Mike Kasdan is treating José Canseco’s gun accident as an opportunity to talk about gun control and the disturbing statistics on gun-related injuries.
In 1989, on crutches for months because of a bad ankle injury, I was forced to write a term paper in order to pass gym class. My topic: The Coming Baseball Dynasty of the Oakland A’s. They had a terrific pitching staff, led by Dave Stewart, Bob Welsch and Mike Moore, an unhittable closer in Dennis Eckersley, the greatest lead-off man of all time at the top of the lineup and, in ‘the Bash Brothers,’ a power-hitting core that would surely—I thought—dominate the game for the next decade.
As we now know, it didn’t quite work out that way for the Oakland A’s. Mark McGwire and José Canseco hit lots of home-runs, but—aside from the 1989 season—winning World Series was not their legacy.
Instead, their legacy was steroids, with McGwire tumbling from grace as America’s darling after setting single-season home-run marks and Canseco playing the complex role of villain-whisteblower as both the face of steroid use in baseball and cartoonish greedy-book-writing-hard-to-trust-rat.
So Jose Canseco became a walking public-service announcement of sorts: against steroid use in baseball.
Last week Canseco was in the news again. Because he shot himself—by accident—with a handgun, and—reportedly—lost a finger doing it. José Canseco is not a likable man. But has he done it again?
Do we know have an unwitting new PSA to for gun control and gun safety?
I hope so.
Unless you live under a rock—and even if you do—you know that the United States is engaged in a massive debate on the issue of gun control.
We have been rocked by a series of mass shootings—from Newtown, and the many before, to the recent shootings in Maryville and Santa Barbara. The number is now up to 71 since 1982. And we can’t seem to do anything about. A man was the shooter in all but one of these cases. The majority were white. The average age was 35 years old. As Lisa Hickey of The Good Men Project found in her article, The Patterns In Mass Shootings and a Conversation About Men, there are many factors in this.
But one factor is surely the wide availability and access to weapons. We live in a country where we may well have more guns than people. And we are not just talking hunting rifles, but handguns and even military-style assault weapons.
As Jennifer Weiss-Wolf recently discussed in her article, The Right To Bear Arms . . . Or Bare Arms, We have activist gun-owners taking assault rifles shopping to Target.
Our Supreme Court, in 2008, for the first time ruled that individuals have a personal right to own a gun under the Constitution. It was a highly controversial decision. The political and political interest fault lines around this issue run deep, and the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in this country.
Despite the costs—in lives and in injuries—the situation seems to be getting worse not better: we have not had the political will to make the changes so many expected after Newtown.
Back to Bash Brother numero uno.
José Canseco shot himself while cleaning his handgun. Our first inclination may be to chuckle; that’s why the story immediately reached ‘trending’ status:
“That guy.” “What a clown.” “What an idiot.“
“Another Plaxico Burress incident.” “He Plaxico’d himself.“
“What a child.“
And he may well be all of those things. But that’s not what this story should be about. This is a story about accidental gun injuries in this country, another discussion that we should be having.
Take a look at the numbers:
According to a 2011 Study by The Firearm & Injury Prevention Center at The University of Pennsylvania, firearm injury is the second leading cause of injury-related death in the United States after automobile accidents (with an average of 32,300 deaths annually). For every two firearm related fatality, there are five firearm related injuries. And “firearms are involved in 67% of homicides, 50% of suicides, 43% of robberies, and 21% of aggravated assaults.”
To put it in more personal terms, a recent Pediatrics Journal study of hospital records found that “every day, 20 of our children are hospitalized for firearms injury, often suffering severe and costly injuries, clearly shows that this is a national public health problem.” That same study estimates “that firearm injuries sent 7,391 children to the emergency room in 2009 — about 20 per day. Of these, 6% go on to die from their injuries:
Other data reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates over 3,000 additional children die from their injuries before reaching the ER, putting the total number hurt or killed each year above 10,000.
“Our study is the first to call attention to the thousands of children and adolescents who survive their immediate firearm-related injuries and go on to suffer substantial morbidity and hospitalizations,” the study authors wrote.
Most of the firearms injuries on record — 4,559 — were attributed to assaults, while 2,149 were from accidents and 270 were suicide attempts. But among children under 10, accidents accounted for more than 75% of injuries.
I wish no ill on José Canseco. I hope he recovers and gets healthy.
But in the end, like he did by blowing the steroids story wide open, I sure wouldn’t mind if something good were to come out of this too: An increased awareness of the costs of America’s gun problem.
(Photo Credits: Cover Twitter/@ModelLeila; ‘Bash Brothers’ AP/File)
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