On Reducing Gun Violence - And Response (2)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

I am a registered nurse, retired, who has worked in public health in Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee. I have also worked in a level 1 trauma center in Knoxville and have seen some of the devastation caused by gun violence and its effects upon the victim's families. I chose nursing as a profession when I was 18 years of age because I wanted to help people. I worked in the profession of nursing for 40+ years. When it comes to public health, I believe in preventive measures being instituted.

I became concerned after the incident at Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were gunned down, 20 of whom were small children. I decided to write about this because I believe that this incident was avoidable. While It is true that comprehensive background checks would not have made much difference in this outcome, it is also true that better access to mental health services would possibly have made a big difference.

It is time for responsible citizens to stand up to the gun lobby and demand that our elected officials vote to pass comprehensive background checks and better access to mental health services.

Gun violence is not just an urban problem--It is our problem. It is a suburban, small town and rural problem. We have been told by representatives of the gun industry that the best way to combat gun violence is a "good guy with a gun". In my opinion, this is a distraction that prevents us from examining a "failing system".

I do no see how my second amendment rights would be violated if we, as a society, decide to have "comprehensive background checks and better access to mental health services"

Carolyn J. Ingram 

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Carolyn, I agree with everything in your well-written letter. You are not from around here are you?  At any rate, I certainly have to admire you for not preaching to the choir, as it were. Sadly, most replies will be swift, angry and predictable.  Thanks for making the effort, though. 

Herb Montgomery
Chattanooga 

* * * 

Gun violence has very little to do with the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Legal gun owners protect their rights by not using them in a violent way. I know that if I use my legal firearm to shoot someone in the leg because they belong to a rival gang, I will lose my rights. 

It is easy to see the criminal records of violent offenders in Hamilton County. Go to the Hamilton County website, click on court records, go to sessions court criminal, click on dispositions. Enter the name of the most recent shooter.  Most of the time you will pull up a criminal history that dates back several years. Enter that same name in the criminal dispositions and you will see the actual penalty for the crimes.

If you will spend the time to see for yourself what happens to criminals in Hamilton County, I think you will better understand that background checks mean nothing to criminals.  None of the violent shooters have ever had a background check and they never will.  They know that street violence can't be prosecuted in Hamilton County because the overall burden of crime dictates that 99 out of 100 crimes will not come to trial.  A dozen crimes will be combined over a period of time that it takes to wind through the sessions court, then grand jury and finally to criminal court. Plea bargains will result in 11 charges being dropped in exchange for a six-month suspended sentence. The criminal starts over with a single conviction and no jail time. This is the reason so many violent offenders are right back in business after bonding out. 

We have laws to stop gun violence. We don't have the support of the taxpayer to build the jails or hire the judges and prosecutors to put away the violent offenders. The grand jury is antiquated and adds a year to criminal prosecutions.  It is sad that criminals know more about how the system works than the average citizen. They know they won't go to jail. If we send a violent offender to Nashville, a violent offender has to be released early to make room.

So don't confuse the rights of legal gun owners with the failure of the criminal justice system. We already know the violent offenders, they have created a background that prevents them from owning guns legally and as long as they have no fear of justice, the violence will continue. 

Harry Presley
Chattanooga


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