(Editor’s Note: Our Senators, Congressman and The Man in the Oval Office are responsible for the mass killings at a Uvalde school and a Tulsa hospital complex because of the lack of security from gun violence that they should be providing. They can use the $53B of government waste to put a steel bubble over our 130,930 schools — and well-paid retired Military and Navy Seals to protect our children. They could’ve used the $400M Obama sent to Iran — in cash on palets — by airplane in 2016 in one of the most despicable acts of secrecy in U.S. history. All Iran did was turn around and use the $400M for terrorist acts.)
No matter how mass killings are defined, anytime senseless rifle ammunition murders occur, particular involving children or healthcare workers who serve the needs of their community, everyone grieves the loss.
In the aftermath of such events are calls for an array of gun controls, including universal background checks, which has significant public support. Their goal is to keep firearms out of the hands of those who would use such weapons to harm themselves and others.
These cries are met head on by those who support gun owners’ rights and the Second Amendment to the Constitution. As a result, legislation that attempts to limit people’s ability to own firearms often get stalled in Congress. Bills like the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which focused on particular types of firearms, was enacted into law, though it expired in 2004. The law that made “bump stocks” illegal has been challenged in the courts.
Firearms have the potential to be used inappropriately and inflict needless harm. Almost 80 percent of murders in 2020 involved a firearm. Over one-half of all suicides in 2020 involved a firearm. To be used, firearms require ammunition.
If measures that focus on gun control gain no traction in Congress, perhaps attention should be focused on ammunition safety, by classifying it as a controlled substance.
We have numerous controlled substances in society. The Controlled Substance Act places such items into one of five schedules, defined by their medical use, opportunities for abuse, and safety. The factors that define the schedules are written for pharmaceutical products. They can be revisited and recast for ammunition.
For example, one factor is, its actual or relative potential for abuse. Clearly, ammunition has such potential. Another factor is risk to the public health, which certainly applies to ammunition. On the other hand, susceptibility to psychic or physiological dependence is not applicable to ammunition.
An analogous set of schedules can be defined for ammunition to ensure that different types of ammunition are dispensed appropriately. Such a change would require a total revamping of how ammunition is sold and makes those who sell such products more responsible to follow controlled substance regulations.
This idea is not new. What is new is that a matter that has detrimental effects on population well-being has not seen any improvements, continuing to be a divisive political and societal issue.
Firearms of themselves are not a problem. Ammunitions of themselves are not a problem. By together, they present the potential for problems. Limiting any one of them could change the risk landscape associated with gun violence.
Improvement is the foundation of good business and effective public policy. The airline industry has continued to improve procedures that have made air travel safer over time. When an airplane accident occurs, the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSA) investigate it to determine the cause and learn how such future events can be averted.
The auto industry continues to add safety features to automobiles that reduce accidents and fatalities.
Surprisingly, automobile fatalities jumped in 2021 to numbers last seen in over a decade, suggesting that the impact of the pandemic on drivers neutralized the benefits of enhanced safety features. What is unknown is how much worse would automobile fatalities have been without such features.
Has a similar phenomenon occurred with firearm use?
The nation is long overdue to engage in sensible discussions on how to reduce gun violence in this country. This should not involve extreme views that evoke the Second Amendment or the mantra that all guns should be banned.
Over 45 thousand people died from firearms in 2020, all of which can be classified as premature and preventable deaths. Any activity that leads to premature and preventable deaths has room for improvement. The solution is focusing on what bridges can be built to facilitate such improvements, rather than erecting walls that prevent such improvements from being made.
Our elected officials have a responsibility to serve. Part of this responsibility is facilitating laws and policies that improve the lives of Americans. Does reducing premature deaths qualify as an area that needs improvement? Most will agree that we can do better. But do we have the will to do better?
Sheldon H. Jacobson, Ph.D., is a professor in Computer Science and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. A data scientist, he applies his expertise in data-driven risk-based decision-making to evaluate and inform public policy.