Nel's New Day

March 6, 2014

Change the Culture of Guns

Smoking was really cool, a half century ago, until people found out that the tobacco industry was lying and that tobacco was a horrifying public health issue. As the 21st century started, guns were cool. How did the people in the United States break the stranglehold that corporations held over lawmakers despite the favoritism that courts show the gun industry? They changed the culture. As more and more people learned that tobacco use kills, they pushed legislators into laws protecting people. In the same way, people can loosen the gun industry’s draconian hold on today’s lawmakers.

A tiny chink in the gun culture came yesterday with the announcement that Facebook will no longer post sales of weapons without background checks. The company’s spokesman, Matt Steinfeld, announced that Facebook had been working on curtailing illegal gun trafficking “for quite a while,” but the recent petitions on the Internet from Moms Demand Action and a coalition of other groups may have pushed them.

The social network will no longer allow posts for sales with “no background check required” or promises to send firearms across state lines without a licensed dealer. Another guideline is limiting minors’ access to pages and posts selling guns.

The National Rifle Association threatened retaliation for Facebook’s mandating legal gun sales. The executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, Chris W. Cox, said, “The NRA enjoys 150 times more support on Facebook than Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns.” He added, “NRA members and our supporters will continue to have a platform to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment rights.”

Members of Facebook’s “Guns for Sale” described the rules as unconstitutional and unnecessary although children and people without IDs can locate sales of assault rifles, handguns, shotguns, etc. in as little as 15 minutes on Facebook. The administrator of “Guns for Sale” did “support the idea of keeping guns out of the hands of children and dangerous people (i.e. criminals who aren’t allowed to own them).”

The same rules will be implemented on Instagram, owned by Facebook. Steinfeld said that monitoring will rely on complaints and send messages telling people who post “to comply with relevant laws and regulations.” A weak start, but a start.

Other facts to help change the culture of “cool” guns:

Having guns in the house make women less safe. A new study shows that higher rates of gun availability are correlated with higher rates of female homicide, especially notable because women in the United States account for 84 percent of all female firearm victims in the world. Men with guns claim that women need firepower to keep the weaker sex safe, but more than twice as many women are killed by husbands or partners than are murdered by strangers who use guns, knives, or other means of killing.

In one study, two-thirds of battered women were threatened with death by an intimate partner with a gun. Even if women use guns to protect themselves from abusive husbands, they are likely to end up in prison for many years as shown by the case of Marissa Alexander in Florida. She only fired a warning shot to protect herself, but she may have a 60-year sentence after fighting the 20-year prison term awarded her. At the same time, George Zimmerman walks free while he threatens the women in his life.

A 2005 study found that men killed themselves after shooting and killing their partners in two-thirds of the cases. Just one example is a Texas police officer who shot and killed his 42-year-old wife last week before he killed himself with the shotgun he had bought her. Sgt. Nick Pitofsky had posted an online video days earlier about buying a shotgun so that Vanessa, his wife of only three years, could protect himself.

Texas cop

Children are more likely to be killed by guns in the United States. In the U.S., children and teenagers are four times more likely to die by gunfire than in Canada, seven times more likely than young people in Israel, and 65 times more likely than children and teenagers in the United Kingdom. Children from 5 to 14 years old are also more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries, suicides, and homicides if they live in states or regions with more rather than fewer guns.

Gun injuries are increasing. Some people argue that the number of deaths from guns is not increasing. No one can know if this is accurate because the NRA has blocked the keeping of accurate statistics. Even if this statement is true (which is unknown), injuries have increased 25 percent within the last decade.

Tough state laws are negatively impacted by other states with lax laws. In Massachusetts, where gun laws are among the most strict in the country, more than half the guns seized and traced in 2012 came from out of state. Federal agent Dale Armstrong compared the problem to barnacles:  “You know, one barnacle on the bottom of your boat’s not a problem. But the collective of a thousand barnacles on the bottom of your boat are a real big problem. They’re hard work to scrape off, nobody wants to help you do it.”

Massachusetts law requires that sales be reported to the state within seven days and a license to carry from local police that requires a background check. In surrounding states such as New Hampshire and Maine, private sales, even at a gun show, require neither background check nor record of the transaction. Not even identification. The law makes it illegal for a prohibited person, such as a felon, to buy a gun, the the seller doesn’t have any responsibility for selling to the person. In 2012, only three states, including Massachusetts, had the majority of seized guns traced to out of state sales.

Market forces could control gun industry. In Miami-Dade County, law enforcement may affect gun manufacturers by requiring them to show how they keep guns from those who are ineligible or “straw buyers” who buy guns to sell them illegally. Organizations such as Arms with Ethics are hoping that this practice catches on across the country in which law enforcement agencies spend over $1 billion for firearms.

At this time, lawmakers give more rights to guns than people, especially women and children. A common phrase is “Children are our future,” but legislators follow the mantra, “Guns are our future.” The people who promote open purchases of weapons with no background checks or registrations care more about a piece of metal that is designed only to destroy and kill than they do for the people who are devastated by shootings. Instead of strengthening protections from guns, most states have made their laws more lax, allowing more guns into the hands of felons and the mentally ill.

The NRA opposes even laws requiring trigger locks and safes for their guns. An example of NRA control is the removal of a provision requiring gun owners to report stolen weapons from a Missouri bill. Instead, Missouri is again considering a law that would remove any laws that would stop anyone from owning guns.

Those who cry Second Amendment rights want unlimited ownership and refuse to believe statistics about the dangers of gun ownership. They need to follow their own advice and not accept the statistics that they use to justify their positions that promote the injuries and deaths of innocent people.

As Tom Diaz wrote in The Last Gun:

“Like the tobacco industry before it, the American gun industry and its lobby have successfully employed political intimidation, the crassest form of flag-waving propaganda, and mass-marketing techniques appealing to fear and loathing to prevent being called to account for the public health disaster it has inflicted on America and to avoid meaningful regulation.”

The next chink in the culture war against unlimited gun ownership might be the protests against Visa’s business partnership with the NRA. Members of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence argue that the purchases made with the NRA Visa card help fund the campaign to block stronger gun protections, including expanded federal background checks for firearm purchases. NRA’s website states that it has raised over $20 million from its affiliation with Visa. It underlines NRA’s sole purpose for existing: money.

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