Gun Violence Prevention

PSR/Sacramento is saddened and outraged by the regular occurrence of mass shootings in our country, as well as the daily carnage of gun violence which now claims over 120 lives a day and over 45,000 lives a year in the United States. We agree with the statement made by Senator Thomas Dodd almost 50 years ago, following the assassinations of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968:

Pious condolences will no longer suffice….Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice….The time has now come that we must enact stringent gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country in the world.

In 2016, in order to expand the gun violence prevention work that PSR/Sacramento was doing locally to a national level, PSR past president Dr. Bill Durston and colleagues founded Americans Against Gun Violence. PSR/Sacramento endorses the following mission statement of Americans Against Gun Violence:

Firearm related deaths and injuries are a serious public health problem in the United States of America, and the rate of gun related deaths in our country is currently at least ten times higher than the average rate for the other high income democratic countries of the world. It is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence that we have not only the ability, but also the moral responsibility, to reduce rates of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country to levels that are at or below the rates in other economically advanced democratic countries.

Like other gun violence prevention organizations, we support common sense firearm regulations. We believe, however, that common sense dictates that in order to reduce rates of gun violence in the United States to levels comparable to other high income democratic countries, we must adopt comparably stringent gun control laws – laws that go far beyond the limited measures currently being advocated by other U.S. gun violence prevention organizations. Specifically, we believe that we should follow the examples of Australia and the United Kingdom, both of which reacted swiftly and definitively following mass shootings in their countries over two decades ago, by banning civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles, as in the case of Australia, and by banning civilian ownership of all handguns, as in the case of the United Kingdom. We also believe that we should follow the example of every other high income democratic country in requiring registration of all firearms and licensing of all firearm owners. Finally, we believe that in the United States, as in all other economically advanced democratic countries, the burden of proof  should be on any person seeking to acquire a gun to show convincing evidence that he or she needs one and can handle one safely, not on society to show evidence that he or she should not have a gun. And given the large body of evidence showing that there is no net protective value from owning or carrying a gun, “self defense” should not be automatically accepted as a reason for owning a gun in the United States, just as it is not accepted in most other high income democratic countries.

In the United States, like in other economically advanced democratic countries, stringent gun control laws need not prevent legitimate hunters and target shooters from pursuing their sports. As in those other countries, though, stringent regulation of civilian firearm ownership should be accompanied by stringent regulation of the use of lethal force by law enforcement officers.

The Second Amendment, as it was interpreted repeatedly by the Supreme Court and almost every lower court for the first 217 years of our nation’s history, is no obstacle to the adoption of the stringent gun control laws advocated by Americans Against Gun Violence. The 2008 Heller decision, however, in which a narrow 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the District of Columbia’s partial ban on handgun ownership violated the Second Amendment, is a significant obstacle. In the Heller decision, five justices endorsed an interpretation of the Second Amendment that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger had called “…one of the biggest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word, ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” It is the position of Americans Against Gun Violence that the Heller case was wrongly decided. In the short term, Heller should be overturned. In the long term, Americans Against Gun Violence advocates the adoption of a new constitutional amendment that clarifies the Second Amendment in a manner consistent with the following statement in the majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s 1980 Lewis decision:

“The Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have ‘some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.'”

We are confident that one day, the United States will adopt stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in every other high income democratic country of the world. The only question is how many more innocent Americans will be killed and injured by guns before that day arrives. It is our mission to make that day come sooner rather than later.

For current activities of Americans Against Violence and for facts and frequently asked questions concerning the ongoing epidemic of gun violence that afflicts our state and our country, please visit theAmericans Against Gun Violence website.

Check out the links below for more information regarding PSR/Sacramento’s work in the area of gun violence prevention, including PSR/Sacramento’s Gun Violence Prevention Position Statement and related White Paper; press releases; articles; letters; interviews; essays; and special presentations.

Below are links to gun violence prevention related articles and activities that PSR/Sacramento was involved in prior to and during the transition to Americans Against Gun Violence.

We would like to thank everyone who helped make the PSR/Sacramento Annual Dinner on Sunday, October 25, 2015 a huge success! More than 350 supporters attended the event, which featured keynote speaker Rebecca Peters. Ms. Peters was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal

in 1996 for her part in achieving a complete ban on assault weapons in Australia within 13 days of the Port Arthur Massacre. Ms. Peters went on to found the International Action Network on Small Arms, and she is currently working with survivors of gun violence in Guatemala. She spoke at the annual dinner on the topic, “Preventing Gun Violence – An International Perspective.” Ms. Peters described how she and her Australian colleagues were able to enact definitive gun control measures in Australia. Following the assault weapons ban, over a million firearms were removed from circulation; overall rates of firearm related deaths and injuries, already much lower than in the United States, declined even further; and mass shootings have been virtually eliminated. Ms. Peters challenged Americans to take similar action to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our own country. Click on this link to view Ms. Peters’ keynote address. Ms. Peters was also interviewed the following day on Capital Public Radio by Insight host Beth Ruyak. Click on this link to hear the interview.

As noted above, PSR/Sacramento is deeply saddened by the recurrent mass shootings in our country. But in addition to being saddened, we are outraged by our government’s lack of definitive action to stop these shootings, and we are committed to working ourselves to help end the shameful epidemic of firearm related deaths and injuries in our country. Please read below to learn more about PSR/Sacramento’s work in the area of gun violence prevention, and contact us if you’d like to join in this effort.

The regular occurrence of mass shootings is unique to the United States among the other high income democratic countries of the world. As horrific as these mass shootings are, though, they are the tip of a much larger epidemic. Every year, approximately 30,000 U.S. civilians, including about 3,000 Californians, are killed by guns. The rate of firearm-related deaths for children ages 15 and under is almost 12 times higher in the U.S. than the rate in the other leading 25 industrialized countries of the world. Handguns, in particular, account for about 80% of all firearm-related deaths, but only a third to one half of all firearms owned.

While many people keep guns in their home for “protection,” there is overwhelming evidence that guns in the home are much more likely to be used to kill, injure, or intimidate a household member than to protect against an intruder. In one of the best known studies on this subject published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was shown that for every one time a gun in the home was used to kill an attacker, there were 43 gun-related suicides, homicides, or accidental deaths of household members.

The Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility believes that rates of firearm-related deaths and injuries in the United States are at unacceptably high levels and that health care professionals have a duty not only to treat gunshot victims but to work to prevent shootings from occurring in the first place. Accordingly, PSR/Sacramento works to educate health care professionals, policy makers, and the general public concerning the risks of guns in our homes and in our communities and to support sensible firearm legislation. For further information, please read the full PSR/Sacramento position statement concerning firearm related death and injuries in the United States, including a call for a ban on civilian ownership of handguns and reversal of the radical reinterpretation of the Second Amendment by a narrow five member majority of the current Supreme Court in the 2008 Heller decision. For more detailed information, please also read the fully referenced PSR/Sacramento white paper concerning firearm related deaths and injuries in the United States.

Following the December 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, PSR/Sacramento chose as the prompt for its annual High School Scholarship Essay Contest the position statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published in April, 2000, which stated, “Firearm regulations, to include bans of handguns and assault weapons, are the most effective way to reduce firearm-related injuries.” Click on this link to read the essays of the 10 winners of the 2013 scholarship essay contest.