It’s nice that we have university academics looking out for us and highlighting the danger guns pose in the hands of various segments of society. Where would we be without them? If you go by Jonathan Purtle’s latest missive at philly.com, we’d be dodging lead fired by every dodgy old dodderer in town who’s managed to hang onto his old service piece from the Great War. Penn’s Brian Mertens and Susan Sorenson have taken a peek at the country’s demographics – no doubt putting some unused stimulus funds to good use – and have managed to divine that Americans really are getting older. The upshot: just like seasoned citizens and cars, we need to take a hard look at keeping guns out of Granny’s arthritic hands . . .
It’s just too risky to let oldsters handle anything as dangerous as a gun.
A mound of evidence tells us that risk of violent death increases immediately after the purchase of a handgun — mostly due to suicides and accidents — and remains high for at least five years. This risk, however, is particularly high among those age 65 and older.
Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be caught between Bruce Krafft and his keyboard when he reads that last bit. It seems that when you boil it all down, old folks don’t really have much of a need for personal protection anyway.
While one might think it makes sense for senior citizens, in particular, to arm themselves against criminals, the evidence suggests otherwise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the risk of being a victim of robbery, rape, or violent assault is substantially lower among the elderly than any other age group (2.4 of every 1,000 people age 65 and over experience such a crime annually, compared with rates of 10.9 per 1,000 for people ages 50-64 and 26.9 per 1,000 for ages 21-24).
Got that? Chances are Gramps won’t ever be a crime victim anyway so it’s probably better to just pull his piece before the old codger hurts himself. Exactly how to tell that septuagenarian veteran that you want his pistol is another story.
There is no easy solution to the issue of firearm safety among older adults. According to Penn’s Sorenson, “We need to consider multiple options that address multiple aspects. Possibilities include reducing access to firearms, especially for the cognitively impaired, increasing neighborhood safety and household security, and improving health care options for those with chronic debilitating illnesses.”
Safety tip: it’s not a good idea to let gramps or granny keep their heaters if the ravages of Alzheimer’s come a-knockin’. OK thanks. But dark forces are at work.
Nevertheless, the firearm industry has tried to take advantage of seniors’ fears and developed guns specifically for people with arthritis and mobility limitations. The maker of one such weapon tried to register it as a medical device in hopes that Medicare would pay for it — a proposal that the Food and Drug Administration rejected.
Looks like we really dodged a bullet there. So to speak.
So the moral of this story is that, just to be safe, we should probably establish a cut-off age for gun ownership. Once someone reaches Social Security age, we’d all be better served by taking away any guns they may have and make sure they don’t buy any new ones. And when you really think about it, what good is a gun when you’re out on an ice floe anyway?