Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), a survivor of the lax gun laws in the United States, spoke on December 14, 2015, the third anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 20 children and eight adults, about the lack of gun safety laws:
“Congress will do exactly what its members have done every week since those 20 kindergartners and first-graders were murdered in their classrooms: nothing at all. That’s cowardice, an embrace of the shameful status quo we’ve grown to expect from a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip. Many of my former colleagues are in the cold clutches of pessimism and its key ingredient: fear.”
The second reason for refusal to face gun violence is ignorance and allegiance to distorted reality about guns. Many people opposed to gun safety laws don’t believe the following information:
Feeling safer is not the same as being safer. Two-thirds of gun owners say they feel safer because they have a gun in their home, but they aren’t. Having a gun in the home increases the chances of gun-related violence there: suicides, accidental shootings, domestic disagreements, and home invaders’ taking the guns. Of the 11,000 homicides in 2012, only 269—three-fourths with handguns—were justifiable, meaning self-defense. Each of these justifiable homicides was matched with 78 gun homicides, and two accidental gun deaths. A detailed report, “Firearms Training and Self-Defense,” shows that few criminals are shot in homes. Guns in homes are typically used to intimidate people they know in the home, including spouses, other family members, and people invited into the home.
The presence of guns in the home leads to violence. Too many unstable people own guns because 22 million people in the nation—8.9 percent of the adult population—have impulsive anger issues and easy access to guns. Few of these people are subject to current mental-health care restrictions, and 3.7 million of the 22 million carry their guns in public. Research shows that the more guns people have, the more likely they are to carry them in public and have a history of anger issues. Then sudden fear responses cause serious injury or death.
“Good people” with guns will not always defeat “bad people” with guns. Researchers studying the NRA belief in the contrary found the “good guns with guns” myth to be a dangerous vigilante fantasy. Most people with guns aren’t trained to be effective law officers. They don’t know how to confront unstable people; they don’t have the physical stamina to be in a potential life-or-death fight; and they don’t possess the self-control to stop themselves from firing indiscriminately. The result is injuries or death to themselves, bystanders, or both. The report stated:
“The lack of quality initial training and repeat training over time is potentially a disaster waiting to happen.”
More guns lead to more crime and violence. Research by a team of Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University researchers found in 2014:
“Our analysis of the year-by-year impact of RTC [right to carry] laws also suggests that RTC laws increase aggravated assaults. Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent.”
The study also found “evidence that RTC laws increase rape and robbery.”
The deadliest weapons are very profitable. Gun manufacturers and the NRA fan the fears of terrorism and government takeover because they make money from selling firearms—especially sem-automatic weapons that use more ammunition. Bullets accounted for almost one-third the profits–$4.6 billion sales in 2013 compared to 26 percent in 2008.
The gun culture promoted by the NRA and gun manufactures kills children. The presence of a gun makes children less safe, programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient, and use of gun safes and smart guns could reduce the death toll. The presence of guns also directly increases the risk of youth homicide and suicide. Children between 5 and 14 in the U.S. are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations. In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States. In the U.S., more children and teenagers died from gunfire in 2010—a single year—than U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Yet to people who oppose gun safety laws, mass shootings of children are horrific while “accidental” killings of children in the home—sometime by other young children—are sad but business as usual.
Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization. For example, most of firearm deaths in North Carolina youth were caused by legally purchased handguns. Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger. Murder-suicides are another major risk to children and are most likely to be committed with a gun.
These deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” A study of adolescents in California found that there were 13 times as many threatening as self-defensive uses of guns. Many of the defensive encounters came from confrontations that became hostile because of the presence of a firearm.
Children living in states with higher levels of firearm availability also suffer from significantly higher rates of unintentional gun deaths. The vast majority of these shootings involve either family or friends. Accidental killings are significantly underreported in the official data, often being classified as homicides or suicides rather than accidents. Several states have twice as many accidental gun deaths than the official record indicated.
Many gun owners are unaware that children have handled their guns; therefore the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates not having a gun in the home for safety. The NRA ignores this evidence and continues to push laws forbidding pediatricians from talking to parents about guns and safety measures. If people insist on having guns in homes with children, laws holding gun owners responsible for the safe storage of firearms reduced unintentional shooting deaths among children by 23 percent. States where gun owners are more likely to store loaded guns, especially if they are not locked up, have a much larger share of intentional firearm deaths.
Smart guns, which can be fired only by the owner, drastically reduces the risk of accidental shootings and teenage suicides. Extreme gun advocates have fought against their sales, going as far as sending death threats for offering smart guns. A campaign spreading lies about the failure rates of smart guns has stopped the use of this effective technology that could prevent deaths. Toy guns have regulations to reduce the risk of fatal accidents, but real guns have zero federal safety standards regulating their designs.
The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools, and the number of school shootings has drastically increased since Sandy Hook. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years.
Conservatives have used the mass shooting in San Bernardino to avoid the serious problem of gun violence. After every mass shooting in the U.S. by a white man following the Christian religion, conservatives leap onto the “let’s not politicize the event,” “mental illness,” “lone wolf” memes. When two Muslims go out on their own to kill people—quite successfully because guns are easy to obtain—conservatives cry out for higher media surveilling, closing down the internet, building walls around the country, and stopping all Muslims at the border from entering the nation. A man kills three people in Colorado in the name of Christianity, and he’s simply deranged. A married couple kill 14 people in the name of Islam, and they are the devil incarnate.
Extremist people in the United States are so obsessed with their guns that they will do anything to keep them. As Larry Wilmore said in his segment about this lunacy, “See something, shoot something.” That’s what every obsessive gun owner believes no matter how many people are killed—as long as the shooter isn’t a Muslim.