Tom Gabor on Gun Safety: It’s Time

“The public is crying out for change,” said Dr. Thomas Gabor on October 29 at the Fogartyville Community Center. “The majority of Americans support universal background checks for gun licensing. Even NRA members favor extra background checks.”

Gabor, a noted Florida and international gun safety expert and author, spoke about “Gun Violence: Trends and Solutions.” He mentioned the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“And again, the president has said it’s too soon to talk about gun control. It is past time,” he said.

His recently published book, Confronting Gun Violence in America, is packed with eye-opening statistics. The book’s main finding — “America is an Outlier.”

Among advanced countries In 2014, the United States reported eighty times the number of firearm homicides — 10,945 — as the runner up, Canada — 131.

Americans have a one in 29,000 chance of dying from gun violence; Canadians, a one in 271,000 chance. The number of firearm homicides in other advanced countries then drops to double and single digits.

Statistics since 2009 show the United States with 288 school shootings, making 15- to 19-year-olds 82 times more likely to die of gun violence as in other advanced countries. Canada and France reported two school shootings, Germany one, and Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom had one.

The clear link in these figures are the number of guns owned, said Gabor. He illustrated with charts comparing states. More than 60 percent of Alaskans own guns, and the death rate is 19.2 per 100,000. Just 9.7 percent of Hawaiians own guns and the death rate is 2.6 per 100,000. In the first 296 days of this year, there have been 292 mass shootings, he said.

“That’s using the figure of four or more individuals shot. We have more than 100 gun deaths in this country every day, 100,000 are shot each year, and we have close to 40,000 fatalities. Amnesty International calls it a human rights crisis,” he said. “Think about that. Our country is being condemned by Amnesty International.”

Shootings are also more lethal now due to the ammunition used. A bullet can travel 3,000 feet per second. When it hits the body, it twirls and explodes, pulverizing tissue and leaving large exit wounds, he said.

Controlling gun violence is further complicated because each state has different criminal systems, with a variety of regulations. People have many easy sources for purchases, including through the internet, gun shows, and private sales.

Gabor funded his own research for the book, a four-year project with more than 1,000 sources. Since 1996, funding for research on gun violence has dried up, he said. Just three National Institutes of Health research grants on the issue have been funded in the last twenty years. Nor can the Centers for Disease Control investigate this public health crisis, he said, calling it an epidemic.

“Silence is complicity,” he said, drawing a round of applause.

Gabor ended with recommendations: licenses for gun owners, repeal of Stand Your Ground laws, banning of weapons capable of mass casualties, longer waiting periods for gun purchase, and reference checks.

It’s also time to qualify the Second Amendment, said Gabor, adding that in the 2008 Heller v. District of Columbia decision, even Antonin Scalia didn’t call for unfettered gun rights. “He said regulating gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment.”

The event was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Bookstore1Sarasota, UUC Social Justice Committee, WSLR Radio, and was joined by the Sarasota Chapter of the Brady