The correct answer to gun violence is not more guns

The correct answer to gun violence is not more guns

By Curtis Krock

Peter Tomaras' guest commentary on Sunday, April 7, deserves a response; difficult issues deserve a dialog in which alternative views can be compared. I personally became a supporter of gun control after my gentle 80-year-old uncle was shot to death on his front porch in the 1970s in Baltimore by three boys, ages 14-16, equipped with a handgun.

Gun violence in the U.S. comprises several different categories which no doubt require different approaches. There are 10,000 gun homicides per year — a toll which since World War II has killed more Americans than all our wars of the 20th and 21st century. There are 600 accidental gun deaths per year, and 20,000 gun suicides per year. Gun violence is remarkably low in countries that maintain their freedom with a minimum of citizen-owned guns. Among all the developed nations, the U.S. has by far the highest rate of gun deaths. By comparison, Germany has 269 gun homicides per year, the United Kingdom 14 and Japan 47!

Guns were invented for a single purpose — to kill. They have been improved through the centuries to increase markedly their rate of fire, range and accuracy — all of which increase their lethality. Yes, bats and knives can be used to kill — but not quickly and at a distance from the victim. Yes, there are more motor vehicle deaths than gun deaths — but the car was not designed to kill and has many positive uses.

Tomaras is mistaken in his belief that government efforts to control human behavior by regulating tobacco, and alcohol, have consistently failed. Prohibition actually decreased deaths from alcoholism and cirrhosis in the U.S. Through government measures, not industry activities, smoking has decreased from about 54 percent of adults to about 22 percent since 1964; government-mandated seat-belt use had climbed from negligible in the 1970s to almost universal use today.

I was disappointed to see Tomaras advance two favorite NRA arguments. 1) "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." The limits of this line of thought are well-shown by the murder of Chris Kyle, the "American Sniper" author — an armed and highly experienced warrior — by a young man with a gun and severe mental problems. The second NRA contention is that the size of the gun magazine is immaterial due to the ease of rapid change. The ability to change magazines rapidly in a nonstressful practice situation is quite different from the performance of this act by a highly stressed and agitated mass killer; in fact, the Tucson killer was stopped because his magazine jammed and he was not able to change it.

The creators of the Second Amendment did not contemplate semi-automatic weapons with a firing rate of one to two rounds per second; when the Second Amendment was passed, the guns of that era had a maximum rate of fire of three to four rounds per minute. No one could walk into a school in the 1790s and kill 26 people in a few minutes. If you are suicidal, the availability of guns makes successful suicide attempts easier and much more likely.

One critique of gun control laws is that states such as Illinois and California still have high gun homicide rates in their big cities. It does no good to have restrictive laws if the adjacent state — Nevada, for example — has very lax gun laws. Also, I have read that it is very easy to steal guns because so many households have them in nonsecured locations. Most negative studies of the impact of gun regulation have been imperfect due to design and statistical limitations, and far too short a time span of assessment.

What can and should be done? Both Colorado and Connecticut have passed a series of common sense laws, with the most important being universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines. A federal law standardizing these rules would be desirable. Here I would agree with Tomaras that we must greatly broaden the list of psychiatric diagnoses that are a bar to gun purchase. Gun crimes and purchase of guns for another individual who is ineligible to own a gun should be severely punished. All gun owners should maintain their guns in secure fashion to reduce the risk of accident or theft. There is no justification for mass purchases of ammunition or of multiple guns in a short time by any individual.

The answer to gun violence is not more guns; it is a multifaceted approach that will take 50 to 100 years to achieve major improvement. In addition to gun regulation, it will require successful approaches to inner-city poverty, radical changes in the "war on drugs," availability of jobs, and community activism. It will not begin until we alter the status quo with sensible restrictions on guns along with social changes in our big cities.

Curtis Krock is a physician who is retired from clinical practice. He lives in Champaign and teaches at the University of Illinois Medical School.

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EL YATIRI wrote on April 21, 2013 at 11:04 am
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If only people as learned, wise and reasonable as Dr Krock were in positions of authority!

Commonsenseman wrote on April 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

What a crock, in the past you carried more than one gun, that addresses releoading times, ever see the movie "The Patriot"  Using misleading statistics doesnt affect the truth why not use information about crimes prevented by firearms?  People klled by knives? "learned and reasonable" I'm pretty sure the framers of the Constitution knew better.  Lastly Krock, how dare you mention Chris Kyle, you aren't even fit to shine the shoes of such a man and you totally misrepresent what happened to him with your lies.

bluegrass wrote on April 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Well, correct me if I'm wrong here, but doesn't the holder of the most powerful position of authority in the world, the current President of the United States, concur with what Doc Krock just wrote in his letter?   In addition to the President and his entire administration, our U.S. Senators both mostly agree with the Doc also, although one perhaps not as completely.  In addition to that, democrats have a veto-proof majority in the Illinois state senate and house, in addition to the Potemkin Governor who also completely agrees.  Are they not learned, and wise, and reasonable people in positions of authority?  Oh, wait, don't answer that.

EL YATIRI wrote on April 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm
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My post was about Curtis Krock, a man who I know very well since many years ago.  He is someone who is admirable by any measure.  Obama and politicians in Washington just don't compare.

As to political positions I am against gun control myself.  That doesn't change my respect and admiration for Curtis, we may disagree on the issue but that doesn't change my opinion about a remarkable physician and human being.

The responses to my post illustrate the great harm hyperpartisanship and politics do to our society.  Why can't we disagree on issues yet admire those who hold opposing views?

Commonsenseman wrote on April 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm

That would work if it wasnt for the people out there like this trying to impose their will on others.  If you do not choose to exercise your 2nd amendment rights, then dont try to take my rights away.  The framers of the Constitution viewed these as rights, not be taken away.  Krock advocates slowly chipping away at my rights and taking them. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

"trying to impose their will on others"?  Recent polls indicated that 90% of the citizens were for comprehensive, national background checks.  It seems that the other 10% imposed their will on others in defeating the legislation.  The Second Amendment to the Constitution was an amendment, not a commandment.  Amendments get amended to reflect the current time.  Look up the verb "amend". 

Commonsenseman wrote on April 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm

More lies and skewed data are you aware that there already are background checks through the FBI/NCIS system and that after 160 million checks 998,000 people were denied firearms, yet the Federal governemnt has  so far chose to only prosecute 14 of those people who had illegally attempted a purchase a firearm, by the way look up history the first 10 Ammendements are called "The Bill of Rights" The latest bills are just smoke and mirrors designed to push an agenda.

STM wrote on April 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm

The Patriot was a movie...a work of fiction. Is that all you've got?

bluegrass wrote on April 22, 2013 at 10:04 am

Okay, I don't know the Doctor, and he may very well be a admirable man.  As a doctor of medicine I'm sure he's done much good, so if your post was meant to simply to relay your feelings about the doctor, and my post offended you in that, I'm sorry.

However, the doctor didn't write about his work in medicine, the doctor wrote about his feelings on gun control.  He chose to make assumptions about the foresight  of the writers of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  I do agree with some of what he has to say in his last paragraph, but comparing what we do here in the U.S. to what goes on in Germany and Japan?  How quickly we forget.  And to bring the Chris Kyle incident into the conversation is tactless.  Tactless is not the word I wanted to write.

Commonsenseman wrote on April 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Unlike a doctor,   Chris Kyle wasnt getting paid to  help ill pople and it cost him his life, thats what a selfless hero does.  The editorial uses Japan as a great example. Does the  doctor know that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates? How about England?  does the doctor know that since their firearms restrictions violents assaults  began to increase each year.  People like this always start out with some heart wrenching story, if his uncle was killed by 2 teenagers maybe we should ban kids, or require a license to have them.  If his uncle was killed by a baseball bat should we ban bats or what if it was a fire should we ban fire? 

STM wrote on April 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm

No, we should make firearms more difficult to acquire. Using arguments like yours are silly. There are counless ways to die. You canpush a man off a building but you can't take away gravity. People like you don't realize objects designed to kill are detrimental to society.

I'm sick of the "check against tyranny" line too. I don't see yougetting any of our rights back you ignored away in the Patriot Act.

I get the feeling gun nuts would wet their beds without their toys under the pillow.

EL YATIRI wrote on April 23, 2013 at 7:04 am
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Personally I am willing to accept and live with the consequences of a society in which guns are available to citizens.  Armed citizenry is the best and only way to counter tyranny and dictatorship which is more evil, in my opinion, than accidental shootings, suicides, and loco shooters.

So public safety and other arguments just don't trump countering the power of government for me.  Even if strict gun control did lower suicide by gun, accidental gun deaths and even if it prevented massacres by the mentally deranged, I would still oppose gun control..  


Spence wrote on April 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm
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Curtis, I noticed you demonized the NRA for seeing to it our constitutionally protected 2nd amendment rights aren't trampled on any further.  What is my solution to the gun violence problem?  My solution is for society to raise people who respect & value human life.  Who is raising these murderers who couldn't care any less who they kill? Babies or any other innocent person, no matter!

Guns aren't the problem... I have owned pistols, shotguns, and rifles for 30 years. Not one of the guns has been involved in a gun crime... neither have I.  You need to open your mind and stop blaming the guns and help society stop raising murderers. Your failure to idenify the real problem will never solve the gun violence problem.  Confiscate all guns and you will still have murderers walking the street.... it solves nothing.

I'll bet you want to ban pressure cookers....


Bulldogmojo wrote on April 23, 2013 at 10:04 am

Good point spence about society raising respectful people, what days will you be volunteering at the Boys and Girls club of America?

Or when you said society did you mean everyone else?

My common sense is tingling. wrote on April 26, 2013 at 4:04 pm
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Your comment started out respectfully enough, but then towards the end, you let you emotion get the best of you. In the gun debate, I would tend to agree that guns are not THE problem, they're a large PART of the problem.

"In addition to gun regulation, it will require successful approaches to inner-city poverty, radical changes in the "war on drugs," availability of jobs, and community activism. It will not begin until we alter the status quo with sensible restrictions on guns along with social changes in our big cities"

He's not saying confiscate all the guns. He's not suggesting that regulation would immediately make things better. And he's (in my opinion) pretty clearly stating that it's going to take "sensible resrtictions" IN ADDITION TO social change

Suprise! You both are actually in agreeance about something!

I would say to take your own advice and keep an open mind. Stop looking at the issue in black and white.

And lastly,  the snide remark about the pressure cookers was completely uncalled for. This man authored a thought-provoking opinions piece. The least you can do is disagree respectfully.   

highspeed wrote on April 23, 2013 at 8:04 am

Why is gun violence segregated from all other violence? Shouldn`t we as a society be more concerned with violence in general than just gun violence. Jodi Arias has had her face splashed all over CNN for the past month with her trial. Not only did alledgely shoot her boyfriend but stabbed him multiple times and slit his throat! People are killed daily all over this country but the only thing that is ever brought up or debated is guns.  It`s kinda like some workplaces ,where one person screws up and everybody gets punished. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 23, 2013 at 2:04 pm

It is back to the automobiles, hammers, and pillows theory of why violence with guns should not be singled out.  It is hard to live without a car, hammer, or pillow; but it is not hard to live without a gun.  Responsible people should have the right to have a gun just as responsible people should have the right to drive a car.  Oh... yeah..... driving is a privilege, and having a gun is a right....   Sure, that makes sense.

I am surprised that the ad companies have not made the gun controversy a money maker.  Ford pickups with guns in gun racks.  The Old Spice guy wearing a shoulder holster.  Ronald McDonald with an assault rifle.  Red cups with bullet holes.


STM wrote on April 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm


billbtri5 wrote on April 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm

more background checks?..Illinois has had "licensed" gun owners since the 1960's with the FOID Card legislation.  A Illinois resident can't purchase guns or ammunition without one.  In some cases you can't even handle a gun in a shop without one.I am not aware of any other state that has such a provision.   If this is an answer to gun violence Illinois' stats should be the lowest in the Nation...are they?...and since this has been in force for almost 50 years is that long enough to make the results statistically sound?..

when it comes down to the nuts and bolts, police, prosecutors and courts have little interest in what I will call "technical gun law voilations"..I don't know why.  Reading  case after case I see many apparent violations not charged, and most of those that are  made  being dismissed or plead away...

I would respectfully challenge you to read up and see for yourself..

there are many laws designed to keep guns off of out streets...they just need to be used..