School of Nursing

November 9, 2018

Once Again

Once again, this time in Thousand Oaks, California, we see people shot en masse, for some irrational reason or perhaps no reason at all. Once again we see the tragic scene of parents losing children, children losing parents, partners losing partners. Once again we hear the voices of those who live, saying that their lives will never be the same—and they won’t be.

We have limits on who can handle medically dangerous biological materials, because there is recognition that mishandling of such materials could have a deadly outcome for a large number of people. We have limits on who can purchase certain dangerous chemicals, for the same reason. We have limits on the acquisition and handling of radioactive materials, for the same reason.

Yet we have such difficulty as a nation setting reasonable limits on who can own guns and what kinds of guns are available. Most of the mass casualty events have been carried out by people with clear evidence of mental instability, yet they readily (and usually legally) obtain the guns (including assault rifles) with which they wreak havoc and impose tragedy on multiple innocent victims.

Easy access to guns contributes to this country’s high rate of suicide, domestic violence that ends in death, and “crimes of passion” as well as to these periodic spasms of mass casualty violence. More than 30,000 times a year, someone pulls a trigger and another person’s life ends. Anguish fills the lives of the deceased person’s family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues. Nothing fills the void that is left. And many of the survivors will suffer lifelong physical or mental damage that diminishes their lives, in some cases leaving them permanently dependent on others for care and economic support.

Poet-folk singer and Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan wrote lyrics that asked, “How many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?”

How many? Today we add 13 to the toll.