Opinion: Without gun reform, more people will die

A conservative gun owner’s view.

Credit: Chris Van Es/Newsart

Credit: Chris Van Es/Newsart

“How many more deaths will it take ‘till he knows that too many people have died?”

- Bob Dylan, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” 1962

My wife was born on a farm in Middle Georgia and was related to half the county. We lived in her hometown for a while when we were first married. Later on, I was chairman of a rural county commission near there. Back when I was a Republican.

I got to know her relatives, all gun owners, as am I. One cousin had a very disfigured face. I asked my wife what had happened. She told me that when he was a teenager, he was out hunting and laid his shotgun on a barbed wire fence. When he tried to climb over it, the shotgun went off.

Another older cousin was a former school superintendent. He was a bright man, charming and magnetic, a good friend. A few years after, he was shot dead entering his house -- but not by an intruder. He was carrying a revolver in his waistband and it dropped out.

Jack Bernard, the first director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia, has been a senior level executive with several national health care firms. A Republican, he's a former chairman of the Jasper County Board of Commissioners.

Credit: contributed

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Credit: contributed

According to a recent NBC poll, an amazing 28% of Americans have either been the victim of gun violence or personally knows someone who has. The U.S.A. has an outrageous number of deaths by guns each year. More than any other nation in the civilized world, per capita.

Why do we have about 40,000 gun deaths annually? The answer is very simple. Because we have more guns than other democracies and much looser laws.

Pick a nation. I’m Italian and Jewish. Per CDC data, Italy has 1.13 gun deaths per 100,000 residents; Israel is at 1.38/100,000. The good old U.S.A. runs 12.24 per 100,000, about 10 times as high.

Only a third of Americans per a Monmouth University survey believe gun ownership is an absolute right. Conservatives are always misleading us about guns by saying gun ownership is a right. But that is not what the Second Amendment says. It refers to state militias (i.e., National Guards).

My GOP friends refer to gun violence in Chicago, which borders Indiana where gun laws are loose. Even then, the gun death rate for Illinois is 16.1/100,000 versus 20.3/100,000 here in Georgia. In other words, we have 26% more gun deaths per capita here than Illinois with its tighter gun control laws.

When I tell my gun-toting conservative friends these facts, they don’t come back with contrary statistics. They just say that American kids are raised poorly and therefore grow up to commit crimes. And that there are a lot of crazy people out there who are committing crimes. And that we have enough laws already.

Are we to believe that Americans are just way nuttier than Europeans? And Canadians raise their kids better than we do? Or that Australians are inherently born less likely to commit violent crimes? And that our loose laws are just fine?

Based on the facts, versus emotions, I do not believe these assertions.

It is morally inexcusable that our Congress has not already:

1.) Established a comprehensive national gun sale data base;

2.) Mandated universal background checks, including at gun shows (now exempt) and providing for reasonable waiting periods;

3.) Outlawed criminals, the mentally unbalanced, drunks and druggies from gun ownership (red flag laws);

4.) Halted gun sales to people on watch lists;

5.) Orohibited private ownership of AR-15 type assault rifles and high-capacity magazines;

6.) Mandated carry permits;

7.) Imposed substantial taxes on guns and ammunition to compensate victims and offset law enforcement costs;

8.) Raised the age to purchase firearms to 21, making parents legally responsible if a teenager uses their guns to kill others;

9. Mandated that guns be under lock and key.

Abortion has become a very significant wedge issue for the Democrats. A woman would need to be mentally ill to vote for someone taking away her right to choose what to do with her body. Many formerly Republican leaning soccer Moms have switched and become Democrats, as I did a few years back when the GOP became the Trumpist MAGA party (and deserted fiscal austerity). That is why we have the Democrats still in charge of the Senate.

Per the Monmouth survey, 49% of Americans believe that mass shootings will increase over the next 5 years. On Meet the Press last April, journalist Chuck Todd said, “We have yet to see somebody who is a Second Amendment supporter lose an election because of that issue.”

Until GOP politicians lose their seats over gun control, our friends, neighbors and school children will continue to die unnecessarily.

Jack Bernard, a former health care executive, was the first director of health planning for Georgia. He’s a former Republican chairman of the Jasper County Commission.