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Gun Ownership, Gun Culture and “Accident” Prevention

Christmas card with Santa Claus, and father and son toting assault rifles.

Is there a “gun culture? And is it related to gun ownership and to accidental shootings?

Given the many disturbing facts, statistics, and daily poignant case examples, I remain continuously perplexed that Americans continue on this self destructive path. We (or law makers and those who vote for them), allow certain groups that idolize guns to demonize those who attempt to reduce the slaughter. Their answer to the slaughter is “more guns.” Even though a majority of Americans support greater gun control and responsibility, they continue to elect “anti-gun control” legislators. Where have we in the U.S. gone wrong? Even “Wild West” Australians allow greater gun restrictions.

In this diary I review a couple of recent epidemiological research papers concerning firearm ownership and safety that recently came to my attention. I hope they can open some discussion concerning future directions to address gun accidents and gun violence. While the results of these studies are not likely to astound this audience, they do provide some basic epidemiological data from which action programs might grow. Both studies are recently published in Injury Prevention, a journal of the British Medical Journal group.

Who owns guns and what do they do with them?

The first paper reports a study led by Dr. Bindu Kalesan and her colleagues of the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University. This paper published in the June 2015 issue of Injury Prevention, reported results of a survey of a national representative sample of the adult U.S. population (n = 4,000) concerning firearms ownership and its relationship to a construct that the authors call “social gun culture.”

Although most of us have some concept of what a gun culture might be like (largely stereotypes of such as the NRA and rifle ranges), epidemiologist had not previously attempted to define and/or measure such a culture. For the purposes of this study they defined exposure to a “social gun culture” if respondents answered affirmatively any one of four questions concerning whether family or friends would think less of them for not owning a gun, and whether their social life (with family or friends) involved guns.

(Consider the Santa Photo above. What might happen if the little boy did not want to hold the assault rifle? Would he be thought less of?)

Twenty nine percent (29.1) of individuals surveyed in the U.S. reported owning at least one gun. Consistent with what most of us believe, the percentage of gun ownership varied widely by state and region ranging from only 5.2 % ownership in Delaware to 61.7% in Alaska. Regionally the lowest ownership was found in the Northeast, whereas the highest ownership region was the South, although Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho reported greater than 50 % gun ownership.

Other significant demographic correlates of gun ownership included being older than 55, white, and male. Further “Gun ownership was 31% more likely among those living in states with the least stringent gun policies and 51% more likely among those living in states with high gun death rates. “

A strong and significant association was found between gun ownership and being exposed to gun social groups. Overall, 13.7% of the entire sample responded affirmatively to at least one of the gun culture questions, (e.g. “My family [social group] would think less of me if I did not own a gun” or “My social [family] activities involve guns.”) Of the gun owners, 32.3% were associated with some aspect of “gun culture,” whereas 6.1% of non-owners were so exposed. (I assume these non-gun owners were family members of owners who participated in the culture.)

Surprising to me was the finding that while nearly 30% of Americans owned a gun, only 5.5 %. reported using them for hunting. My guess is that the real number of gun owners who actually hunt is less than those who report doing so. My experience is that while lots of people talk about hunting, fewer actually get into the woods. Those who actually use guns for subsistence are apparently very few.

This is gun “culture?”

Two men with rifles inside a Chipotle restaurant

Anecdotally, my search for photos to accompany this diary was informative in that a large percentage of the online photos were of young women wielding firearms. Apparently the gun purveyors are targeting women so that guns are no longer only a guys’ pastime.

<strong>What does the term “accident” mean to the public?</strong>
The second research article I read, also from <a href=”http://The second research article I read, also from Injury Prevention (2015), was entitled: “How members of the public interpret the word accident.” This research, conducted by Dr. Deborah Girasek of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences was reprinted from an earlier edition of this journal as being of particular salience yet today.”> Injury Prevention (2015)</a>, was entitled: “How members of the public interpret the word accident.”

This research, conducted by Dr. Deborah Girasek of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences was reprinted from an earlier edition of this journal as being of particular salience yet today.

This research addressed the public’s concept of “accidents” taken broadly but fully applies to firearm accidents as well as to auto accidents, fires, and the like. Some context is important here to understand why this might be an issue. During the 1990s several safety organizations proposed prohibition of the use of the term “accident.” For example, The United States’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote in 1997 that the term accident:

“… promotes the concept that these events are outside of human influence and control.”

Since safety organizations wanted the public to think of accidents as preventable, they sought to avoid words that suggested that accidents were just random occurrences and/or due to fate. However, despite their well intended proclamations, these groups had never checked with the general the public to see what the term accident really connoted to them.

Dr. Girasek sought to find out just what the term accident meant to the average person by randomly surveying 943 US adults. Her Results were quite contrary to the beliefs of these major safety organizations. She found that 83% of adults believed that the term “accident” implied that the incident in question was preventable. Moreover, this belief held equally across all demographic groups and was independent of whether the respondents had been in accidents themselves. Furthermore, 25% of the sample explicitly considered accidents to be not just preventable but also predictable.
Finally, Also contrary to the safety organizations’ beliefs, only 26% of this sample felt that the term “accident” implied that the incident had been controlled by fate. So, by a substantial majority, Americans believed that accidents were preventable and to some extent, predictable. Shying away from the word “accident” was unnecessary.

A case in point:

Young girl and firearms instructor seconds before tragic shooting accident

Was the death by Uzi of the Arizona firearms instructor at the hands of a novice 9 year old pictured above:

An accident?



Just fate?

Did this have anything to do with the family gun culture?

Check out this website for gun culture: http://www.bulletsandburgers.com/

A strong implication of these findings is that since a large majority of the public believes accidents could be prevented, it should follow that a wisely targeted nation-wide public educational campaign directed at preventing firearm accidents should fall on sympathetic or at least open ears.

Although the social gun culture may not be large in numbers as shown here by Dr. Kaleson, the gun culture’s influence (as exemplified by the NRA) is huge in deterring preventive efforts by congress such as forbidding federal research money to be used to study gun violence and safety at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

And we see States like Florida that passed a law forbidding physicians from asking patients about gun ownership and their presence in the home, unless it pertains directly to patient care. Since 89% of accidental firearm injuries to children occur in the home, it would seem that having a gun in the home would have health consequences worthy of physicians concerns. They allow physicians to address patients’ eating behavior and diet, smoking, and cycling without a helmet. Why not guns? Physicians tend to agree that gun control is public Health issue and we have an ongoing epidemic of gun violence in our country.

If we could just reduce the child (and adult) ”accidental” gun injuries, it would make a huge contribution to the country’s Public health in terms of both morbidity and mortality.

With the continuing startling incidence of gun violence (you supply the latest example), this issue clearly rises to the level of a serious public health problem, given that greater than 11,000 homicides, 21,000 suicides, and 500 accidental deaths occur each year.

Such a problem begs for an epidemiological approach that is broad, inclusive, and of the scope of the successful lung cancer prevention campaigns mounted against smoking. The CDC is the best equipped to mount such a campaign as they did with smoking. Congress must allow them to do their job.

Dr. Michael Siegel of the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public recently stated:

Decades of public health messaging, TV and media campaigns have successfully changed the social norms surrounding tobacco, another public health hazard, and smoking has been on the decline…

“It’s pretty widely acknowledged that people shouldn’t smoke in public,”

“Someone may say with guns, there’s no way you can change social norms about that, but we would have said that about smoking 30 or 40 years ago.”

Owning a firearm has health effects, increasing the probability of your own injury, and education campaigns could highlight this…

“It’s not clear that it will protect you, There’s a lot of evidence that it results in accidents, and is more likely to be used in a way that injures the owner or someone in the household.”

What would an anti-gun campaign look like? In combating smoking, the overwhelming research liking smoking to cancer and emphysema, became public in spite of the lies and hidden reports of the tobacco lobbies. A tactic used successfully by epidemiology programs to combat smoking-caused cancer was the use of strategically placed poignant posters.

The NRA and second Amendment groups are little different from the tobacco industry of yore. They are small but loaded with money and zeal and see every attempt by the public to deal with the problem as an intrusion on their 2nd Amendment rights. They see gun confiscators everywhere.

For example, the city of Seattle recently proposed to levy a tax on the purchase of fire arms and ammunition with the proceeds to go to firearm safety and prevention efforts. Of course the “2nd Amendment people are in a frenzy about it. I recently listened to the local head of the 2nd amendment group on our local NPR radio community round table show. He immediately jumped into the meme that “prevention and research are part and parcel of gun control.” And to his mind gun control was unconstitutional so of course he was adamantly against even talking about gun safety or injury prevention.

There are millions of Americans supportive of taking greater control measures, even a majority, but they appear to remain impotent against the NRA with their campaign financing of congressmen. And recall that only 29% own a gun whereas 71% do not own a gun. Who should be in charge here?

David Atkins at the Washington Monthly hits the nail on the head when he states that:

“… we need to stop focusing on the motives of the killers, and start focusing on the gun.”

Similarly, we must stop blaming the carnage on the mentally ill as they account for but a small portion of the overall gun violence.

It seems to me the steps are clear: We need to change the cultural fascination with guns and we know how to do that. It would take a large effort at educating the public (who should be receptive, given the data), about the harm. The CDC can lead this effort as they have with anti-smoking campaigns and other major health initiatives. For them to be able to take the lead, Congress must fund them for the effort. The current congress will not do that. They must be voted out by the majorities who believe in gun control as the means of combating gun violence. And they need to know that gun accidents are not really “accidents.”

Gun “accidents” are preventable. As Smoky the Bear said 70 years ago: “ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES.” And Gun Violence.











Hillary Clinton speaks of human rights at the Human Rights Campaign breakfast: “It can all be undone”

Saturday morning, Hillary Clinton addressed volunteers at the Human Rights Campaign.

(YouTube: Published on Oct 3, 2015 Hillary Clinton celebrates equality and commits to the work that still lies ahead with Human Rights Campaign’s volunteer leaders #‎EqualityForward)

She was introduced by Chad Griffin, the president of HRC, who knew her when he was a teenager in Arkansas and she was First Lady of that once blue state.

THIS is important, and should be important to everyone, because while one can run on “It’s the Economy!” there is more at stake than fixing income inequality or being mad at billionaires:

(At 14:00)”You know … I talk about my campaign as being about improving the economy so everybody who works hard, does his or her part, can get ahead – and stay ahead. But I also talk about enforcing our basic human and civil rights. I’m running for president to stand up for the fundamental rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans.

And of course, as always, this is one of the most important issues of the 2016 race:

Every single one of the Republican candidates is against marriage equality … many of them are against anti-discriminiation laws. Many are against same-sex couples adopting. If you are ever in a forum with them, see if you can get them to even say “transgender” …

So the stakes in this election are high for the country …they’re high for so much of what we believe in and the progress we want to continue to make.

It can be undone.

President Obama’s executive actions can be rescinded. The next president may get three Supreme Court Justice appointments. We could lose the Supreme Court – and then there would be a whole new litigation strategy coming from those who oppose marriage equality.

(The audio of the video is uneven at the beginning but gets better. IMNSHO it is worth listening to. If I can find a transcript, I will post it)

Below are some quotes from the media reports of the speech.

Good Government: Protecting Farm Workers from Pesticides

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new safety rules for farm workers:

President Obama has called closing gaps of opportunity a defining challenge of our time. Meeting that challenge means ensuring healthy work environments for all Americans, especially those in our nation’s vulnerable communities,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We depend on farmworkers every day to help put the food we eat on America’s dinner tables—and they deserve fair, equitable working standards with strong health and safety protections. With these updates we can protect workers, while at the same time preserve the strong traditions of our family farms and ensure the continued the growth of our agricultural economy.”

“No one should ever have to risk their lives for their livelihoods, but far too many workers, especially those who work in agriculture, face conditions that challenge their health and safety every day,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Workplace illness and injury contribute greatly to economic inequality, and can have a devastating impact on workers and their families. By promoting workplace safety, these provisions will enhance economic security for people struggling to make ends meet and keep more Americans on the job raising the crops that feed the world, and we are proud to support the EPA in this effort.”

BREAKING: Clinton’s Inbox Exposed! Full eGhazi!


Contents includes:

(1) The final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa.
(2) A complete accounting of the contents of Al Capone’s vault, before the Clintons emptied it in advance of Geraldo’s Dont See TV program.
(3) Full schematics of the explosives lay out in the WTC buildings and the detailed process for bringing the buildings down.
(4) Language for a proposed constitutional amendment repealing the 2nd amendment.
(5) A nondisclosure agreement signed by Oliver Stone concerning the death of Vince Foster.
(6) Very worrying financial arrangement proposals from lawyers in African countries, purporting to represent various royals, attempting to move money into the US potentially for terror-related activities.
(7) A very disappointing guacamole recipe.
(8) Discussion plans to use Planned Parenthood and their evil subcontractors to implement Obamacare Death Panels to harvest organs and tissue for black market sales to buy cell phones for welfare recipients.
(9) Proof that the Clintons reaped a $100M profit on the Whitewater real estate deal and used half the proceeds to create an elaborate red herring by hiring Monica Lewinsky to pretend to have an affair with Bill.
(10) Documents demonstrating that Al Gore single handedly causes global warming.

Weekly Address: President Obama – Dispose of Your Expired and Unwanted Prescription Drugs

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, on “National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day,” the President spoke about the importance of preventing and treating substance use disorders. Overdoses from prescription pain medications kill thousands of Americans every year, and more often than not, those drugs come from the family medicine cabinet. In addition, many heroin users started out by misusing prescription drugs. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and safely, conveniently, and responsibly dispose of expired and unwanted prescription drugs at collection sites throughout your community—no questions asked. Drug disposal programs are part of the President’s 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, which also included increasing education for prescribers, expanding Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and pursuing Smart on Crime enforcement. In his address, the President called on us all to continue to work to reduce substance use disorders through evidence-based treatment, prevention, and recovery.

Democratic Party Principles: An Energy Program for the Future

Senate Democrats unveiled their energy bill this past Tuesday.

There is not much hope that the bill will be passed and signed into law but it is an important step in defining where Democrats stand on energy and the environment:

“Today’s announcement should send a clear signal that it is a top priority for Senate Democrats to invest in our nation’s energy future and address climate change before it’s too late,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at a Tuesday press conference. The legislation “is a technology driven pathway to a clean energy future,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) who sponsored the bill, dubbed the “American Energy Innovation Act of 2015.”


Though it would not set a price on carbon emissions, like the failed cap-and-trade bill from five years ago, her bill does contain many provisions intended to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy, and sets a more ambitious carbon target than the White House.

It is important to establish what Democrats are for in order to help voters understand that there is a real difference between the two national parties:

“At a time when the majority in Congress is seemingly at the beck and call of the fossil fuel industry, legislation like this … lays out clear clean energy priorities, offering a blueprint for the kind of energy policy that actually represents what the American public actually wants and reflects the direction the market and the nation are actually going,” Sierra Club legislative director, Melinda Pierce, told ThinkProgress. Pierce said that it would not be surprising to see some parts of the bill adapted into other bills that would have a better chance of passage.

This past week, Democratic Party candidate for president Hillary Clinton announced her energy plan, which began with her stating her opposition to building the Keystone Pipeline. She is the second Democratic candidate to release a plan (Martin O’Malley also released one).

Clinton had long refused to take a public stance on Keystone, a project that was first filed with the State Department during her tenure as Secretary of State. But the increasingly-visible threat of climate change, Clinton wrote in an essay published today on Medium, caused her to finally release an official position on the proposed pipeline, which would bring tar sands crude from Canada to Nebraska.

“We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” Clinton said in the essay. “Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That’s what I will focus on as president.” […]

“American energy policy is about more than a single pipeline to transport Canada’s dirtiest fuel across our country,” Clinton wrote. “It’s about building our future — a future where the United States will once again lead the world by constructing state-of-the-art infrastructure, creating new jobs and new markets, accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy, and improving the health, safety, and security of all Americans.”

Secretary Clinton’s full statement on Keystone and her plan is below the fold.

Viola Davis: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else … is opportunity”

I don’t watch television so I did not follow the Emmy Award Ceremony last night. But I do follow the news and when this video showed up in my newsfeed this morning, it begged to be shared.

Viola Davis plays a law professor in the TV show “How to Get Away With Murder”. On Sunday night, she won an Emmy, the first black woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a dramatic series.


‘In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

“That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

“So, here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes. People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.

“And to the Taraji P Hensons and Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goodes, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you for the Television Academy. Thank you.”

Some people were not happy about this … because racism is not a thing in America, and what about white women????

Trending on Twitter: Viola Davis’ Emmy Speech


Weekly Address: President Obama – It’s Time for Congress To Pass a Responsible Budget

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President discussed the significant progress we have made in our economy since the financial crisis seven years ago this week, and the steps we can take to build on that momentum and strengthen the economy for the long term. Thanks to the hard work and resilience of folks around the country, our businesses have created over 13 million jobs over the past 66 straight months, housing is bouncing back, manufacturing is growing again, and the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in over seven years. We’ve come a long way from the darkest days of the financial crisis, but there is still more to be done. To keep our economy growing, we must avoid self-inflicted wounds and damaging brinksmanship: that starts with Congress passing a responsible budget before the end of the month. The President has called on Republicans in Congress to stop playing games with our economic progress and instead do its job and pass a budget that reverses the harmful cuts known as the sequester and avoids shutting down the federal government.

From the White House: Faster FAFSA – Helping Make College More Affordable

On Monday, President Obama traveled to Des Moines Iowa to talk about FAFSA. What is FAFSA, you ask? I asked it and found the answer on the Internets! FAFSA is “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” and is the form that parents and kids need to fill out to get federal aid for college.


… here’s the thing — just as higher education has never been more important, let’s face it, it’s never been more expensive. And that’s why [Secretary of Education] Arne [Duncan] and I have been working to try to make college and post-high school education more affordable. We’ve increased scholarships. We reformed our student loan system that funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into big banks — we said, let’s cut out the middleman, let’s put that money directly to students. We created a new tax credit of up to $2,500 to help working families pay for tuition and books and fees. We’re helping people cap their federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income. So if you want to be a teacher, or you want to be a social worker, or some other profession that may not make a huge amount of money, you can still do that, knowing that you’re not going to go — you’re still going to be able to afford to support yourself and your family while doing it. And we’re fighting for two years of free community college for any student that’s willing to work for it. (Applause.)

The bottom line is, is that no young person in America should be priced out of college. They should not be priced out of an education.

(Transcript below the fold)

FACT SHEET: FACT SHEET: The President’s Plan for Early Financial Aid: Improving College Choice and Helping More Americans Pay for College

A higher education is one of the most important investments Americans can make in their future. To help students and families make that investment, the Obama Administration has taken steps to make it easier than ever before to apply for and access federal grants and loans. […]

The President will announce a new initiative to allow students and families to apply for financial aid earlier – starting in October as the college application process gets underway – rather than in January. In addition, students filling out the FAFSA will be able to electronically retrieve tax information filed for an earlier year, rather than waiting until tax season to complete their applications. Learning about aid eligibility options much earlier in the college application and decision process will allow students and families to determine the true cost of attending college – taking available financial aid into account – and make more informed decisions.

Good Government: Prosecuting People, Not Just Corporations

One of the more frustrating aspects of the prosecutions related to the Great Cheat that led to the Great Recession was that many of those perpetrating the fraud got off scot-free while their companies were simply levied fines, often a fraction of the profits they received from their cheating.

While it is important to seek penalties and restitution so that those harmed by high level corporate crimes can be made whole again, it has always seemed wrong that the people who devised and promoted the fraudulent schemes are rarely charged. Some faceless corporation pays a fine equal to 1/1000000th of its annual revenue and those behind the scenes are left in place to come up with a new ways to defraud consumers.

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced a new policy on individual liability for corporate crimes that seeks to address that concern.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates spoke at the New York University School of Law:

Crime is crime. And it is our obligation at the Justice Department to ensure that we are holding lawbreakers accountable regardless of whether they commit their crimes on the street corner or in the boardroom. In the white-collar context, that means pursuing not just corporate entities, but also the individuals through which these corporations act. […]

In modern corporations, where responsibility is often diffuse, it can be extremely difficult to identify the single person or group of people who possessed the knowledge or criminal intent necessary to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is particularly true of high-level executives, who are often insulated from the day-to-day activity in which the misconduct occurs. […]

Americans should never believe, even incorrectly, that one’s criminal activity will go unpunished simply because it was committed on behalf of a corporation. We could be doing a bang-up job in every facet of the department’s operations – we could be bringing all the right cases and making all the right decisions. But if the citizens of this country don’t have confidence that the criminal justice system operates fairly and applies equally – regardless of who commits the crime or where it is committed – then we’re in trouble. […]

Effective today, if a company wants any consideration for its cooperation, it must give up the individuals, no matter where they sit within the company. And we’re not going to let corporations plead ignorance. If they don’t know who is responsible, they will need to find out. If they want any cooperation credit, they will need to investigate and identify the responsible parties, then provide all non-privileged evidence implicating those individuals. […]

We are going to continually reexamine our practices to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable. Despite this, there will still be cases where we don’t have the evidence necessary to establish an individual’s criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt. And regardless of public demand, we will never bring charges against anyone unless we are satisfied that the individual is in fact guilty of a crime. That is the core of our responsibility and promise to the American people. And I should be clear: while these policy shifts are effective immediately, the public won’t see the impact of these steps over night. […]

We make these changes recognizing the challenges that they may present. Some corporations may decide, for example, that the benefits of consideration for cooperation with DOJ are not worth the costs of coughing up the high-level executives who perpetrated the misconduct. Less corporate cooperation could mean fewer settlements and potentially smaller overall recoveries by the government. In addition, individuals facing long prison terms or large civil penalties may be more inclined to roll the dice before a jury and consequently, we could see fewer guilty pleas.

Only time will tell. But if that’s what happens, so be it. Our mission here is not to recover the largest amount of money from the greatest number of corporations; our job is to seek accountability from those who break our laws and victimize our citizens. It’s the only way to truly deter corporate wrongdoing.

Bolding and underlining added

Full transcript below the fold.