Heller’s Choice

Heller Yellow Stripe

There are at least 786 federally licensed firearms dealers in Nevada [link] ranging from major franchise retailers to individuals who are licensed sellers.    I’ve also wondered why small sporting goods dealers and retailers aren’t more critical of gun show and Internet sellers who don’t have to run background checks — unless, of course, the licensed gun dealers know that the Internet sellers and gun show folks are taking chances with their customers.  Chances they’d not be willing to take themselves.

This is not to contend that there aren’t a few rather bad actors among the licensed, such as the infamous case of the Las Vegas gun dealer who had prior convictions for domestic abuse and who was operating one of the nation’s largest sources for “Saturday Night Specials” back in 1999.  However, it’s logical to assume that most, if not nearly all, of our gun dealers are functioning within the law, and with acceptable record keeping and background check procedures.   So, if it isn’t an infringement on 2nd Amendment rights to have our federally licensed firearms dealers conduct background checks on prospective buyers, then why would it be an “infringement” for sellers on the Internet or at gun shows?

That said, we have Senator Heller on record saying: “I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”  The usual commentary accompanying this kind of statement is that background checks will only serve to make it more difficult for “law abiding” citizens to secure firearms.  There’s a problem with that statement:  Law abiding citizens can easily go  to one of their licensed gun dealers, pass the background check, and procure a firearm.  So, who would be inconvenienced by a background check?  Perhaps those who don’t think they’d pass one.

Among that less than commendable group of not-so-law-abiding citizens would be (1) felons (2) fugitives (3) minor children (4) the seriously mentally ill, and (5) undocumented aliens.

As of 2010 31,076 Americans died by guns in homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings. [LCPGV]  2011 statistics show Nevada with 75 murders 58% of them by firearms, about 70 robberies committed by a felon using a firearm, and 53.3 assaults with firearms against individuals. [Guardian]  If nothing else, these numbers should be analyzed as not only policing statistics, but as public health problems as well.

“You should live so long” — deaths by firearm injury nationally are a younger person’s issue.  The CDC reports for injury related deaths (pdf) indicate that in the age group 15-24 gun violence injuries were the second leading cause of death, among those in the nation between the ages of 25 and 34 gun violence injuries were the third leading cause of death.  Thereafter, suicide by firearm moves up the rankings.  For those 35 to 64 suicide by firearms is the third leading cause of injury related deaths.

The health care costs related to gun violence are hard to discern, but they are worth consideration.  One study from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (Miller) found that the average cost of medical care for a gun shot fatality was about $28,700.  When the study combined care for both fatalities and non-fatal firearm injuries the price tag was approximately $3.2 billion for 105,177 deaths and injuries in 2010.  [DFP] [USAT]

The Kaiser Foundation reports that as of 2009 Nevada’s death rate by firearms was 15.5/100K, as compared to a national rating of 10.1/100K.  The death rate for male Nevadans was 26.3/100K compared to a national rate of 17.8/100K.   Death by suicide (source not referenced) was 19.1/100K in 2009 compared to a national rate of 11.8/100K.  [Kaiser]  Nevada’s office of Suicide Prevention reports that as of the end of 2011 firearms were used in 58% of suicides in this state. [OSP pdf]  If we assume that the cost of medical services are somewhere close to the estimated $28,700 average for a fatal injury by firearm, then we’re running up some bills in Nevada for health care which aren’t doing anything positive toward health care cost containment.

These numbers raise questions about Senator Heller’s rationale.  IF the State of Nevada is experiencing a higher than national average of deaths by firearms, especially for men killed by firearm injuries, and if the State is looking at suicide rates (58% of which are by firearms) above the national average, then WHY would we not want to restrict gun sales to those who are willing to go to one of our reputable licensed dealers and undergo the required background check?

At some point we have to ask, why is a mere inconvenience more alarming to Senator Heller than our above average gun injury fatality rates, our above average suicide rate?  While we can estimate the monetary costs of treating gun injuries, we would be more hard pressed to specify the human toll in lost wages, productivity, health care costs, legal costs…and funeral costs involved in firearm fatalities in this State.

Why is it more important to protect the convenience of potential gun purchasers, who may have some very questionable reasons for avoiding a background check by a licensed dealer,  than it is to protect this State from its dismal rankings in terms of gun fatalities?

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One response to “Heller’s Choice

  1. I’ve also wondered why small sporting goods dealers and retailers aren’t more critical of gun show and Internet sellers who don’t have to run background checks

    I wonder this too. You would think they’d be screaming bloody murder at the unequal treatment afforded them.