This understandably hot topic dominates the news I receive from various sources in the US, especially the major news media. I cannot do justice to the details in each of these reports but have tried to offer a précis of the main points in several of these.
Guns don’t stop mass shootings
Late in December, Mother Jones, had a fascinating report with a chart showing the rising number of mass shooting casualties in the US since 1982. The figures are frightening. “Not a single one of the 62 mass shootings we studied in our investigation has been stopped this way” (by arming the good guy, as the NRA advocates). It adds, “Attempts by armed citizens to stop shooters are rare”. The five cases most commonly cited as instances of regular folks stopping massacres fall apart under scrutiny: Either they didn’t involve ordinary citizens taking action or the citizens took action after the shooting rampages appeared to have already ended. (Or in some cases, both.)
The NRA’s rise to power
In mid-January a Washington Post team wrote a primer on the history of the NRA and how it became so powerful. It includes the frightening observation that: “Gun-control legislation is the NRA’s best friend: The organization claims an influx of 100,000 new members … in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. The NRA, already with about 4 million members, hopes that the new push by Democrats in the White House and Congress to curb gun violence will bring the membership to 5 million. The group has learned the virtues of being a single-issue organization … The NRA keeps close track of friends and enemies, takes names and makes lists. It uses fear when necessary to motivate supporters. The ultimate goal of gun-control advocates, the NRA claims, is confiscation and then total disarmament, leading to government tyranny.”
Second amendment needs to be clarified
The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece entitled “All guns are not created equal” (Sweeney and Cornell, March 3) reminding readers that the Second Amendment does not, in their view, support the interpretation that most gun ownership advocates put on it and provides several arguments. One example: “… the assumption by the majority in Heller that the Second Amendment gave handguns constitutional protection because “the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon” fails to meet the self-proclaimed standard of those jurists seeking to recover the Constitution’s original meaning.”
A determined pro-gun blogger
The Washington Post in its Health and Science section describes the author of a blog dedicated to gun ownership. “He bought his first gun a week before the debut of TheTruthAboutGuns.com. He took a firearms class. He filled out the paperwork and … the background check to get a permit… He now owns 18 guns and is considering moving from Rhode Island to Texas because it is ‘more gun-friendly’. The report prompted this comment “This man Farago lives in MY neighborhood, apparently visits the same Starbucks as I do, and (his) daughter goes to the same school as my children. Frankly, I am more afraid of HIM than of the criminals that may be wandering the streets of Providence. Please move to Texas and take your arsenal with you. His blog became hugely popular following the Newtown Masacre. Editors comment: 18 guns!!! ????
Public support high; realistic expectations low
The New York Times (Shear, Feb 4) reported Obama’s latest push for some gun control measures, noting that “universal background checks” were supported by a “vast majority of Americans”. He also stated that a new assault weapons ban “deserves a vote in Congress because weapons of war have no place on our streets.” It seems evident reading between and along the lines that the best that can be hoped for with the present Congress is a better background check system. Interestingly, a recent … survey found that 92% of those polled backed broader background checks; 53% supported a ban on some semiautomatic weapons and 63% support limits on magazines.”
Six gun deaths in one Washington county this year
Bringing the whole gun violence story closer to home, an article in the Washington Post notes that a second 18-year-old has died after being shot … along with a companion, also 18. The scene of the most recent shooting is a Washington county where gang Perhaps this is unremarkable but it was the sixth such death in the same county this year.. The comments focus on how to get guns out of the hands of gang members.
Guns vs car crashes: diverging trends
A commentary by Ben Kelley in February Fair Warning noted that guns and motor vehicles are the leading sources of violent deaths in the US. The actual numbers in 2011 were remarkably close: about 32,000 each. The commentary goes on to note that the distinction between intentional and unintentional injuries can be misleading and deaths from firearms and from motor vehicle crashes are strikingly different in that over time, gun fatalities have crept upward, while road crash fatalities, have declined despite increases in the number of cars and vehicle miles traveled. The bottom line is a lesson for injury-prevention advocates: “Efforts to change public policy in favor of reducing injuries caused by harmful products such as guns and cars inevitably confront powerful organized opposition; the auto companies fought tooth and nail against federal vehicle safety regulation before it was finally enacted in the 1960s, just as the gun manufacturers and National Rifle Association are fighting against gun control today.”
Bizarre legislation proposed in North Dakota
North Dakota is possibly one of the most gun friendly states in the US. Currently, “gun rights are so sacred that violent felons can have them restored, where firearms are so ordinary that a handwritten flier for high-capacity ammunition clips was recently posted on a grocery store bulletin board, next to one for a pinochle tournament.” In January, state legislators introduced bills to allow people with permits to carry concealed guns in schools and churches, and another that would punish police who enforce any future federal gun law changes.
Near agreement on expanded background checks?
The Washington Post just a few weeks ago noted that “A bipartisan group of senators is on the verge of a deal that would expand background checks to all private firearms sales with limited exemptions’. The Post added that “significant disagreements remain on the issue of keeping records of private gun sales, according to aides familiar with the talks.” Editors note: At the time of writing (March 6) MediaMatters reported that “The National Rifle Association’s stand against expanding the criminal background check system to all gun buyers has become a lonely one. The NRA has been abandoned by other gun lobby activists, conservative media figures, and the American public.” That is good news, I guess, but the bottom line is that the proposed legislation has not yet been passed.