I had such hopes this week. As I mentioned last week, I was going to give you all a Christmas list, so all of you could run out and send me things.

Then Friday happened. And all my jokes seemed inconsequential.

Jill wrote a post that sums up a lot of feelings that I have. That this is enough. That as a country we need to change the path we are currently on. I am tired. I am tired of the logical fallacy argument of “Well, you can kill someone with a knife, should we ban all knives, too?” Um, bullshit. The last time I checked, you can’t attack several people simultaneously and within seconds armed with only a knife. So I call bull on your argument. As for your Second Amendment rights, I highly doubt our founding fathers had assault weapons that could inflict as much damage as a long range rifle, and the right to bear arms was not meant to maim our own citizens.

We need serious gun reform in this country. We also need serious reform to our mental health programs. I know that there is a group of people that worship at the altar of former President Ronald Reagan, but we can attribute the lack of adequate mental health care to him. In fact, Reagan championed the release of mental health patients back into the community long before they were ready. This has had devastating and long-term effects.

Furthermore, we need to have a serious talk about gun reform. No one is knocking down your door to take away your guns, so if you want to comment on this post with that, I will shut you down. And none of this hullabaloo about arming teachers. Mother Jones put together a helpful graph about gun murders in America. And guess what? Only one of them (1982) ends with a witness shooting back because it doesn’t happen. Life is not a Bruce Willis movie. And is this a conversation we want to have? Do we all want to live our lives like one giant arms race – victims vs. murderers? Maybe you do. But I sure as hell don’t.

We need to have a conversation. We need to reform ownership rights. A. brought up a serious question. When we were applying for life insurance several years ago, we had page after page of questionnaires to fill out – our height, weight, do we smoke? Do we ride a motorcycle? However, there was not one question about gun ownership, even though:

“people who keep a gun in their home are almost twice as likely to die in a gun-related homicide, and that the risk was especially greater for women: women living in a home where there is a gun are almost three times more likely to die in a gun-related homicide than men similarly situated.  The risk of killing oneself using a gun was almost 17 times greater for persons who live in a home where there is a gun, compared to those in homes without guns.”1

Why is that? Why is there not a premium for owning a gun, whereas a cancer survivor may not even be eligible for life insurance even though chances are pretty good that they did not seek out and purchase a few rogue cells that would result in cancer? Most murderers obtain their guns legally – shouldn’t that give you pause about what you are purchasing and bringing into your home?

Fact: Insurers will not sell life insurance to someone undergoing cancer treatment,
but three kinds of cancer are less likely to kill you than is a gun in a homicide. In 2009, FBI says there were 9,146 homicides by gun in the United States.According to the CDC, for the top 50 causes of death there were 15 causes of death that resulted in fewer deaths in 2009, and of those 15 at least 11 are diseases that would cause your life insurance rates to go up.3  Of those 15, 10 are diseases – mostly types of cancers, as opposed to drownings and fires – that would either significantly raise life insurance rates or preclude getting life insurance altogether.

So the key question is, how many gun owners died in a homicide by firearm? If the number is still higher than any of those 10 diseases (pretending there are no more causes of death outside the top 50), why don’t insurance companies charge more of gun owners for life insurance?

I can argue that fine, you want to own a gun? Go ahead, but be prepared to pay through the nose when it comes to insurance.

Think of it in terms of smokers vs. nonsmokers – a person can choose to smoke, but he/she will have a more expensive life insurance policy than a nonsmoker. If a person chooses to own a gun, he/she should have a more expensive policy than a person who lives in a gun-free household. And, similar to a smoker, if you lie about gun ownership, you are liable to have your policy revoked. In summation, while it’s more likely a smoker will die from a smoking-related illness and is thus far more expensive to insure, like owning a gun, it’s a choice that a) makes you more likely to die and b) does trigger an increase in premiums.

At this moment there is a community hurting and children that are lost. Let’s put our money where our mouths are and support our fellow citizens. Here are ways to help:

For those of you who are interested in becoming involved with gun reform, I recommend the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence: http://www.bradycenter.org/. For those who are struggling with or know someone struggling with mental illness, please consult the National Alliance of Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/ to find a treatment program near you.

As a country we should be embarrassed at the lack of care we have for our fellow citizens. We can do better than this. We are better than this.

Bibliography and Further Reading

1Wiebe D.  Annals of Emergency Medicine.  2003; 41:771-82 as quoted in the DailyKos, Statistics, Guns, and Wishful Thinking, March 26, 2012 (retrieved Dec. 16, 2012).

2Crime in the United States: http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_08.html (retrieved Dec. 16, 2012).

3USA Life Expectancy: http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa-cause-of-death-by-age-and-gender (retrieved Dec. 16, 2012).

Harvard Injury Control Center: Homicide

International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation

Mayors Against Illegal Guns