Firearms now have surpassed motor vehicles as the leading cause of traumatic death in the United States. This new fact stands as an appalling milestone in the ongoing surge of gun violence.
A study by the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program of statistical trend lines in America found that guns surpassed vehicle-related accidents last year as the leading cause of fatal traumas. Auto deaths are on the decline.
For government, the decrease in auto fatalities and increase in gun deaths represent triumph on the one hand and tragedy on the other. The situation provides a stark contrast of policy: the comprehensive and effective strategy that changed the way most Americans think about auto safety versus the inconsistent, piecemeal non-strategy that has been pursued by political leaders on gun violence.
Too often politicians have chosen to ignore the disproportionate role that guns play in crime. And too often they turn a blind eye, in the face of overwhelming evidence, to the societal damage caused by allowing a virtually unmitigated flow of weapons into our streets and communities.
It would help if adequate time were allowed for the Brady bill and the assault gun ban to work; unconscionably, some in Congress are seeking repeal of both laws. And it would help if law enforcement put gun-wielding gangs at the top of their work list.
In Los Angeles, there's an additional step leaders can take: Police Chief Willie L. Williams should heed the advice of former Police Commissioner Ann Reiss Lane and step up enforcement on two new city anti-gun ordinances. These city laws forbid the practice of "kitchen-table gun dealing"--selling guns out of a private home. They deserve a higher priority from local law enforcement.
Gun laws are, of course, not cure-alls but small steps; likewise seat-belt laws and tougher drunk-driving laws. But looking at today's improved auto death statistics, who could question that governmental action for safer streets has saved many thousands of lives?