Steve Lewis: Important discussion


We have a lively local discussion around gun violence. I appreciate that Sheriff Wiggins is engaged with this topic. He could have quietly ignored Colorado’s new laws, but chose instead to openly share his convictions and policies. We achieve a better end result with that honest approach.

I personally support Colorado’s new legislation in this regard, but I would also like to hear more ideas from those who oppose these laws. It seems their current emphasis is legislation designed to keep guns away from the mentally ill. This approach has very limited prospects for reducing gun violence. The following information would be useful in this and other regards:

  1. Severe mental health is a factor in only 5 percent of violent crimes.

“Over a 13-year period, there were 45 violent crimes committed per 1,000 inhabitants. Of these, 2.4 were attributable to patients with severe mental illness.” “Overall, the (impact of patients with severe mental illness) was 5 percent, suggesting that patients with severe mental illness commit one in 20 violent crimes.”

  1. Gun laws are correlated with reductions in gun fatalities.

“States that have the most laws have a 42 percent decreased rate of firearm fatalities compared to those with the least laws. … Those states with the most gun laws saw a 40 percent reduction in firearm-related homicides and a 37 percent reduction in firearm-related suicides.”

  1. Higher rates of gun ownership correlate with higher rates of gun violence.

“For all age groups, people living in high-gun states were 2.9 times more likely to die in a homicide; they were 4.2 times more likely to die in a gun-related homicide and 1.6 times more likely to die in a non–gun-related homicide.”

“Conclusions. Although our study cannot determine causation, we found that in areas where household firearm ownership rates were higher, a disproportionately large number of people died from homicide.”

  1. The U.S. has far higher firearm homicide rates than other developed countries.

“For 15-year-olds to 24-year-olds, firearm homicide rates in the United States were 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.” “For U.S. males, firearm homicide rates were 22 times higher, and for U.S. females, firearm homicide rates were 11.4 times higher.” “The U.S. unintentional firearm deaths were 5.2 times higher than in the other countries.”

“Among these 23 countries, 80 percent of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States, 86 percent of women killed by firearms were U.S. women, and 87 pecent of all children aged 0 to 14 killed by firearms were U.S. children.”

This last finding underscores that our country has a painful and significant problem with gun violence. I appreciate that our community is having this conversation. The topic is important.

Steve Lewis

Steamboat Springs


Howard Bashinski 4 years ago

Hi Steve,

Thanx for the well-considered and well-written comments.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that the facts are not currently or ever going to be the essence of this debate. Even "facts" are disputable!

This has become an emotional issue. One "side" yells at the other, and the other "side" yells back. It reminds me of a squabble between young children!

This is very complex, and involves much more than gun laws. There is a relatively small group, represented by those such as Tom (above), for whom this is an issue that involves a larger "conspiracy" to control our society. There are those who find justification for their position in religious beliefs. This debate is a reflection of how disjointed and selfish our society has become. We find it difficult to consider the whole, emphasizing individual desires and needs instead.

We have always been an "individualistic" society. The people who first came to the New World left Europe partly because of restrictions on their freedoms as individuals. Today, we probably represent the MOST individualistic society on Earth! Individual freedoms, however, often come at the "expense" of the society as a whole. Contrast our approach with societies like Japan, or even Scandinavia, where accomplishments that benefit the "whole" are valued more highly than those benefiting the individual.

This is especially true in the West, which was settled by people who found even the "new order" of American freedom too "confining." It is no accident that passions for individual rights are high in our region.

I think the facts are very important, but I don't think they ultimately will be persuasive.



Scott Wedel 4 years ago


Except I don't see those presenting facts to refute Steve's facts. I see a response that rejects Steve's facts based upon the principle that he doesn't like those facts.

Personally, I think the pro-gun people could accept the facts as presented by Steve and still argue that they want to own guns. There is no requirement that people have to agree to a safer society. We have any number of adventure athletes that undertake risky activities and some have died. It is entirely plausible that society could accept that guns are fun and the enjoyment outweighs the dangers and bad consequences.

But when people argue that guns in the home make them safer because of an incident somewhere, then that is just one account. For situations when there are many people and a variety of outcomes then the science based method is to use statistics and compare the frequency of the various outcomes. It is clear that far more family members die from a gun in their home than intruders are warded off. So, it is a false argument to suggest that owning a gun is generally protective of those in the house.


David Ihde 4 years ago

The facts are irrelevant. The constitution does not allow for gun control. If you want that to be different to reflect the current times, then pass a constitutional amendment!


jerry carlton 4 years ago

Maybe only 5% of gun violence is by whackos but those are the ones that put everybody into hysteria. Columbine, Aurora, Newtown Conn., the Texas Tower shootings,more than I can remember. Yet Obama and Rahm Emanuel continue to ignore 600 plus murders every year in Chicago. In one year that is probably more than all the mass shootings in the last 50 years yet no one seems to care or do anything about that.


mark hartless 4 years ago

That's because the "Bloods and Crypts" (or whomever the are) in Chicago do not threaten the gubbamint.

In fact, when the time comes, those "Brothas" will do some of the "dirty-work" for the gubbamint. Dis-arm enough "whiteys" while the system finally implodes on itself; blame it on "whitey" and send the "Brothas" uptown to take back what "whitey" been holdin' back... and by then "whitey ain't got no guns but the "brothas" do, cause NOBODY in the gubbamint has ANY intention of dis-arming their "enforcers"... which is EXACTLY what the "brothas" are gonna be.


jerry carlton 4 years ago

Mark An interesting take on my question. I would still like to hear some liberal explanations of Barack and Rahm's lack of action.


Scott Wedel 4 years ago

Not sure where you get the idea that Chicago Mayor Rahm is not taking actions on their murder rate. It appears to be a high priority where they are focusing money and police resources. They have installed surveillance cameras and gunshot detection and locator devices in high crime areas. Gangs with guns are tough to stop from killing each other since witnesses tend not to talk and the gangbangers that know whom did it are planning revenge.

Chicago has had a very serious problem with murder for many years, but even the current rate is less than it was from the 60s through 2003 and about the 10 year average.

BTW, number of murders in Chicago for 2012 was 506, not "600 plus".

Chicago's attempt to basically ban handguns so they could arrest gang members with guns that was found unconstitutional, was not an attempt to deal with violence, but an attempt to disarm "whitey"?? Well, I suppose that stupidity of that theory speaks for itself.


Robert Dippold 4 years ago


I thought it was an excellent, well thought out, factually supported, unemotional piece. In my opinion it was one of the best I have seen.

I own guns. I am not anti-gun. On the other hand I am pro-people. Facts like the ones you present and discussions like the kind you can stimulate with these facts are what generates discussions with lawmakers that make amendments.

I applaud your efforts and a few of the rational comments that have been made.



cindy constantine 4 years ago

Sheriff Wiggins made some outstanding points at Monday's meeting. First, that violence in this country (not just gun violence) is a problem with many and varied reasons. So if a pie-chart is created misuse of guns is just one piece. Secondly, how do you legislate against crazy, evil and just plain stupid! Of all the reasons for violence, guns have been the most regulated--once again, why aren't the courts strictly enforcing the 20,000 laws already on the books regarding gun related crimes. Background checks at gun shows I would support--it is a place of commerce just like retail stores. Other reasons talked about for violence include--lax parenting, violent video games/movies, etc, mental illness with violent tendencies, bad economy resorting to more crime, just for a start. Will mental health professionals participate when they have concerns about a patient? Will relatives report a "troubled" young person in the home? Will the entertainment industry review their "right" of free speech and artistic freedoms? It is time the public look at the bigger picture for answers--not just at guns.


Scott Wedel 4 years ago


Everything presented is a false argument. It suggests that until we can solve everything that we cannot do anything

The expected means that private gun sales have background checks is enforced is not by stationing an officer with every gun owning citizen to supervise any potential sale. The law is expected to be enforced upon discovering that someone not allowed to own a gun has recently purchased a gun. It is also expected that most gun sellers are responsible people that do not want to sell a gun to someone not allowed to own a gun and would willingly follow the law.

Sure, people and society is imperfect, but does that mean we want people not allowed to purchase firearms to be able to acquire firearms in private party sales?

The no purchase list may be imperfect, but the whole point of having the list is undermined by allowing people to bypass having the list checked. It makes sense to first apply the list to all gun sales and then expect an ongoing effort to improve the list.

I have not heard anyone suggest that background checks is the step that will end violence. Background checks are just relatively easy and there is no good reason to allow people already determined to be trouble and not allowed to own guns to purchase guns via private party sales.

The pro gun lobby has generally resisted allowing police or family members from putting someone on the no purchase list and instead insisted upon there being a conviction or other judicial finding. It is sort of silly to argue that the no purchase list shouldn't include people with bench warrants or have failed to comply with court ordered child support payments, but should include those reported by parents or police.

Other steps such as addressing mental health gets expensive quickly. People with mental health issues have troubles holding jobs and so are more likely to be poor. So doing something significant about mental health is going to require major spending commitments by government. Likewise, it is hard to fix bad parents. Programs that have an impact create replacement figures to fill the gaps not being provided by bad parents. Those are counselors at school and other expensive solutions.


cindy constantine 4 years ago

You seem to be suggesting that we only look at the gun laws now. Interesting that you did not comment about our judicial system which is lax in enforcing the existing 20,000 laws already on the books. More gun laws is NOT the solution, Scott!! If the new CO background check law was written in such a way to cover the FFL cost AND protect the FFL license holder against liability I am sure you would find cooperation among the FFL's in this state!!! Such is the problem with lawmakers rushing through feel-good legislation without consideration of the "experts"--like law enforsement officers-- opinions. Did you not attend Mon nights session with Sheriff Wiggins????????????


Scott Wedel 4 years ago


Did not attend Wiggins meeting. So what was Wiggins' proposed comprehensive solutions for the mentally ill, bad parents, violent entertainment, lack enforcement of 20,000 existing laws and so on? Sounds more like a list of excuses to justify doing nothing until the end of time.

We will see what happens with the FFLs when Walmart or Sports Authority says whether they will provide them for private party sales. Legislature responded to gun rights people that said original bill allowed FFLs to charge whatever and how that was a big problem. I'd guessing Legislature picked $10 believing there were FFLs willing to do it for less than that.

My post most certainly did not say that these gun control laws are the one magic bullet to solve everything. They are just a relatively easy step that can be taken now and other more difficult steps can be taken later.

So you oppose closing the private party gun sales loophole until the justice system strictly enforce the 20,000 laws currently on the books? So, in other words, no more laws for anything regardless because no justice system strictly enforces every law?

No one is saying these gun laws are the only thing to ever do, but not allowing felons and the mentally ill from buying guns is so obvious that it doesn't need to wait for revamping the legal system, wait for the end of violent entertainment, wait for comprehensive mental health care, wait for new and additional systems to help troubled kids and so on.

Just because we cannot make a perfect world in a few months does not mean we cannot fix mistakes such as stopping felons and known mentally ill from avoiding background checks required for retail purchase by acquiring guns in private party sales.


john bailey 4 years ago

sounds like the peanuts teacher. and the droning goes on, blog vomit much? hey, lets ban knives too.........wash your hair yet?


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