"It's probably going too far to say that all mentally ill people are likely to be violent, and therefore should not have guns," Wintemute said. But if better treatment were available, he said, it might at least make a dent in the No. 1 cause of firearm-related death — suicide.
Wintemute, an emergency room physician in Sacramento, Calif., and a professor of emergency room medicine at UC Davis, is one of a handful of scientists who study gun violence as a public health problem. Wintemute digs through statistics on gun violence and looks for politically realistic ways to tweak public policy to reduce gun deaths.
The Star contacted Wintemute last week — before the shootings of 20 children in Connecticut, and before a weekend of violence here in Alabama — as part of a larger story about gun injuries and what can be done to prevent them.
In a state where traditional gun control is considered a non-starter, we wondered, what can the state do to curb gun violence, both intentional and accidental? What proven solutions can all parties support?
Sometimes, in the news business, events overtake a reporter's story — but rarely so horribly as in the past few days. On Thursday, we were just beginning to ask what sort of action the state can take on gun violence. Today, in a much sadder nation, every community seems to be asking that question.
So we're opening the floor to debate. We're asking readers to offer their seriously considered, heartfelt opinions on what the state should do to bring down the number of gun-related deaths, whether from spree killings, suicide, assaults or even accidental shootings.
Post your comments on this page, through Facebook, or send us your thoughts on Twitter, addressed to @AnnistonStar or @TLockette_Star or with the hashtag #whatbamacando.
Out of respect for the victims, we want this to be a serious, heartfelt discussion. Before you post, ask yourself if your suggestion is something other Alabamians — even those on the "other side" — could be convinced to support. And reply to others in the faith that they, too, are honestly seeking a real answer. No trolls, please.
The Star will talk to legislators, sheriffs and other officials this week, looking for more answers. We'll tweet their suggestions, in real time, as we hear them, with the #whatbamacando hashtag. We'll also seek comment from the National Rifle Association and other groups on both sides of the aisle. And we'll share data from Wintemute and other researchers, to help spark the conversation. We'll publish the results of our work online and in the print edition of The Star this weekend.
It may be that there's some simple, practical solution to gun violence that we've all simply missed. Working together, perhaps we can find it.
Capitol & Statewide Reporter: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.