Guns do kill people, despite gun advocates' rhetoric

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It's time that gun advocates stop hiding behind the simple-minded mantra that "guns don't kill; people do." On Dec. 14, there were two horrendous and senseless attacks on children in their schools. We all have heard of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman shot and killed 20 grade-school children. In China, an equally senseless attack on schoolchildren had an unequal outcome, because the attacker didn't have a gun. So instead of 20 dead children, China had 22 children with knife wounds. Horrendous, yes, but better than dead.

Recently there was a memorial for John Lennon in New York City, where he was stalked and killed in 1980 by a gun-wielding "fan." Fewer people recall that another Beatle, George Harrison, was also attacked by a stalker who intended to kill him. But Harrison was attacked in England, where guns are not so easily available as here; his stalker was armed only with a knife. Whereas John Lennon died almost instantaneously from his gunshot wounds, George Harrison survived a 15-minute knife attack.

It's hard to understand why some individuals behave so erratically as to attack innocent strangers. But whatever the cause, those innocents are far less likely to die at the hands of their attackers in China or England -- or virtually anywhere else in the world where the availability of guns is rigorously controlled -- than in the United States.

BERNARD D. GOLDSTEIN, M.D.
RUSSELLYN S. CARRUTH, J.D.
Oakland

Dr. Goldstein is professor and dean emeritus and Ms. Carruth is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.


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