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GOP Senator Identifies Gun Violence As Major Factor In Health Care Crisis

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I want to thank Senator John Ensign of Nevada for speaking out about the importance of reducing gun violence as a means of addressing America's skyrocketing health care costs:

If you take out accidental deaths due to car accidents, and you take out gun deaths -- because we like our guns in the United States and there are a lot more gun-deaths in the United States [than Europe] -- you take out those two things, you adjust those, and we're actually better in terms of survival rates.

Sen. Ensign is right, "there are a lot more gun deaths in the United States" than in Europe. America suffers about 30,000 gun deaths every year, including more than 10,000 gun homicides and another 17,000 gun suicides.

By comparison, Germany sees less than 200 gun homicides each year, while England and Wales have less than 200 total gun deaths in an average year, including about 60 gun homicides. That puts America's gun homicide rate about 13 times higher than Germany's, and almost 31 times higher than England and Wales'.

What is Europe doing that we in America aren't? Sen. Ensign put his finger on it: Europeans have reduced the costs of gun violence by working to prevent it in the first place. If we in America take meaningful action to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, then in Sen. Ensign's words, we can "adjust" downward the obscene number of gun deaths in our country. We can save lives and reduce the costs that plague our health care system at the same time.

While he probably didn't mean to do it, full credit goes to Sen. Ensign for bringing this issue to the fore. Now, what can he and his colleagues in the Senate do to help?

First, they could make it harder for felons, wife-beaters and the dangerously mentally ill to hurt our communities by co-sponsoring Sen. Lautenberg's bill that requires criminal background checks for all gun sales at gun shows. Countless firearms are bought and sold at these shows from "private sellers" with no questions asked, making it easier for criminals and gun traffickers to get their guns.

Sen. Ensign and his colleagues could also speak in favor of legislation to limit the sale of handguns in bulk that enable illegal gun traffickers to sell firearms to criminals on the street.

Finally, they could support legislation to strengthen Federal law enforcement and crack down on the 1.2% of irresponsible or corrupt licensed gun dealers whose businesses account for almost 60% of crime guns traced to crime scenes in America.

This week, Sen. Ensign may have accidentally shined a light on what we at the Brady Campaign have known for decades: Gun violence not only takes about 30,000 American lives every year, it also puts a heavy burden on our economy and our health care system, particularly when you add in the other 70,000 non-fatal gun injuries each year.

Now is the time for us to do something about it.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on bradycampaign.org/blog.)

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