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Forget Gun Control: How About Ax Control?

A Commentary By Brian C. Joondeph

Two recent violent assault stories graced the recent metro Denver news. Aside from the fact that these stories are becoming more commonplace in once safe and peaceful Denver, the two stories were treated far differently.

Both stories described attacks on two individuals but only one story made national and international news while the other one was of fleeting local interest only. One story led to protests and op-eds in the local newspaper while the other story garnered a few paragraphs in the local news section, but no op-eds or protests, and was quickly forgotten. One story involved two deaths while the other story caused only injury.

One story was the shooting at East High School in Denver where two school administrators were shot and injured but still alive. The other story was in Englewood, a suburb just south of Denver, where a man killed and dismembered his wife and daughter with an ax.

Can you guess how the two stories were treated as I teased above?

The East High School shooting made news around the world, including in New Zealand and in the UK. The ax murder warranted one short article in the Denver Post. Yet the school shooting, while terrifying, involved injuries while the ax murder left two individuals dead. Both were horrific and representative of metro Denver crime turning the Mile High City into San Francisco or Chicago.

In both events, common and obtainable objects were used to commit these heinous crimes. A legally purchased gun requires a background check while an ax can be legally purchased without any questions or background check at Home Depot, Walmart, Ace Hardware, or myriad other stores.

Many people have both a gun and an ax in their home or garage. Both have been around for a long time and have been used as “weapons of war"  -- axes long before firearms. Both have legitimate uses but can be dangerous or lethal if misused or held in the wrong hands. Neither are children’s toys and both objects should be kept secure in the home.

Yet after both attacks, there were numerous calls for gun control but none for ax control. The Denver Post Editorial Board supports, “Efforts at the Colorado Capitol to get better control on the deadly weapons flooding our community and often landing in the hands of young Coloradans ill-equipped in decision-making or gun safety even if they don’t have ill intent or trouble controlling their anger or depression.”

Going further they support, “Senate Bill 168 would require gun manufacturers, marketers, whole-sellers, retail sellers, and others to implement reasonable controls and precautions, known as the Firearm Industry Standards of Responsible Conduct. Civil lawsuits can be brought if those standards are violated, causing harm.”

An ax can be a deadly weapon and, if in the hands of a “young Coloradan ill-equipped in ax safety,” bad things can happen. Should hardware stores and big retailers be forced to “implement reasonable controls and precautions” before selling an ax or other potentially fatal tools? Are there calls to hold these stores responsible for selling an ax, knife, pipe, screwdriver, or any other implement which could be used to kill or injure someone?

In case anyone is wondering if I am actually advocating for ax control, I am not. Instead, I am pointing out the hypocrisy of focusing only on guns used in these shootings with scant attention to the shooter while in the ax murder, the focus, rightly so, was on the murderer and not the ax.

A recent Rasmussen Reports survey after the Nashville Christian school shooting found, “A plurality of voters see mental health as the primary cause of such incidents.” Only 29% blame access to firearms. I wonder what a similar survey would find after a knife or ax murder spree?

What was in the mind of the Nashville shooter, or for that matter that of the two Denver killers? The Nashville shooter left behind a manifesto which the FBI is keeping under wraps. The above Rasmussen Reports survey found that 68% of voters “believe the FBI should release the Nashville shooter’s manifesto.”

Will the FBI release the manifesto, or will it sit in an FBI closet next to Anthony Weiner’s and Hunter Biden’s laptops, hidden from the light of scrutiny?

As many of these recent shooters identify as transgender, will the media and health authorities investigate the toxic stew of hormones and mental health medications that these shooters may have taken?

Instead, health authorities are obsessed with ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, FDA-approved and safe drugs that have decades of use, calling them “horse paste” and castigating any physician daring to prescribe them for their COVID patients.

Both guns and axes have legitimate and necessary uses and are used in sport, from gun clubs and target shooting to ax throwing for fun and competition. Both are inanimate objects that cannot do anything on their own, but in the wrong hands can be deadly.

Both news events were tragic but why are only guns a hot button trigger for protests and advocacy, while the lowly but potentially deadly ax is given a pass? One must wonder how much our elected officials and the media are concerned about public safety versus advancing a political agenda aligning with their goals and values.

Brian C. Joondeph, MD, is a physician and writer.

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