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Sniper proves tighter gun controls are needed in the United States

Dear Editor:
Those horrible sniper shootings in the United States that killed 10 people and critically injured three others, in the process throwing the Greater Washington DC area into turmoil and fear, will renew calls for greater gun control in the United States. There will be much talk, but unfortunately and most tragically, nothing will be done. There are now more than 250 million firearms in America which account for almost 40,0000 fatalities and over 150,000 persons injured each year. When one considers the number of guns in America, their easy accessibility, and glorification of violence, it is amazing similar incidents to the sniper shootings do not occur on a daily basis.
In 1995, the FBI reported that for the year 1994 in the US random killings (linked to the proliferation of weapons, gang’s and drug trade) exceeded murders by relatives and acquaintances for the first time ever. That agency stated that every American now has a realistic chance of murder victimization in view of the random nature the crime has assumed. The advent of this trend in the US has generated a profound fear of murder victimization in that the circumstances are perceived to be more irrational.
In the aftermath of the shooting rampage that left seven people dead in Wakefield, Massachusetts on Boxing Day in 2000, a spokesperson for the New England Medical Centre in Boston stated, “unfortunately, we are living in a country where anyone who goes to work or school runs the risk of being randomly shot and killed.”
Stricter gun control legislation is a public health concern that affects safety and mental health as well as crime. Unquestionably, tougher laws will not end all violent encounters. But reducing access to firearms reduces the likelihood that an assault will become a homicide or that an attempted suicide will succeed. Problems associated with easy access to firearms have been well documented and argued by experts. Despite the gunlobby claims that “guns don’t kill, people do,” there is general consensus among police, public health and safety experts that access to guns is a major factor in gun-related crime, accidents and suicides and that gun control will save lives and prevent injuries. While a motivated murderer will find a way to kill, guns are a particularly efficient method of killing: 46 per cent of victims shot with guns will die. Guns are also easy to use and thee are impersonal. Medical experts have argued that a less well-formed motive is required to shoot someone than to beat someone to death. In effect, ready access to guns makes it easier to become a killer.
Gun related deaths and injuries are linked to complex set of factors, including the culture of violence. But strict gun control, predicted on a commitment to public health and safety as well as the detection and deterrence of criminal activity, is a step in the right direction. Stricter gun control is a critical part of the solution. Education to counter the culture of violence in effect to undermine the primary demand is also fundamental.
If any government can make if harder for people to kill not only each other but themselves, it is certainly acting in the public interest. Public health and public safety must prevail. Furthermore, the social order demands it! Failure by our Southern neighbor to come to grips with effective gun control legislation will continue to thwart and undermine the efforts of those working in the criminal justice safety and mental health fields!
Sincerely yours,
Emile Therien
Canada Safety Council