A Letter to the Editors

Against the Current, No. 162, January/February 2013

Clifford J. Straehley, M.D.

The following letter was submitted to Against the Current by Dr. Clifford J. Straehley, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the University of Hawaii and retired Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery at Stanford Medical School. He lives in Walnut Creek, California. Since this letter was written, in the wake of the Colorado theater shooting, new massacres of course have occurred including the latest horror at Newtown, Connecticut, giving the issue ever greater urgency — The editors.

ON APRIL 20, 1999 a shooting massacre occurred at Columbine School in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. This horrible event moved me to write a position paper on gun control. I sent this message to all local newspapers and a selection of national magazines, none of which chose to print it. Now, in view of the present horror that occurred at the Century Theater in Aurora, I shall try once again to get my reasonable message published:

Gun control in the USA has been successfully thwarted by the National Rifle Association and its prominent president [in 1999], Charlton Heston. This opposition has always been based upon the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I ask, why are meaningful constraints upon gun ownership so vigorously opposed by the NRA? What conceivable purpose do multiple rapid-fire arms have except as weapons in warfare? Why is licensing of weapons construed as an unconstitutional restraint upon personal liberty?

We do not object to the licensing of the drivers of automobiles, or so many other areas where license is necessary to conduct business. It seems to me that the following constraints upon gun ownership and use are reasonable.

All gun shops and purveyors should be licensed to conduct their businesses.

Gun sales should be registered and the owners identified.

To own a firearm, the prospective owner must first take a gun safety course.

Weapons designed specifically for warfare should be forbidden to private owners.

Failure to comply with these regulations should be considered a felony.

The NRA of course opposes all such reasonable laws. They say if guns were regulated in any way or even outlawed, then mayhem would still occur using weapons such as knives and swords.

They do not mention the well-established medical fact that stab wounds, even to the heart, are far less lethal than bullet wounds. The NRA does not mention, of course, that the U.S. death rate from firearms far exceeds that in our next door neighbor Canada — as well as in every other advanced nation on the planet.

January/February 2013, ATC 162