News of gun deaths, so very common, don’t make the front pages. “Md. Woman’s Slaying Called ‘Senseless and Tragic” and “D.C. Teen’s Shooting Death Is Probed” both appeared under the fold below a picture of a brilliant red fall leaf on a stone (“A hint of bold fall color…”) on page B1 of the Washington Post’s Metro Section (10/02/14). The next day, 10/03, again in the Metro Section of the Post, pages B1 and B4 respectively, article leads involving guns again appeared: “Insanity plea prevails in shooting of police officer,” and “Murder charged in Bowie dad’s killing.”
We have, it seems, accepted this toxic stream of news about gun deaths, relegating such news to articles on weather, city council races and music outside the Washington National’s ball park. The obscenely high number of deaths is treated across the country not really as news, but as, well, normal – nothing to exclaim about. Gun deaths expected and accepted; harm by tainted spinach not . Recall how quickly spinach was removed from grocery store shelves when reports of sickness surfaced.
California, on the other hand, doesn’t view death by guns as an integral part of America’s culture. Rather, from a public health perspective, they view such deaths as a lethal toxin in the civic bloodstream that can and should be confronted and dealt with . On October 1 the New York Times (10/01/14, p. A 13) reported that “California will be the first state in the country to allow private citizens to ask a court to seize guns from family members who they believe pose a threat to themselves or the public, under a measure signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday” (Sept. 30). Under the law, officials are authorized to temporarily seize “any firearm owned by someone deemed potentially violent and would be placed on a list of people prohibited from purchasing weapons.” A few states such as Minnesota and Connecticut have somewhat similar laws, laws that allow enforcement officials to confiscate weapons from those considered dangerous. These laws permit police to confiscate guns in certain domestic violence situations. California’s law, however, goes further: it is the “first to allow family members to do so [petition] as well – a provision that gun control advocates said would be crucial in preventing suicides as well as mass shootings.”
This law, which takes effect in 2016, is based on the petition process similar to those used to obtain restraining orders in cases of domestic violence.
The state of California has taken a large step, a landmark step. Lives will be saved, and any number of children who might have witnessed gun violence will be spared crippling trauma, trauma that often leads to fear and violence later in life.