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Father of Abigail Kopf says gun violence is epidemic

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Abbie's parents, Vickie and Gene Kopf and Abbie

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — The father of a 14-year-old girl shot in the head during a deadly rampage in southwestern Michigan says the U.S. must realize it has a gun violence epidemic.

The remarks from Gene Kopf came at a Thursday rally at Bronson Park in Kalamazoo that was part of the Wear Orange campaign. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports he says of the gun violence problem “the only way to solve it is to recognize it.”

Abigail Kopf is recovering following the Feb. 20 rampage that killed six and injured another woman. Uber driver Jason Dalton is charged with murder and attempted murder in the apparently random attacks. A pre-trial conference is Monday in his case.

Wear Orange events took place in Detroit, Grand Rapids and elsewhere for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

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  • Michael C.

    The man does not understand the meaning of the word “epidemic”. If he does understand the meaning of the word, he is using it inappropriately. While it is true that some cities are experiencing localized increases in violence generally, that does not translate into an “epidemic”. Even if it did, reducing the claim specifically to gun violence makes the use of the word epidemic completely inappropriate.

    Definition of epidemic:
    1. affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time
    2. a : excessively prevalent
    b : contagious
    3. characterized by very widespread growth or extent : of, relating to, or constituting an epidemic

    Gun violence does not meet the criteria for #1 because it is not disproportionate nor is it occurring at the same time.
    It does not meet the criteria for #2 because it is not *excessively* prevalent throughout any one community or population at a given time, nor is it contagious.
    And it does not meet the criteria for #3 because its growth is not widespread. It seems to be centralized to larger cities, localized primarily (though not entirely) to low income sections of those cities, and committed either by criminals in the act of committing other felonies, or by the mentally ill.

    So while crime may indeed be epidemic, and violent crime may be at least argued as being epidemic in nature, gun violence is clearly well outside the realm of what constitutes an epidemic and to refer to it as such is nothing short of inflammatory hyperbole.

    It is a horrible shame what happened to Abby and the rest of those folks. But to place the blame on guns is to misidentify the problem. Guns, and gun violence, have been around since the 13th century. It is not new. In this country, since pre-colonial times, guns were considered tools which you simply did not leave home without. Laws existed to keep people safe, just as they do today. But there are two distinct differences in today’s American societies which have had a direct bearing on events like the one in Kalamazoo, and in fact have direct bearing on that specific event. The *enforcement* of laws pertaining to firearms has become lax. The regulatory system of gun sales processes and procedures is in place. It is against the law for felons and the mentally ill to buy or possess firearms. But nobody ever checks up on it because there is no way to do that efficiently or effectively. So when people go to buy a gun all they have to do is claim that they are not a felon, not mentally ill, and are a citizen of the US. And they are taken at their word. On the street, guns are bought and sold among criminals without such regulations, but the penalties for being caught with a firearm that you shouldn’t have are so low as to have no teeth. And even if the penalties were higher the charge is usually dismissed as part of a plea bargain. Again…the laws are there and in place, but they are not being enforced.

    In Abby’s situation, the second difference between today’s American society and other societies is brought to light. That is the way in which our society deals with the mentally ill. If you go back through the history of every major mass murder in this country you will find that whether a firearm was used or not, the perpetrator or perpetrators suffered from mental illness in every single instance. The common factor in these horrible events, including the event which Abby experienced, is NOT firearms. It is mental illness.

    To place the attention of society on gun violence then is to redirect public attention away from the real problem. Away from the real cause. When you do that it enables the real problem to continue unabated. It is that simple. If we want to curb gun violence, we need to force our legislators to direct our legal system to enforce the gun laws we have to the letter. To establish a national database of individuals who have been disqualified from gun ownership/possession for whatever reason, so that a person’s word that they qualify is not the ultimate authority. To not allow gun law violations to be part of plea bargains. And to increase mandatory penalties for gun law violations. And if we want to stop these awful, horrific mass murders from happening we need to face up to the fact that there is only one course of action that can accomplish such a goal. We must demand that this nation put a comprehensive mental health screening system in place and to use it to keep potentially dangerously mentally ill individuals off the streets.

    Those things are expensive, which is why the political push has been to redirect public attention to guns. But guns have never been the problem. Not since the 13th century. The problem has always been those individuals with uncivilized violent tendencies. Criminals and the insane. That is where our focus must be fixed. We can not allow ourselves to be swayed and influenced by politics and hyperbole, which play on our emotions. We must deal strongly with the **people** who pose a danger to society, not the means they use to do so. Violent crimes affected societies long before guns were invented. And violent crimes affect gun-free societies today. Our focus must remain on addressing the criminals and the mentally ill…the source of this problem. Because if we do not, it **WILL** get worse.
    If we allow ourselves to be swayed and distracted by a government playing on our emotions via the media, it **WILL** get worse!

    • Andrew

      Dude, “inflammatory hyperbole” is what journalism in the 21st century is all about. And if you think that modern media exists as anything but a political tool, you have not been paying attention.
      You are right in what you are saying, but what is right is of little importance anymore in American society.
      It is all about what feels good….or in the case of “journalism” what sounds good.

  • Common Cents

    Real solutions to gun violence, like ending the drug war, are rarely discussed. Instead, politicians want the “feel good” answer of removing our constitutional rights, leaving the “bad guys” with a power monopoly.

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