Police use of guns generally is “good” … but … there have been a few bad examples over the years. 

Deaths by suicide with guns is “bad,” amounting to about 19,000 per year nationally, a figure not discussed much in our society (why not?). There are about 30,000-32,000 total handgun deaths per year and about 1,250 to 1,500 justifiable deaths by the police. There are 1,500 or so deaths by private citizens ruled justifiable homicide. There are gang-related deaths (that can be measured) of somewhere around 2,500-4,000 per year and accidental deaths, frequently rather sloppily determined, around several hundred. Allowing for rounding, premeditated murder accounts for 1,000-2,000 annually. 

Mass murder, historically, as a percent of total deaths has been relatively minor. Sadly that is no longer true. That is what our society would like to cure as a whole or, if we cannot do that, at least to a very significant degree. 

How? First, we try to look at what is causing the problem and our efforts so far to deal with it. Some of us assumed guns and their availability have caused the problem. “Gun control” by absolute possession prohibition has obviously failed, however.

If we cannot prevent people from getting guns, we should perhaps look at thoroughly controlling the people who will be a menace to their fellow man if they get guns. We do that too. Why is it not working? Quite a few reasons actually. 

How do we improve the situation? No one seems to have a really good answer. Not our politicians, nor police, nor the psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, religious leaders and teachers. My answer lies in the fact that “good” people use guns about seven times more often to do “good” than “bad” people use guns to do “bad.” Seven-to-one odds with hope to increase them incrementally may be where it’s at. (For those of you who would like to know where I get the 7-1 ratio, please read Professor Gary Kleck’s book Point Blank and Professor John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime. 

Both professors, using totally acceptable methodology, arrived at the same conclusion about 20 years apart. Professor Lott had a huge advantage over Professor Kleck because he could utilize computers for gathering and processing information. He has updated his book repeatedly. His conclusions have been attacked (many times but never successfully.) 

Let us try not to get hysterical about what has been happening and recognize if a good answer exists, we haven‘t yet found it, but with perseverance we will. In the meantime, let us be grateful that all those attributes that make for human decency are winning 7-1.

Dave Schweig 

a 50 year resident of Oak Park

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