This is the feeling we learn to live with in North America

I guess it’s just the day for it.

(put NOFX and Fooly Cooly together – I’m happy).

The New England Journal of Medicine (I’ve really taken to the idea of Wednesday being NEJM Day) has three terrific editorials starting it off, this week – all related to (hand)guns. It’s hard, for example, not to be mightily impressed by the likes of how “Handgun Violence, Public Health, and the Law” kicks off:

Firearms were used to kill 30,143 people in the United States in 2005, the most recent year with complete data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 17,002 of these were suicides, 12,352 homicides, and 789 accidental firearm deaths. Nearly half of these deaths occurred in people under the age of 35. When we consider that there were also nearly 70,000 nonfatal injuries from firearms, we are left with the staggering fact that 100,000 men, women, and children were killed or wounded by firearms in the span of just one year. This translates into one death from firearms every 17 minutes and one death or nonfatal injury every 5 minutes.

By any standard, this constitutes a serious public health issue that demands a response not only from law enforcement and the courts, but also from the medical community.

A very interesting perspective – that handguns and handgun violence represent not only a public health issue, but such a one that we are obliged to respond from within our profession. Remember the excellent book/site Understanding the USA?

understanding usa

The two editorials proper are “Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public’s Health” and “http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMp0801601?query=TOC” – the former the more relevant (which is not to suggest the latter is not interesting in its own right, focussing specifically upon the issue at hand: District of Columbia v. Heller, a case challenging handgun-control statutes adopted in 1976 in Washington, D.C., and currently being heard by the Supreme Court):

Gun violence is often an unintended consequence of gun ownership. Americans have purchased millions of guns, predominantly handguns, believing that having a gun at home makes them safer. In fact, handgun purchasers substantially increase their risk of a violent death. This increase begins the moment the gun is acquired — suicide is the leading cause of death among handgun owners in the first year after purchase — and lasts for years.

The risks associated with household exposure to guns apply not only to the people who buy them; epidemiologically, there can be said to be “passive” gun owners who are analogous to passive smokers. Living in a home where there are guns increases the risk of homicide by 40 to 170% and the risk of suicide by 90 to 460%. Young people who commit suicide with a gun usually use a weapon kept at home, and among women in shelters for victims of domestic violence, two thirds of those who come from homes with guns have had those guns used against them.

Handguns, like cars, like fatty food, like a great, great many things, simply kill way too many Americans. If only it were acceptable to use “9/11” as a unit of comparison – handgun-related-fatalities being around 10 of them every year. What’s insane is that the same lunatics (say, the GOP) who defend such a thing go around insisting that abortion is the reason the US economy is in trouble – because all of those potential American Workers were killed in the womb. Go figure.

Huckabee called abortion a holocaust because he says “we have aborted more than a million people” in the last 35 years. I’m willing to bet guns have killed more than that. Worse, they’ve probably killed plenty of women who could have given birth! (my cheap shot).

Personally – and I realise full-well that I’m a foreigner with no claim to any sort of up-bringing within the 2nd Amendment – the idea that the 2nd Amendment protects individual rights to bear arms is a little crazy. For a start there’s a “the” before “people”, clear as day. It’s written down, for Cliff’s sake – it isn’t like it’s Neal Armstrong, or anything.

Back to regarding the title of this post (and the song of the link of the youtube clip at the top):

It’s like seeing a car crash from inside the car
The driver’s got his head craned back he’s telling you a joke
You see the bus on collision course
You point your arm and turn your head and wait for the impact
This is the feeling we learn to live with in North America
The morning headlines always accompanied with sweat and nausea
Every week another puzzle piece gets permanently glued into place

We see the iceberg from 15 miles away
The captain orders the ship to “stay the course”
“Full speed ahead” shouts the accursed
The next thing we heard was, “Rich women and children first”
The ship is listing, the captain’s placing blame on the iceberg
“That berg attacked us, I am declaring war on the Arctic”
Who could ever have predicted the greatest ship could so easily sink (duh)

Lifeboats are useless without rescue
The only ships show up for salvage
When setting sail on the St. Louis
We all knew what consequences could be
With the crew we had at the controls

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3 comments so far

  1. Anoymous on

    As a foriegner in our country you have no right to insult those of us who believe in the 2nd amendment . The right to bear arms is a right,self defense is a right.If taught at a young age gun safety can prevent some of the accidents caused by guns a (little common sense also helps).The next thing i feel obliged to remind you that criminals regardless of laws will get their dirty hands on a gun regardless of gun control laws instead of making yourself defenseless the ownership of a concealed weapons permit may save your life

  2. zooeygoethe on

    Except that I’m with Billy Bragg: as a foreigner I have the greatest obligation to say something (plus, didn’t you just deny me my rights – citizen or not – under your 1st Amendment? I’m assuming you weren’t being ironic, right?).

    Now, as to whether or not I insulted you – I find it hard to believe you could be so sensitive as to find anything up there insulting (unless you are at the lunatic end of the GOP?). I merely disagree with anybody interpreting the language of the 2nd Amendment as applying to “people”, rather than “the people”. I also find it hard to believe that you consider 30,000 fatalities a year not a public health issue, but hey – different drums are for marching to the different beats of, I suppose. At the end of the day you get to vote and I don’t, so you win. I already elected my government.

    You could only have been offended if you believe in the things that I did disparage, in which case … good.

  3. Vlad on

    Dear Anonymous,

    I am a foreigner and I don’t even live in your country.

    Nevertheless, I feel free to insult your Second Amendment. I opine that the US Second Amendment sucks.

    Further, I opine that you suck. You suck, for trying to restrict the First Amendment right to free speech extended to foreigners who do happen to live in your poverty stricken land.

    Finally, may I refer you to why you should be ashamed of yourself for insulting foreigners:
    http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=17534&IBLOCK_ID=35


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