Tragic reminder in Rosemont

Photo By Larry Dalton

On a recent Tuesday morning in Rosemont, Spencer Harmonson woke to the sound of someone coming into his house. Thinking an intruder had entered, he reached for his gun, stepped into a darkened hallway, and shot his wife.

Lost in the swirl of sadness surrounding the accidental shooting is this somber fact: Each year in the United States more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns, and roughly 100,000 more are injured by non-fatal gunshot wounds.

Many Americans continue to believe—largely because of distortions perpetuated by the NRA—that guns offer protection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly, incidents like the one last week are far more common than legitimate defensive uses of firearms. Carrying a gun does not offer “protection.” Numerous studies—published in the most respected medical journals—have refuted this myth. One study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that for every case of self-protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 43 suicides, criminal homicides or accidental gunshot deaths. Other studies have shown that those who live in houses where guns are kept are at a substantially greater risk of both homicide and suicide.

Make no mistake: Gun violence in the U.S. is a public health nightmare. During the 1990s more than 300,000 Americans were killed by guns. More than 40,000 of those were children or teenagers. Recent declines in firearm violence are encouraging, but nonetheless represent a small reduction in an unacceptably high number.

The NRA would have you believe that we need guns because we live in a dangerous society, but they’ve got it backward: We live in a dangerous society because guns are so prevalent. Deaths due to firearm violence—be they suicides, accidents or homicides—most often arise from situations made lethal solely by the presence of a gun. The NRA continues to insist that guns are both a necessary and effective means of personal protection. This is at best disingenuous and, at worst,—given the appalling consequences of gun violence—unconscionable.

Student Physicians for Social Responsibility at UC Davis is a group of medical students working to eliminate pervasive threats to public health, including gun violence in our community. We seek to educate people about the risks associated with keeping a gun in the home and to advance reasonable and effective firearm regulations.

We need to speak clearly on this issue: Keeping a gun in the home puts you and your family at a substantially greater risk of injury and death—as was made tragically evident last week in Rosemont.