Issac Bailey

Suicides, Myrtle Beach area police shootings: High cost of unthinking loyalty to Second Amendment

The gun culture in South Carolina is slowly killing us and putting police officers in untenable positions.

We charge the police with the impossible, hoping they will reduce societal ills that can’t be fixed by bullets, batons and badges.

Arresting a man will neither cure him of a mental illness nor rid him of an addiction.

And we ask officers to do this in a nation with the highest rate of gun violence in the industrialized world and refuse to throw them a lifeline in the form of saner policies that would keep weapons out of the hands of those police are mostly likely to encounter.

Those facts came to a head recently when Horry County Police Officer Richard Crouse shot and killed 32-year-old Brian Stortzum during a domestic dispute to save the life of a woman being threatened by Stortzum.

Crouse, and other officers, have to live with the horrific decisions we force upon them.

We get to sit back and debate, then demand even more.

South Carolina finally did something about domestic violence this year, but only after having that reform stalled for years because elected officials balked at making it harder for convicted abusers to own guns.

We make it difficult to keep high-powered weapons out of the hands of the wrong people — then force police officers to confront them in highly-charged situations. (Also, more people die in gun-related accidents than are saved by armed private citizens.)

In the Myrtle Beach area, we’ve been fairly fortunate, with “only” 17 officer-involved shootings the past decade, but such incidents have received much-needed scrutiny throughout the nation. The problem is that it has been too one-sided.

The cops must be held accountable if they do wrong or abuse power. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are innocent.

You want to support police officers?

Advocate for better mental health resources for the everyday citizen struggling without adequate health care access, as well as for police officers and other emergency officials who see the worst of humanity on a regular basis.

Help close the loopholes in background checks gun laws, like the one that allowed Dylann Roof to arm himself.

Revamp drug laws that lessen the likelihood small-time pot dealers feel the need to be armed. In South Carolina, such dealers are afraid of police, who might jail them, and fellow drug dealers, who might rob them. In Colorado, such dealers rely on state regulations to keep their profits safe — not guns.

It should frighten us that gun deaths in 2015 are on pace to surpass car deaths for the first time and that we’ve already had more than 200 mass shootings this year.

Red states such as South Carolina have among the highest rates of gun violence while our lax gun laws fuel violence elsewhere. Criminals buy (or steal) guns here to be used in places like New York.

There’s another under-discussed aspect of our gun culture, the link between suicide and firearms.

Horry County Councilman Bob Grabowski killed himself earlier this year and we moved on with little reflection.

But here are a few facts to consider:

Almost three times as many people kill themselves than are murdered.

More people commit suicides than die in car accidents every year.

About 51 percent of people who commit suicide use a gun. That’s important because suicide attempts “usually stem from temporary setbacks.” When people survive them, they often go on to lead happy, productive lives.

But a gun — more than any other weapon — makes surviving a suicide attempt nearly impossible.

We can honor the Second Amendment. But right now, the price for that loyalty is much too high.