Society must craft reasonable balance

Stating that “facts guide my life,” a Dec. 28 letter from a reader sought “to inject some reason” into the gun control discussion. I am left to wonder what data might have led him to the meandering conclusions he reached. Here are facts:

In 2011, there were 88 gun-related deaths per day in the United States, totaling more than 31,000; since 1997, 427,000 gun-related deaths, 165,000 of them homicides; in 2012, there were more homicides from guns than motor vehicles and suicides combined. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world population, has more than 40 percent of the world’s firearms in its civilian population. Obviously, the scope of this carnage is more than the work of “a handful of misfits,” as he alleges, and is hardly a menace which, were it an infectious epidemic, would have mobilized demands and expectations for remedy long ago.

Worse, influenced by special interests, since 1996 Congress has cut funding for studies of firearm violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and imposed regulatory restrictions on related research by other public health information agencies. So while injury prevention research has helped reduce deaths in car accidents by 30 percent over two decades, from fires by 38 percent and drowning by 50 percent – all without outlawing cars or matches or pools – firearm injury research and public health science have been hobbled, and objective data made nearly unobtainable.

I would agree with the writer that information is essential as we examine the sources of violence that impact our society and take first steps toward their reasoned redress. Informed, we can – and must – craft an acceptable balance between individual rights and civilized societal expectations of reasonable safety in public places of worship, malls, movies, schools, streets and homes.

Robert A. Milch, M.D.