Nel's New Day

May 17, 2013

Hope for Gun Controls

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:21 PM

Despite the GOP stranglehold on the House, there may be hope for a change in our country’s gun culture. Following is a summary of “9 Reasons Why Progress on Stronger Gun Laws Is Within Reach” from the Center for American Progress. Authors are Arkadi Gerney, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and Chelsea Parsons, Associate Director for Crime and Firearms Policy at the Center. As always, the original article has far more information; you may want to refer to it.

The horrible massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton (CT) brought hope for a shift in the country’s laissez-faire approach toward gun ownership. This killing of 28 people appeared to be a tipping point in the United States’ attitude toward violence. Yet discouragement followed the failure of a bipartisan amendment introduced in the Senate by Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). That vote, one month ago today, garnered 54 votes, but the GOP demanded 60 out of 100 votes for a simple majority for the amendment to expand gun background checks to all gun shows, online purchases, and advertised sales.

Here’s the good news:

Swing-state momentum:  Mayors against Illegal Guns has worked to build a coalition of mayors, over 150 in Pennsylvania alone, to change the gun culture of the states.  CeasefirePA, has also built a vast network of grassroots supporters in Pennsylvania. A group of survivors and family members of victims from the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting have teamed with local mayors and other advocates in Colorado to advance gun-violence-prevention legislation. In his campaign against Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ken Buck found his extreme pro-gun position became a liability. Even Virginia made small progress.

Evolving demographics:  A culture shift on guns in the United States is evidenced by the declining percentage of households with guns, down to 34 percent from 50 percent in the 1970s, driven by declining gun-ownership among young people. Household gun-ownership rates among people under 30 fell to 23 percent in 2012 from a high of 47 percent in the 1970s. The same young people evidence increasing concerns about the widespread presence of guns in society. Fifty-two percent said that they feel safer in communities with fewer guns, and 60 percent expressed concern that gun violence may affect them or their communities in the future.

A new center of gravity: Mayors against Illegal Guns started with 15 mayors seven years ago and grown to almost 1,000 mayors with 1.5 million grassroots supporters. Survivors of gun violence are becoming more organized. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband Mark Kelly recently formed Americans for Responsible Solutions to advocate for stronger gun laws and contest the 2014 elections, and affected families from Newtown have also organized.

Widening divide between the NRA leadership and public opinion— even among gun owners: The discussion over gun-control laws has made it clear that the NRA leadership does not represent the opinion of most people in the United States or even most gun owners who largely support expanded background checks. The NRA intransigence on issues such as these checks is creating an increasing disconnect from even its own constituents. Last December, 49 percent of gun owners said that the NRA represented their views on guns only “sometimes” or “never.”

The NRA’s path not followed: Once a sportsmen’s organization focusing on marksmanship and hunting, NRA has been taken over by hardliners determined to establish the organization as a premier ideological advocacy group. NRA’s response to the 1999 shooting at Columbine was support for “absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools.” Thirteen years ago after the Newtown shooting, the NRA demanded guns in every school. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who once scored high with the NRA, came out against them in the background checks as did seven other NRA A-rated senators: Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA); Joe Donnelly (D-IN); Martin Heinrich (D-NM); Joe Manchin (D-WV); John Tester (D-MT); Pat Toomey (R-PA); and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Democrats and progressives are re-engaged: Since 1994 when Democrats lost the entire Congress, with the idea that it was connected to their votes on the assault-weapons ban, lawmakers adopted the myth of the NRA’s electoral omnipotence. Democrats’ fear of the gun issue brought passivity and then abuse from the NRA. The series of mass killings in the United States resulted in cracks, and the Newtown killings may have broken the orthodoxy of avoiding guns. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Reid, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) again made fighting gun crime a priority and reducing gun violence a Democratic tenet.

Recent election results: The NRA spent more than $17 million in the 2012 election but got only a 1-percent return on its investment. More than 99 cents of every dollar went to losing campaigns. The reverse was true. Heavily-favored pro-gun advocates such as former Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA) and Debbie Halvorson (D-IL) both lost their recent elections with the opposition of groups who urged tighter gun laws.

Closing the intensity gap: In an interview with Jon Stewart, former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said that communication from constituents can sway a lawmaker’s vote. A Fox News poll conducted days after the vote showed that three times as many people in the United States—68 percent—said that they were likely to support a candidate who voted for expanded background checks. This polling was supported by those for specific senators. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) lost 15 points in her rating, and 50 percent of New Hampshire residents said that her vote against background checks made them less likely to support her. At the same time Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) approval rating rose to its highest level ever. Other opponents–Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK), and Rob Portman (R-OH)—all saw declines in public support in the wake of their votes against the checks.

The numbers: Gun violence, both mass shootings and everyday gun massacres, is not abating; it’s a problem distinct to the United States, linked to lax laws that give criminals and other dangerous people easy access to guns.

33: The average number of people murdered with a gun in the United States every day.

283: The average number of people shot in the United States every day.

40: The average number of children and teenagers shot in the United States every day.

10 times higher: The accidental-firearms death rate among children in the United States compared to other high-income countries.

31,000: The average number of homicides, suicides, and fatal accidents involving firearms in the United States every year.

6.9 times higher: The homicide rate of the United States compared to 22 high-income countries.

85 percent: The percentage of attempted suicides with a gun in the United States that result in fatalities.

8 times higher: The firearm suicide rate among children in the United States compared to other high-income countries.

500 percent: The percentage that the risk of homicide increases when a gun is present in a domestic-violence situation.

57 percent: The percentage of mass shootings that began with the targeting of a girlfriend, spouse, or former intimate partner.

63: The number of U.S. law-enforcement officers killed with firearms in 2011.

6.6 million: The estimated number of guns sold each year in the United States without a background check.

80 percent: The percentage of convicted criminals who acquired the guns used in their crimes through a private transfer.

90 seconds: The amount of time it takes to complete 91 percent of background checks.

38 percent lower: The number of women killed with a firearm by an intimate partner in states that require background checks for all handgun sales, compared to states that do not require such background checks.

2.5 times higher: The average export rate of crime guns in states that do not require background checks for all handgun sales at gun shows, compared to states that do require such background checks.

Conclusion: The Senate vote one month ago today was only the first round in the newly invigorated movement for common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence in our country. President Obama said, “We can still bring about meaningful changes that reduce gun violence, so long as the American people don’t give up on it.” There are many reasons to be hopeful with strong leadership in the White House, courageous lawmakers in Congress, and well-organized and passionate grassroots advocates. With overwhelming public support, we will succeed in enacting measures to prevent gun violence and make all of our communities safer.

1 Comment »

  1. It us time for us to act! great post


    Comment by Passion for Progress — May 17, 2013 @ 9:04 PM | Reply

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