Guns or doctors: What causes more death?

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Tens of thousands of people some older but mostly young joined in what turned out to literally be a global protest against gun violence. Ignited by the horrible senseless killing of 17 people, mostly young high school students in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. It was a truly spectacular demonstration and easy to grasp. I mean who would support random acts of murder? But Parkland was certainly not the first such incident sadly enough. Oh and unless we finally get to the real source of the problem it won’t be the last mass murder.

In 2016 I completed my research, wrote and published a book entitled: Mass Murders in America. It begins with the Walk of Death in Camden, New Jersey on September 6 1949 when Howard Barton Unruh shot and killed 13 people. The final mass murder reported in that book took place in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015 when Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik slaughtered 14 people.

All in all over that period of time, 66 years, the book examines thirty mass murders yielding 380 dead people and the one overriding take away is that virtually all if not all of these deaths resulted not from guns but from guns in the hands of very mentally ill people. Mental illness is the devil we need to address but it is apparently far too difficult, because after all who wants to report that their son or their father is giving signs of being truly insane?

But as horrible as 380 deaths over a period of 66 years truly is, it pales into absurdity when compared to deaths cause by medical malpractice. According to one article written by Erin McCann in July of 2014 entitled “Deaths by medical mistakes hit records,” preventable medical errors, also known as medical malpractice is the number three killer in America, third only to heart disease and cancer. Putting it another way the top three ways to die in America are heart disease, cancer and your doctor.

According to Erin McCann medical malpractice kills over 400,000 people every year. Other statistics I have found show lower numbers but still typical hit right around 250,000 medical malpractice deaths in America each and every year.

Even using the lower number of 250,000 that is still 658 times more deaths caused by medical malpractice in one year than by mass murders over  66 years. Yet where are the protests for this horrible mass killing? Now I specifically said “killing” rather than murder because murder is always intentional whereas negligence by definition is not, but either way people do die.

And folks it is not now and never has been about guns. Many terrorist attacks have been made killing many people using trucks and automobiles.  On September 11, 2001 three thousand people died from the actions of insane terrorists using box cutters and airplanes. Not one gun was involved yet 3,000 are dead. Interestingly enough had the flight crew been armed with firearms at least some of the people may have escaped death.

The murder of the 17 people in Parkland, Florida is truly a deep tragedy and, of course, no one wants to be a victim. But shouting out against guns totally misses the point and deflects any possible real solution. The problem is 100 percent a mental health issue. But we keep on ignoring that because no one really wants to call someone, especially a family member crazy. Heck despite the fact that Adam Peter Lanza had been diagnosed with several very serious mental diseases that didn’t stop his mother from teaching him how to effectively use a rifle. In fact he became good enough so that on the morning of December 14,, 2012 Adam Lanza began his day by picking up his mother’s rifle and shooting her to death. Then Adam Peter Lanza went over to Sandy Hook Elementary School to kill 26 more human beings. It was the person operating the gun who was the killer and not the gun.

One of the best quotes ever about guns in our world is as follows. “I’ve heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal.” Pause for just a moment and consider this. Girl one a 95 pound young girl perhaps your daughter or sister is walking down a street one night when a man steps in front of her with a knife. He is an imposing 6-foot-tall guy and he has a knife. He makes it clear that he intends to rape her. She is overwhelmed by fear and becomes a brutalized victim. Now consider the same scenario only the girl has in her jacket or purse a small but effective semi-automatic pistol which she immediately displays while telling the man to drop to the ground and wait for the police. Which one would you want to be you daughter, girlfriend, sister, wife or just another decent human being?

Absolutely protest violent, senseless murder but let’s pause a moment and look at the larger picture. Where are the protests for the 400,000 medical malpractice deaths every year in America? That is 400,000 and maybe more because it is sadly true that Medical Doctors often do indeed bury their mistakes. And that is 400,000 versus 17 yet the 17 get worldwide attention and the 400,000 are accepted it seems simply as oh well stuff happens. Really?

And guns are inanimate objects incapable of hurting anyone without human intervention. It is the human that kills other humans and not the gun. Typically, it is clearly crazy people who kill others using a variety of instruments including guns as well as knives, trucks, cars, hammers, poison, bombs or even just superior physical strength. In the end we just don’t want to even talk about the mental issues because pretty much everyone has or has had at least some mental concerns of their own.

Generally they rarely reach the level that results in mass murder yet any discussion of mental illness opens for many a Pandora’s Box a great many of us just don’t want to open because it way too scary. In the end and simply put the problem is not guns it is us the still wildly imperfect human species.

If we finally get serious about ourselves not only would mass murders be dramatically reduced, but most likely so would the slaughter on hundreds of thousands of people each by far too much medical malpractice. It really isn’t a significantly different problem.

And one final note. No I am not a member of the NRA. I am just convinced that real problems only get solved when we look at real evidence and accept the sometimes unpleasant truths about the human condition. Doing that however takes courage and a true sense of personal responsibility .