Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ebola and Gun Violence

The media has been inundated with news, and fears, about Ebola for many weeks now.
That disease is certainly a frightful one, and every effort should be made to keep it from spreading. Unfortunately, it is still spreading in West Africa, and additional efforts are badly needed to quell that dreaded disease there.
In the U.S., the fear of Ebola spreading has been great—and greatly politicized.
In spite of the fact that no U.S. citizen has died from Ebola, some have charged that the White House has been incompetent in dealing with this serious matter and needs to be censured because of the failure to keep American citizens safe.
It certainly was a grave concern when the two nurses who had treated the Liberian man with Ebola in Dallas last month came down with the disease, though both nurses have recovered.
Others have been quarantined and treated for Ebola, but, to this point, it has not spread, and with vigilance it won’t. But widespread fear lingers, and that fear has done more harm in our country than Ebola to this point.
In contrast to all the concern about Ebola, there generally seems to be little concern for those who are killed day after day with guns, which are still largely unregulated.

For example, on October 26 there were two shooting deaths in Kansas City. A ten-year-old girl was shot to death while standing in front of her house. Earlier that day a 39-year-old man was shot and killed in the Westport area.
If anyone, anywhere in the country had died of Ebola, it would have been national news and people would be in an uproar. But two shooting deaths in one city on one day are just local news items—and so common that except for the grieving families few pay much attention to those stories.
In recent years, there have been more than 11,000 firearm homicides a year in the U.S.—more than 30 a day all year long. In addition, more than 600 people a year, almost two each day, are accidentally shot and killed.
Despite these staggering numbers, there is not much talk now about gun control.
The U.S. Surgeon General should be at the head of the efforts to deal with the threat of Ebola. But the U.S. doesn’t have a Surgeon General at this time.
Almost a year ago, Dr. Vivek Murthy was nominated to become the nation’s Surgeon General, but he has still not been confirmed.
Why? Mainly because the National Rifle Association has expressed strong opposition to the President’s nominee.
The failure of the Senate to approve that nomination to this point seems to be directly related to the fact that Murthy several times in 2012 and 2013 tweeted that he believes in more gun control and that he considers that to be a healthcare issue.
Because of their opposition, the NRA, which scores policymakers’ records on gun rights, has stated that it would lower their grade on senators who voted for Murthy, causing some seeking re-election to lose needed votes.
This indicates that the gun lobby is still senselessly strong.
How can so many Americans have such high concern about the threat of a disease that has been held under control in this country and yet have such a low concern about more control of guns that continue to take so many lives all across the country?
Lord, give us more wisdom.


  1. The "animal spirits" are famous on Wall Street, but they are big on Main Street, too. Those of us who frequent this blog tend to be more cerebral, trying make logical analysis take us from problem to solution. Followers of the animal spirits tend to be more experimental and intuitive. Many voters are in that camp, and that makes politicians behave that way, too.

    So guns and ebola are emotional subjects for many, without a scientific thought in sight. Politicians seize on that and feed the fire as long as it will burn. While that works, politicians think they have a mandate. Then they are shocked when the animal spirits turn and run in a new direction. Meanwhile, scientists get a better personal relationship with that famous biblical verse, "Jesus wept."

    As the popular quote goes (probably not by Churchill, but perhaps by Abba Eban), "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else." The American people have decided to try something different. People who care about scientific approaches to dangerous subjects like ebola and guns should try something different, too. For a place to start, let me recommend meditating on this list of quotations about truth, at this link:

  2. Craig, thanks for your significant comments -- and for the link to quotes about truth.

    Unfortunately, I am afraid the statement by Sophocles is true:

    "What people believe prevails over the truth."


  3. Well said, Leroy! Well said, Craig!

  4. Comments from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky:

    "Your blog should make all of us stop and think about what is happening to our nation, Leroy. Our obsession with possession and use of guns is surely a plague."

  5. Criminal gun violence needs to be punished very harshly.
    Gun accidents should be treated like automobile accidents. Those with guns should be required to carry accident liability insurance.
    (I remember one kid coming into the hospital after shooting himself in the foot with a 22. He was 14 and legally hunting raccoons. By Missouri law, the Highway Patrol was required to investigate it as an attempted suicide.)
    I regret that my children have not completed the Missouri Hunter Safety program. That is on my “must do” list for them. Both enjoy shooting sports, but like all dangerous sports, such as climbing, flying, scuba, there needs to be mandatory certification and renewal process – Hunter Safety is a good start.

    Ebola is an entirely different topic which does need to be addressed better. There are variations to this disease – it mutates easily, like the flu, and has mutated into an airborne variety in the past. If Ebola mutates to airborne again, isolating the disease could be difficult. Ebola is not isolated to 3 countries in west Africa – only the current outbreak is. It is indigenous to several other countries as well, including Congo, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, and probably a handful of others. I have personally known people who were directly exposed in Kenya and Sudan, and are grateful that they didn’t contract the disease (lots of prayers probably). Given the actual locations of outbreaks, it is probably only a matter of time until Ebola affects Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, and Rwanda (the cases in Tanzania and Rwanda probably crossed from Uganda). Until this latest outbreak, the CDC only handled the virus in level 4 containment areas (2 in the country). There is no vaccine for Ebola, so it needs to be treated very judiciously. I still have memories of Measles, Polio, and Smallpox outbreaks where we lived - not just in the news. They were treated very seriously, frequently with quarantine. There is too much politics involved with this disease - especially libertarian politics.