing. Gun issues are controversial at best and poisonous, at most, for elected leaders. As long as they refuse to hear from those of us on the side of the majority and continue to be blind sided by those on the side of allowing just anyone to have guns everywhere, we will have a public health and public policy problem in this country. And we will continue to see gun deaths and injuries at alarming rates. As long as we refuse to confront this issue like we do other sources of injuries and deaths, by hiding the data about gun deaths and injuries, we will never be able to come together to work towards reducing the mayhem and daily massacres with guns. And as long as our elected leaders are confronted with the dangerous laws and amendments that come before them by the powerful, well funded gun lobby, we will see these types of amendments.

There is a great report about this problem, published by the National Academy of Science in 2004, entitled Firearms and Violence. This report is a comprehensive discussion of the problems about gun policy as it relates to public health and collection of data. I wonder if any of our elected leaders care to read this report which could change their minds about the prevelance of gun deaths and injuries in our country? I think we all know the answer to this question. Will we ever do the right thing or will be always hampered by the lack of courage of our leaders to confront the gun lobby and stand up for the majority of people who want to talk common sense and do something about the senseless shootings in our country? The public has a right to know this. We need to stop this amendment from passing.

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