A 1990s study found that, for every instance in which a gun in the home was used in self-defense there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings and 11 attempted or successful suicides. Every time there is talk of any restrictions in firearms sales in this country, all firearms are rapidly sold out at gun shops and I shudder at the consequences.
A frightening proposal is for teachers in schools to serve as armed monitors. There are 56,000 schools in the United States. If all had armed monitors, it is important to note that on any given day over 1,000 such monitors would be subject to depression, spousal anger, psychoses, suicidal ideation, displacement from home or job -- and then carry a loaded gun into the school. The system couldn't control for a myriad of eventualities.
Well then, here's what I want to convey to my patients concerning firearm safety, although the West Virginia Legislature may not allow me to make these points. There are three groups regarding firearm mayhem:
* Those in organized crime will always be able to obtain lethal weapons, but tend to use them upon themselves rather society at large.
* Domestic owners of firearms must be aware of the significant risks attended on home gun ownership.
* The third group is males between the age of 15 and 35 who believe that having a handgun enhances their male dominion and/or larcenous behavior. Increasingly this group, fueled by drugs and alcohol, is a menace to the community they inhabit. A conflict over a girlfriend, a pair of sneakers or a drug deal results in firefights that can injure both the intended and innocent bystanders. In this group, the effects of drug, alcohol, psychosis or stupidity can assure a tragedy. Their access to these weapons would be inaccessible in some cultures, whereas in our culture they are as accessible as candy in a vending machine.
Finally, for those of you who want to do independent research and have access to local or national press, get three shoeboxes. In one place all reports of guns used in self-defense. In the second place all reports of guns resulting in accidental injury, criminal assault, homicide or suicide. In the third shoebox place all reports of those convicted and sentenced to jail or prison for firearm use.
Such a study would be easy to perform and would be statistically significant within a few months, for every day there are reports in our two daily newspapers of senseless firearm mayhem.
Dr. Gaziano is a Charleston physician at Chest Medical Services Inc.