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Susan Estrich
10 Feb 2016
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The Other Side of the Gun Debate


As politicians in Washington debate whether new laws should be issued to tighten up on background checks, impose limits on assault weapons and regulate ammunition sales and the like — a debate likely to be dominated by politics — it is worth focusing on the other side of the gun question, the public health side.

It is not news that even though we spend more on health care than any other country, we rank at the bottom of virtually every mortality measure. The assumption is that this is mostly a measure of the life spans of older Americans (of things like diet and smoking), who account for the majority of all deaths, but the headline news is just how poorly those under 50 rank.

The latest study making these headlines is the work of a panel of experts charged by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council with explaining why life expectancy in the United States is lower — and has been since the 1980s — than other rich countries such as Germany, Japan, France and Australia.

A major part of the answer is the higher death rates for those under 50. And a major part of the reason for those higher death rates is death by guns.

The numbers are pretty stark: firearm homicide rates that are 20 times higher, with 67 percent of all homicide deaths involving guns, which is more than 40 points more than the other countries. Suicide rates, though lower here, more often — six times more often — involve guns. American men, the most common victims of firearm killings, have the lowest life expectancies.

When we talk about guns in this country, we talk about the clout of the NRA, how much capital it could cost the president, how many seats it could cost Democrats (as it surely did in the 1994 midterms) and the reach of the Second Amendment. The debates quickly devolve into a battle of extremes, with politicos and so-called constitutional law experts (frequently labeled as experts based on their television skills and not on their knowledge or reputation in the profession) — not doctors or demographers or epidemiologists — pushing partisan and polarizing positions.

If the latest study accomplishes nothing else, it should bring another side, and another set of experts, into the discussion.

The Second Amendment issue really is a red herring.

The Supreme Court has made clear that banning the ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens who meet the requirements of background checks violates the Second Amendment. It is equally clear that there is nothing unconstitutional about in-depth background checks being applied to gun and ammunition purchases, bans on assault rifles or limits on sales that are not accompanied by background checks. This is not a Second Amendment issue. No one with any chance of securing legislation or regulating gun ownership is proposing anything unconstitutional.

The NRA argues that the answer to gun deaths is more guns. That answer needs to be tested not in polls but in studies. It obviously does not address suicide deaths, which one would expect to increase and not decrease if there were more, and more easily accessible, guns. But if opponents of further regulation want to test that conclusion in objective studies conducted by professionals without a political agenda, they should. Likewise for homicide deaths.

In the wake of Newtown, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre proposed that every school be protected by armed guards. Every expert in school safety (not electoral politics) I could find criticized that proposal. If there are studies — nonpolitical studies — out there or to be done that conflict with what seems to be the unanimous conclusion of experts, then clearly they should be considered.

But this is the bottom line: Guns should not be a political issue dividing us along our usual political lines. This is a public health challenge. The issue is saving lives.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



15 Comments | Post Comment
"No one with any chance of securing legislation or regulating gun ownership is proposing anything unconstitutional." No one except bozo Biden and the dictator Obama who propose to bypass Congress, to trash the Constitution and to regulate gun ownership by fiat.

"The NRA argues that the answer to gun deaths is more guns" How absurd ! Just like arguing that the answer to debt is more debt. Save that is not what the NRA argued but curing debt with more debt it is precisely what bozo Biden and the financial dickhead Obama continue to argue.

The issue of guns is absolutely not a public health issue it is a Constitutionally protected rights issue.

Just as all liberals have a protected right to murder millions of babies in the womb without so much as a second thought, I have a right to bear arms, not for hunting, but for my own self defense and the general defense against tyranny. It is a right that shall not be infringed.
If you Estrich or Obama or the gun haters were at all or even remotely interested in saving lives then you Estrich and they would look first to overturning Roe v Wade one of the darkest most evil decisions of the Supreme Court. But since the cold blooded murder of babes in the womb for the profit of the abortionists is the holiest of the rites of the religion of liberalism which in turn is a religion of death we the Second Amendment advocates who do value life will not hold breath waiting for that,
Comment: #1
Posted by: joseph wright
Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:33 PM
Susan, your facts are absolutely wrong - watching too many leftist programs. More deaths are caused by autonobiles than guns. What do you want to do about that - bane automobiles.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Oldtimer
Fri Jan 11, 2013 4:49 AM
Susan, when can we expect to see the article about Harry Reid now that you have discussed the Speaker's qualities?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Oldtimer
Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:04 AM
The arguements in this article only work if the only way to kill people or yourself was with a gun. But the reality is that you don't need a gun to kill someone or yourself. People who commit suicide would still have taken their own lives even without a firearm. Dosen't it make sense to want to go out quick and painless? Popping pills often dosen't work. Knives are painfull. Car crashes can hurt others. So can jumping from buildings. A gun is the best way, but not the only way to take your own life. And according to FBI crime stats, people kill other people with hammers more than they do all types of rifles. This article is deeply flawed and makes no creadible case.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:14 AM
Banning guns from criminals hasn't worked yet. Those are the people who are commiting murders. Over 400,000 people die from obesity every year. Do you want to ban spoons? 3 people die every year from choking on food. Should solid food be banned, too?
Comment: #5
Posted by: David Henricks
Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:09 AM
It simply comes down to whether you want the people to have power or not. It has never been a public health issue--that is simply a lie. It has always been a political issue. The left believes in reducing the people to slaves ruled over by the class that has access to guns. There are all kinds of people killed by wrongful police shootings, does Ms. Estrich argue that we should take away the guns from the police? No? Then why should they have firearms and not the people?

Estrich hates our freedom. She hates our power. She resents opposing opinions. You shouldn't even express an opposing opinion unless you meet her exacting standards for credentials. The jerks who disagree should just crawl into a hovel somewhere and cower quietly. They can never attain wisdom.

But Estrich can't ignore them if they have guns. Then, suddenly, their opinions matter. She will listen to a person who has a gun strapped to her hip. Why? Because guns are real power. She can ignore tattoos, leaflets, a hand-painted sign, the voices of thousands assembled in protest--but walk into her office with a gun and she will give you her full attention. She probably won't call you a schmuck either.

A public health issue? This is laughable. If Estrich were really concerned about public health she would want a law that would force us each to walk a mile a day. Except that would take away people's freedom. Isn't stealing a person's lawful property taking away freedom? Go walk a mile.

Power is always a political issue.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Cowboy Jay
Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:27 AM
Since there are too many pro-gun Congressmen to EVER pass any gun ban legislation, there is only one solution that makes sense. Introduce a TWENTY-EIGHT DAY WAITING PERIOD TO GET A GUN BUYING PERMIT. That does not stop any legitimate citizen from buying a gun and it gives law enforcement and all mental health providers an opportunity to object to the issuance of such a permit. To just say NO to all attempts to keep baby killer guns like the Bushmaster Assault rifle out of peoples hands will never work as the country is loaded with them (No pun intended) But we can ban their LEGAL sale or transfer to anyone without a gun buyers permit. As a long time Deer hunter, I never needed more than my trusty six shot rifle and that is quite enough to bring down a deer for twenty straight years ;before health forced me to give up the sport. Twenty eight days is plenty of time for both a gun buyer to get a permeit and law enforcement to do their job in 98% of cases.
Comment: #7
Posted by: robert lipka
Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:49 PM
Re: robert lipka
"Baby Killer guns" I don't actually believe you said that when the real baby killers and I mean the actual or active accomplice killers of millions of babies are the so called pro choice but really pro death libs and you are one of them. Voted for child murder lately Robert? You know you did by voting for Obama. Blood on your hands ? You bet !

What about a permit to vote democrat? The simple fact of seeking one should be enough to indicate moral and fiscal insanity

Give up the BS about hunting and killing deer. I have rarely needed more than one shot to kill a deer either with 270 or 30. 06 or 308. I have numerous shotguns, rifles (none six shot) and handguns (revolvers and semi autos) Some of the long guns are for hunting but some are for self defense and defense of my property and my liberty.

If you ever had actual first hand experience of real life or death critical situations you would know that it often takes many rounds to stop an attacker or foe.

"... being necessary to the security of a free State the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"

Where does the Second Amendment contemplate hunting?
Comment: #8
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:36 PM
Note, I don't own any modern firearms, but I'm going to jump into this argument again to try to add some numbers and facts to the discussion. Let me plead the case for logic and efficacy in our governance.

Ms. Estrich states: "As politicians in Washington debate ... it is worth focusing on the other side of the gun question, the public health side."

This changing the argument in mid-stream is a classical Progressive moving the goal line tactic. Apparently the draconian proposals intended to "save the children" aren't selling or just aren't extreme enough for the left in this country. It must be time to switch the sales pitch to a different, more compassionate, argument. This type of obfuscating tactic should always serve as a red flag concerning the logic of an argument.

Ms Estrich elaborates: "The numbers are pretty stark: firearm homicide rates that are 20 times higher, with 67 percent of all homicide deaths involving guns, which is more than 40 points more than the other countries. Suicide rates, though lower here, more often — six times more often — involve guns. American men, the most common victims of firearm killings, have the lowest life expectancies."

Lets take a look at the real statistics here (I've already provided some of these in a previous post). Total gun homicides:

Murders in US in 2007: 17,128
Murders in US in 2011: 14,612 (Note the 14% drop since 2007)

Murders In Chicago (2012) ~ 520 (N.B, ~3.6% of the national total at 10 times the national rate)

Murders in the just the 12 worse US Urban Areas (~25% of the national total, again at ~ 10 times the national level)

Why all these killings in urban areas? Criminal, gang related, violence by young men on young men. Note that the anti-gun argument has morphed into a concern about suicides and criminal on criminal homicides. This is a reason for law abiding citizens to give up their guns? More gun control will somehow prevent young male criminals in gangs from obtaining guns and killing one another? More gun control will prevent people from becoming suicidal? Perhaps if the mentally ill and young criminals were properly cared for in proper Government institutions (Vice being granted rights by the Progressive left and set out into the public arena to work their magic) this problem might dissipate without more gun control. I grew up in Chicago 40 years ago, and this tremendous homicide rate didn't occur then. Why now? Why does this occur in an area with some of the strictest gun controls in the country? Don't the criminals understand the intent of all the gun control laws the Progressives wrote for their benefit? Just perhaps we need to investigate solving the real causes of this 'public health' problem and look for effective solutions?

Ms. Estrich also stated: "The Supreme Court has made clear that banning the ownership of guns by law-abiding citizens who meet the requirements of background checks violates the Second Amendment."

This is a good, logic based, starting point. Let's leave lawful people alone. Let's identify and attack the real problems.

Ms. Estrich further stated: "It is equally clear that there is nothing unconstitutional about in-depth background checks being applied to gun and ammunition purchases, bans on assault rifles or limits on sales that are not accompanied by background checks."

This statement could be correct. So what? How do any of these 'solutions' fix the 'public health' problem? As already noted, the bulk of the gun related murders in this county are criminals killing criminals. How does creating more barriers to law abiding citizens owning guns fix this 'problem'? Don't you demand any efficacy or minimal collateral damage from any proposed legislation? I note Ms. Estrich (rightly) criticize the NRAs proposal to put armed guards in school on the grounds that the 'experts' find it to be ineffective and wasteful. However, she can't connect these same dots on gun control. Why?

The cognitive dissonance here is stunning. In the future, please examine the FACTS thoroughly before proposing solutions. The country doesn't need another ineffective set of laws or a pointlessly divisive fight on this issue. We have bigger fish to fry right now (e.g., Saving the economy or getting the budget under control). Perhaps actually doing something for the real problems might make people less suicidal and turn a few young men away from a life of crime?

"The real issue is saving lives", not gun ownership.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Old Navy
Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:08 AM
Ha! Ha! Ha!
It doesn't matter if people try link this to health care (it's not, but that's another story), there are many other things that can result in larger health care costs. Last I heard, the 2nd Amendment is pretty strongly worded and clear and can't be overridden by another law.
Hey, how about focusing on the devastation caused by our ethanol subsidies? People are starving and dying because of it!
Comment: #10
Posted by: pb1222
Sat Jan 12, 2013 10:25 AM
This whole "does someone need this" arguement is a total crock. Hummers kill 5 times as many people in car accidents than sedans. No one needs an SUV that big. Do we label them assault vehicles and ban them because no one needs one? We own lots of things we don't need. Dosen't mean we shouldent have the freedom to buy them. Plus, your definition of need and someone elses don't always match.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:08 PM
Susan.........I read you column on the "other side of the gun debate". Interesting, the numbers you bring up are small in comparison when we look at death by smoking some 443,000 (CDC 2011 report) as opposed to 55,544 gun deaths (FBI 2011 crime reports) for all gun deaths in 2011. You should note that almost 49,000 of all smoking deaths were tied to second hand smoke yet no one is attempting to ban cigarettes.

In support of the NRA's stand on more is better I strongly urge you and anyone that cares to be informed to get and thoroughly read John Lotts 3rd edition of "More Guns Less Crime". His 30 year research has not been refuted .
Comment: #12
Posted by: Gary Gerthoffer
Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:05 PM
Re: Gary Gerthoffer
Comment: #13
Posted by: Gary Gerthoffer
Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:35 PM
The Second War of Independence has been declared
Biden prepares to submit presidential task force strict gun control measures to Obama -
There is a sickening aroma in the air that is beginning to permeate the very soul of independent freedom embracing Americans. It began to originate long before the shooting at Aurora, Colorado, or recently in Newtown, Connecticut. Its rancid fragrance seeps into the fabric of the U.S. Constitution and is emitted by the control terrorists who manipulate the facts and perceptions of Americans who watch the news. These purveyors of stricter gun control measures seek to erode your defenses so that in your weakened state you will accept their sweet smelling tyranny.
The nation that was represented as a symbolic shining city on a hill that President Ronald Reagan spoke about over 30 years ago is now becoming a broken mud hole of shattered dreams. America's morning that has dawned over the nation is now bearing witness to the shredding of constitutional protections which have safe guarded families since the infancy of the republic. Obama has given the order to Vice President Biden: full steam ahead to obliterate gun rights in your town. You and your family are the targets and what will you do?
The liberal media's most outrageous anti-gun rantsThe liberal media's most outrageous anti-gun rants
The reaction by gun owners and even prospective gun owners to Obama's desperate executive order zeal is to hurry up and buy up all the potential guns and now legal weapons. The worry is that these legal weapons might be taken by edict or by force by the government. That may be a logical solution, but it is only a temporary one.
Once Obama's federal government has quenched its thirst on stripping away gun rights, it will not hesitate to take the next step to criminalize actual possession of legally held banned weapons!
Then what will you do?
What is the response to a government that embraces tyrannical rule over the constitutional guarantees and protections contained within the U.S. Constitution?
What are you, the father, the mother, the son or the daughter prepared to do when, the government official, acting on direct orders from a new commission set up by President Obama to confiscate your guns, comes to your home's door?
Where are the defenders of the U.S. Constitution who are elected in Congress? Are you absolutely certain they will not give in, and knuckle under Obama's determination which is aided by the mainstream media talking heads?
Remember these are the same talking heads that avoided Obama's dismissive behavior in not enforcing congressional legislation. This is the same mainstream media that buried the White House Benghazi murder cover up as if it never happened. Think about your choices when seeking to rely upon the once independent fourth estate, which has been rendered a useless patsy for the Obama administration.
Do you really believe that once your guns are banned, and the weapons that were grandfathered in and off limits from government seizure, will not be taken in the second round of gun control legislation?
The first War for Independence initially began with a flurry of gunshots which rang out in Boston on March 5, 1770. There Americans drew the line in the sand against British imperialism and tyranny. The first to die, Crispus Attucks a Blackman, and the 20 others with him had sticks and clubs, and the British soldiers had guns. Obviously sticks and clubs were not a match, then nor are they now.
John Hancock, one of the nation's founding father spoke of that legendary heroic moment, by urging, “... for a well-regulated militia of the whole people who would fight "for their liberty, and for themselves, and for their God.”
Unfortunately, for the tragic victims of New Town, Connecticut, the Obama led federal government in Washington, is moving to disarm its citizens by using the very laws that Hancock and other founding fathers fought so desperately for. Instead, Obama, Biden and gun control mayors like New York City's Michael Bloomberg, continuously assault the U.S. Constitutional Second Amendment rights. They work to manipulate this tragedy to lead a sustained assault on freedom of defense against such government tyranny.
The goal of the gun control activists is clear. They use their partnership with the mainstream media to paint a portrait of tragedy across the television screens of America's living rooms and blame guns as the cause. They seek to nurture, cajole, neutralize or tempt Americans with the notion that guns created the havoc, and misery and tragedy that befell the victims.
The mentally unstable assailants who pulled the trigger and who designed the loathsome events are never held to account for any responsibility in perpetrating the heinous deeds. The incredulousness of the target legal gun owner rights rationale defies reason. Taken to a logical conclusion, you would have to think the gun trigger actually forced the assassins to pick up the weapon and pull the trigger.
America, if you fall victim to this prospective criminalization of your own legal rights, then the forces of Obama and his socialist tyranny have already won half of the battle.
On Tuesday, January 15th, Vice President Joe Biden is going to submit his gun control task force report to Obama. After that, the full on assault will begin over the next several weeks in the nation's capitol.
You should not wait and see what will happen in Washington D.C., during this legislative battle. This has to be a time where you, the defender of your house, your home, your castle, truly take steps to embrace the tasks of true constitutional vigilance. This vigilance begins in your home, and not in Washington D.C.
Each American must determine that they are ready to speak to their neighbor, family member, co-worker, or friend, and ask, “What are you prepared to do, to hold your congressman or woman responsible?”
The congress cannot pass a law unless both houses pass the legislation to begin stripping your rights and the President signs it. Biden has insisted that Obama will soon after receiving the vice president's report, move to use an executive order to enforce stricter gun control measures. If he does it, demand it be over ridden and demonstrate until it is over ridden!
The Second War of Independence is not when you begin to see the Obama gun control brigade at your door, it begins when you decide to do nothing, and just let it happen.
Comment: #14
Sat Jan 12, 2013 4:03 PM

Amen brother. Amen!

The tyrants are coming ! The tyrants are coming!

Make ready.

Comment: #15
Posted by: joseph wright
Sun Jan 13, 2013 6:12 AM
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