Joel Dvoskin: Gun Violence

2013-12-05T00:00:00Z Joel Dvoskin: Gun ViolenceBy Joel Dvoskin Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I commend the Star for reprinting the Washington Post editorial on the need for research on accidental firearm deaths of children (“Info vital on scope of gun accidents involving kids,” Dec. 3).

Prohibiting research on such an important part of public policy is a form of willful and lethal ignorance that is hard to understand, and even harder to excuse.

Policies such as this are the predictable outcome of a debate that has two extremes and almost no common sense. Sooner or later, America will have to abandon its all-or-nothing approach to guns, and figure out how to live safely with them. This will require sensible compromise from each side.

Responsible gun owners should welcome efforts to prevent unnecessary fatalities, and advocates of extreme forms of gun control must realize that America is country with more than 300 million guns; and whether they like it or not, there will be millions of guns in America for many generations to come.

Instead of senseless arguments about the goodness or badness of firearms, it is high time that we started figuring out how to live more safely with all of these guns. In upholding the Second Amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court, in District of Columbia v. Heller, noted that the rights of gun owners do not conflict with efforts to study and prevent gun deaths in the U.S.

To this end, we need scientific research. In addition to research on accidental shootings, research must also include the study of far more common forms of firearm deaths. Each year, there are about 11,000 firearm homicides and a whopping 19,000 firearm suicides in the U.S.

Tragically, the most common form of firearm fatalities, handgun suicide, is the most preventable. The sad truth is that we know how to prevent suicides; we just don’t do it. The public mental health system has been decimated by budget cuts during the past two presidential administrations. As a result, not surprisingly, the ability of mental health agencies to work with first responders from police and fire departments has been severely compromised.

When people in emotional crisis cannot receive timely and competent help, they are far too often left with suicide as the only option to relieve their severe psychological pain. Occasionally, they decide to take others with them.

Saving lives costs money. Emotional crises can happen to anyone and require timely and competent help from experienced professionals. When people experience the extremes of psychological distress, and they or their loved ones ask for help, it will only be there if we decide to pay for it.

Tucson clinical psychologist Joel Dvoskin is the former president of the America Psychology-Law Society and he recently served on the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Reducing Gun Violence. Contact him at joelthed@aol.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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