by Carroll Cox
In your March 21 editorial (NRA Should Support Smith and Wesson Deal), the subject of gun deaths was introduced with the words "Gun violence claims more than 30,000 lives ... annually ... an increasing number of those being killed are children ... Even more alarming is the number of children doing the killing."
I fully agree that the increasing number of child killers is sad and alarming. But what is even sadder is our simplistic societal demagoging of guns, gun manufacturers and the NRA, while refusing to deal with the grave cultural influences that produce these violent young people -- parental neglect, the gaping wound in the ethical and moral structure that once provided stabilizing behavior guidelines, inactivity, saturation with media violence and the breaking apart of homes and close-knit communities.
Not least among our society's troubles is our addiction to drugs. Americans use more drugs -- legal and illegal -- than the rest of the world combined.
While the numbers you quoted are truly alarming, I will present other numbers that are also unsettling. Just pick your priority. On Feb. 22, the Arizona Republic reported on a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The article said the sedentary lifestyle of modern Americans is responsible for 250,000 deaths a year -- more deaths than are caused by alcohol, firearms, illicit drugs and auto accidents combined.
Diabetes is up by 600 percent since 1958, and inactivity is linked to at least 17 other chronic diseases and conditions at a medical cost of $1 trillion annually.
In a March 6 Spotlight article by Charley Reese, the following statistics from the National Safety Council were given:
In 1998, the seven leading causes of accidental deaths of children under 14 were: 2,600 from auto accidents, 850 by drowning, 570 from burns, 200 from suffocation, 160 from falls, 110 by gunshot (this number will apparently be saved by safety locks, even if the gun is illegal and obtained from a well-known crack house, such as the case of the Michigan shooting by a 6-year-old) and 70 were from poison.
The gun-control crowd likes to use gun deaths (of children) under the age of 19 because then they can ignore the drug and gang factors.
When citing gun violence figures, they also neglect to mention the large number of repeat criminals among both offenders and victims. Reese reported on an analysis on homicides conducted by the Chicago Police Department in 1991 in which it was shown that 72 percent of offenders and 61 percent of victims had prior criminal convictions.
If these are typical nationwide figures, or even close, it substantiates what the NRA claims -- that we could take a huge bite out of gun violence by keeping violent criminals off the streets instead of musical chairing them in and out of prison.
More numbers for the years 1994-1996 from the National Safety Council: People killed by guns during those three years -- 47,115; number killed in automobile accidents during that same period -- 129,536.
Now get this one: People killed by medical error -- 350,000.
So what should we do to save the most lives? The president has certainly picked his priority and it's clear it has little to do with saving the greatest number of lives.
And last but not least, your editorial stated " ... the government dropped the threat of legal action against the gunmaker in return for ..." Remember this, Smith and Wesson broke no laws.
However, the last I heard, blackmail was definitely against the law. When governments start initiating legal actions based on current emotionalism rather than law, citizens have a lot more to fear than the .00006 percent chance of dying by gun violence.