A Step in the Right Direction
I recently received the following letter from the VA (where I receive my health care):
The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre and our Community Based outpatient Clinics are extending the opportunity to request free gun locks to the Veterans we serve. We are providing this opportunity because, as your partner in health care, we are committed to keeping you and your family safe. A letter will be sent to all Veterans enrolled at the facility throughout the course of this firearm safety initiative.
If you own a gun, we hope you will request and use a gun lock. As a Veteran, you already know about the importance of firearm safety. We encourage you to talk about gun safety with family members, loved ones and close friends.
If you would like up to 4 free gun locks for personal use, please indicate how many you would like on the enclosed form, include your name and address and return the form in the envelope provided. When we receive your request we will mail the requested number of gun locks to the address you provide. Your personal information is not kept on file. It will be destroyed after the locks are mailed.
Thank you for your service to our great nation. We look forward to continuing to partner with you in making decisions about your health.
( Signature of the Medical Center Director)
This seems a very straightforward attempt on the part of the Veterans Administration to address a safety concern shared by many of those to whom they provide health care services. I do not know if this is a nationwide initiative, but it would make sense for it to be so. When the politicians at the local, state and federal level remain unwilling or unable to take the major steps necessary to stem the tide of gun violence in the face of opposition by the National Rifle Association and the Gun Manufacturers, any step, however small, may make a beneficial difference.
While we may have leaders feigning impotence when it comes to the ending of senseless mass murders, domestic violence, commission of serious felonies and the shooting of unarmed civilians by police with impunity, at least we may be able to end some of the ones caused by accident. The NRA has the easy job of persuading the politicians that any new restrictions on the ownership of guns or the capacity for destruction that their use entails would be an unforgivable breach of our civil liberties. Inertia rules the day, especially during election season (which for many in Congress and state legislatures seems to be all of the time).
We also hear on a regular basis that such organizations as the NRA ARE interested in gun safety. That’s where a program such as this one can and will save lives over time. The stories that come out on an almost daily basis of some child accidentally shooting themselves, friends or family members may become fewer and farther between if initiatives like this one become more common. They may even be cost effective in terms of reducing the need for and costs for medical services by people who would potentially become victims of such needless accidents.
Many objections to more restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms do have a basis in reality. Many mass murders, for instance, would be preventable if we had a more effective system of mental health care. The problem is, of course, that the same politicians and lobbyists who work so hard to preserve so-called Second Amendment freedoms for all Americans also refuse to do anything whatsoever to improve mental health screening and treatment. They also fight their damnedest against any further attempts to restrict access to or use of firearms even by those society has decided undeserving of possession of them. Background checks prior to purchase are one example where loopholes have been made so large at the behest of protecting profit margins for gun manufacturers and dealers that virtually anyone can get their hands on a firearm who wants to do so badly enough.
After each incident of mass shootings, such as at any school, hospital, shopping center, movie theater or any other public place, a hue and cry arises to do something to make them more difficult to accomplish in the future. The actions taken almost exclusively to this point have been to increase the level of public armament, not decrease it. That’s just plain nuts, totally counterproductive in terms of cost effectiveness, and results in more curtailment of civil liberties than restricting gun access more effectively would. Increasing the armed presence in schools, churches, bars, grocery stores, etc., does nothing to improve the sense of safety for those who patronize such locations.
Open carry laws, the current mania among many of those on the 2nd Amendment Rights fringe, scares more people than it protects. Who wants to shop in a Walmart or mall or grocery store where some complete stranger can walk around with a loaded weapon? Who wants to go out for a few beers at an establishment where bumping into someone by accident may result in shots fired? Punishing people after the damage is done is fine, but preventing it in the first place should be the goal. Hiring armed security guards may limit the damage that a lone, mentally ill or otherwise distraught gunman may cause in a given situation, but it may be extremely costly for the benefit it provides.
The VA should be applauded for taking this simple step to try to increase the level of gun safety practiced by its constituents. It should also be commended for posting written notification at its facilities that guns, knives and other weapons are forbidden to all except law enforcement personnel. Gun locks can go a long way to prevent accidental death and serious injury in accidents caused by infants, children or others handling supposedly unloaded weapons. Reducing this loss of life and the grief it causes is not an insignificant accomplishment. But it does not reduce the need for the reduction of the number of weapons on the streets and in the hands of people who should have no right owning them or using them in the first place. Restricting the types of weapons and ammunition, as well as better control of who may legally possess them should all be measures under consideration.
Though I am an army veteran, I have never owned a firearm outside of my service, and I never intend to. Fewer weapons in the hands of others – especially those who have proven through words and deeds to be able and willing to use them with malicious intent, would make us all feel and actually be safer in our everyday lives.