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Guest column | Dr. Marc Yacht

Sensible gun policies are a must for public safety

Reports of the annual number of gun deaths in this country that use the number of 11,101 are referring exclusively to homicides and vastly misrepresent the number of firearm fatalities annually in this country.

The 2011 Center of Disease Control report shows 31,940 people killed by guns including nearly 20,000 suicides and 851 accidents. These sobering statistics suggest that guns are simply too dangerous in the hands of the untrained, depressed, seriously mentally ill, and criminals.

Arguments against sensible gun control ring hollow when looking at the data.

When I served in the U.S. Army, no soldier got close to a weapon without appropriate classroom training in gun safety and the mechanics of the weapons. After such training we were given our weapons and spent hours cleaning them, taking them apart, and putting them back together with more safety training.

At the firing range, the sergeant initially gave us one bullet at a time to discharge at a target. When he was satisfied that we operated our weapon safely, he gave us one clip. I trained on the M1 Garand. After firing the weapon on the shooting range the guns were locked up. Nobody kept a weapon in his possession except during firearms training. No soldier faced the enemy without comprehensive training on any weapon he would use including pistols, rifles, machine guns, surface-to-air missiles and so forth.

No one should be able to purchase any firearm without an extensive background check. No one should be able to purchase a firearm without gun-safety training. Firearms should be purchased only from authorized gun dealers. Every firearm should be registered. No clip should hold more than seven rounds, and military style weapons should be banned from the public. Sensible gun policy is not about taking guns away but identifying those who should not have guns.

Pasco County allows gun shows and flea markets to sell weapons without three-day waiting periods or background checks even though retail gun dealers must follow the state law. Individuals can sell guns to each other with no restriction. Hillsborough, Pinellas and Hernando counties have all strengthened restrictions for gun purchases. Pasco needs to follow suit.

Along with gun control, mental health needs of residents must be addressed. The refunding, and reopening of a comprehensive network of state mental health hospitals and evaluation centers will accomplish much to reduce the number of dangerously mentally ill that walk our streets. Assuring medications and outpatient as well as inpatient mental health services will curb sociopathic behavior responsible for terrible incidents that have become too common in America.

Should no appropriate actions be forthcoming from Congress to address sensible gun control and the critical funding for mental health services, rest assured more tragedies will occur.

Ninety U.S. residents die each day from gun fire.

Dr. Marc Yacht is retired director of the Pasco Health Department.

Sensible gun policies are a must for public safety 01/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 3:18pm]
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