The nation’s death rate from the misuse of firearms fell 21 percent between 1993 and 1997, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report also showed the injury rate from firearm misuse plunging 41 percent during the same period.
“Our study pretty much showed there’s been a substantial drop in both fatal and nonfatal firearms injuries … to see both of them coming down together really indicates we’re making good progress. It’s very exciting,” said J. Lee Annest, chief statistician for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, according to The Washington Times.
The study in the CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” estimated deaths from firearm-related injuries in 1997 at 32,436, down 18 percent from a record 39,595 deaths in 1993. The rate of gun deaths fell from 15.4 per 100,000 population six years ago to 12.1 per 100, 000 in 1997.
The report, which Annest authored, showed that the number of nonfatal firearm injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms dropped from 104,390 in 1993 to 64,207 in 1997. He noted that the rate of such incidents fell from 40.5 per 100,000 people to 24 per 100,000 between 1993 and 1997.
In Veghel, Netherlands, a teenage student carrying a handgun opened fire at a high school on December 7,1999, wounding a teacher and four fellow students in the first school shooting in Dutch history, reported the International Herald Tribune.
In a drama unprecedented in Holland, “known for its strict gun control laws,” according to the Tribune, the 17year-old suspect fired more than 10 times before surrendering to the police outside the school in Veghel, 60 miles south of Amsterdam.
Two students were in critical condition. The teacher and another student were in stable condition. A fourth student was grazed.
Dutch police officers investigating the incident said they were surprised by the explanation they heard from a brother of one of the five victims, who said a long family feud between Turkish families had inspired the rampage.
Authorities were questioning both the 17-year-old suspect and his father, who reportedly drove his son to the school, waited outside in the family’s Mercedes sedan while the shooting took place, and then drove his son to the local police station where he surrendered peacefully. The police did not say whether the father could face charges as an accessory.
In Maryland, the City of Takoma Park and Citizens Against Handguns have agreed not to challenge Circuit Court Judge Vincent E. Ferretti, Jr.’s ruling that they could not use elections to ask voters whether handguns should be banned in Takoma Park or whether state law should be changed to allow them to do so.
Judge Ferretti issued the restraining order -which kept Takoma Park residents from voting on a city ban last November 2 -because Maryland law prohibits municipal and county governments from regulating guns and from using elections to conduct opinion polls.
The city and the anti-gun group have signed a court agreement not to put the question on the ballot in the future, but city attorney Susan Silber said the City Council is still looking for a way to use local government authority to restrict guns in Takoma Park and for changes they may be able to advocate and win in state law.
In New York, according to a Reuters report, a Manhattan judge has granted a prosecutor’s request to dismiss charges against a Fifth Avenue art gallery owner who displayed live bullets in a candy bowl as part of a sculpture exhibition.
Mary Boone was arrested last September 30, after the police said they recovered 234 rounds of live 9mm ammunition from a glass vase at Boone’s gallery. They also found four double-barreled shotguns, two of which were operable. Boone was charged with the disposal of live ammunition and possession of an exposed rifle, which she said were all part of a show by the sculptor Tom Sachs.
The gallery’s spokesman, Ron Warren, said the bullets were a commentary on popular culture. He said that having the ammunition in a candy bowl was like saying “bullets are as casual as a piece of candy.”
Boone could have faced up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine if she had been convicted. On December 6, though, a judge granted the Manhattan district attorney’s request to dismiss the charges. “It’s a win for the First Amendment, ” Boone said after the ruling.
In back-to-back victories for the firearms industry last month, judges in two states dismissed lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers.
A state judge in Florida tossed out a suit by Miami-Dade County on December 13, three days after a Connecticut state judge dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by the mayor and city of Bridgeport.
The two lawsuits mirror other suits filed by municipalities that allege that guns have created a public nuisance, threatening residents’ health and safety, and that gun manufacturers, like polluters, should have to pay for the cleanup.
In their separate decisions, the judges in Florida and Connecticut reached the same conclusion: The governments lack standing to sue.
“The plaintiffs have no statutory or common-law basis to recoup their expenditures,” ruled the judge in Bridgeport. “Public nuisance does not apply to the design, manufacture and distribution of a lawful product,” said the Florida judge.