Nel's New Day

January 8, 2013

Gun Deaths – The Loss of Life and Happiness, Part 2

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The NRA would deprive you of the first and third, by redefining the second.”—Douglas Anthony Cooper

Four women were found killed in a Tulsa (OK) apartment yesterday. That makes at least 165 gun deaths in the first seven days of 2013, averaging approximately one per hour.

Today is the second anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson (AZ) when six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, were killed and another 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were wounded. At that time the NRA said that this tragedy should not be politicized. They just merely want to continue their control over the people in the United States.

Today Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, announced the launch of a new gun safety group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and called on Congress to finally take action that they have failed to do, despite 11 mass shootings and over 60,000 other gun deaths in the last two years. In their op-ed for USA Today, Giffords and Kelly point out that people in the United States are less, not more, safe because of this inaction. On Morning Joe, Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former top commander in Afghanistan, called for a ban on assault weapons, saying, “I personally don’t think there’s any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America.”

After each mass shootings, at least the ones large enough to draw media notice, people come up with solutions. Last Friday I wrote about some of the insane ones, including arming teachers to protect students. Since then, Stephen Davis, a popular math and science teacher in a Bennington (VT) high school teacher was taken to a psychiatric hospital after he posted criticisms of the administrators and union on the Internet, including the statement that he had “plans for retribution.” When police came to check into the situation, they found him with a Bushmaster rifle, two high-capacity clips, and about 500 rounds of ammunition.  This is someone who the NRA might arm to protect the children at school because he has experience with the weapon.

There are, however, reasonable solutions for reducing gun deaths in the United States.

It should be noted that the NRA opposes all them.

  • Keep people on the terrorist watch list from legally acquiring guns. In 2010 alone, at least 247 people suspected of involvement with terrorism bought guns legally.
  • Require background checks on every gun sale. Because federal law does not mandate these checks for “private” gun sales at places like gun shows, 40 percent of all legal gun sales lack any checks on the purchasers. Eighty percent of gun crimes involve guns purchased in this fashion. If the GOP wants photo ID for voting, they shouldn’t mind background checks for gun purchases.
  • Keep warlords from getting arms on the international market. A small step toward this action, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty aims at keeping guns out of the hands of murderous insurgents and terrorists while having no restrictions on domestic gun markets.
  • Allow the public to access information about where guns are. Despite opposition from federal and local law enforcement, the Tiahrt Amendments prevent the public, journalists, academic researchers, some police officers, and people suing the gun industry from knowing what is on a federal database.
  • Keep guns out of bars. This should be a no-brainer: guns and alcohol don’t mix well. Only five states prevent concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol.

The NRA even supports forcing all business owners to allow guns on their property. The more guns, the more shootings, especially when people don’t know how to use them.

Following are others that would make mass shootings more difficult:

  • Restore the Assault Weapons Ban. This ban on manufacturers prevented the category of weapons not designed for recreational use.
  • Ban High-capacity Magazines. Because the shooter in the Aurora theater had a clip with 100 rounds of ammunition, he would kill or injure 71 people in the 90 seconds before police arrived.
  • Regulate Sniper Rifles. The .50 caliber bullet developed for the Browning Automatic Rifle for anti-aircraft and anti-tank use has no civilian use. The National Firearms Act of 1934 bans bullets over .50, but the .50 caliber bullet, actually .51 in diameter, can be squeezed by the rifle barrel to technically fit the law.
  • Tax and/or Regulate Cartridges. Because these have varying amounts and kinds of propellant, a regulation could prevent the highest performing propellant in the biggest cartridges. An option would be to tax cartridges with higher performing propellant at a higher rate.

One blog discussed reversing the culture of violence in the United States and provided these four ideas:

  • Change Gun Culture. Decades ago, smokers, supported by wealthy tobacco corporations ruled the country. You couldn’t go anyplace with choking on second-hand smoke and having your clothes smell like an ashtray. If we can stand up to the tobacco industry, we can do the same with gun manufacturers.  At this time, owning guns is “cool”; a rebranding campaign can change this. After NFL player Jovan Belcher killed himself at his stadium, seven other players turned in their guns to team security personnel with at least one player surrendering multiple guns. Celebrities, athletes, and other influential people can refuse to bow down before the NRA.
  • Give People Incentives to Give Up Guns. Buy guns back or award tax and tuition credits for turning them in. Give bonuses for semi-automatic assault rifles with large magazines. L.A. [find info] People kill other people with guns that they buy or steal from others. Stop them from having guns to steal. Children also die from guns in their home or in their friends’ homes.
  • Make It Harder for People to Get Guns. Safety on planes means extensive screening at airports; safety from terrorists means that your email can be read without your permission. Since 2001, people in the United States have gone to great lengths to feel safe—except with gun ownership. Longer waiting periods, greater taxation, and ideas listed above will make it more difficult to own arsenals.
  • Hold Gun Makers Accountable. Tobacco corporations are now sometimes held liable to the deaths that their products cause. Making gun manufacturers liable for damages might put economic pressure on the gun industry to act more responsibly. At this time, 32 states grant the gun industry immunity from lawsuits, and Congress is considering the same thing. Stop legislators from doing this. Gun makers should be required to fund gun-control efforts, such as paying for public service announcements and free treatment services for mental illness and anger-management.

Gun-lovers always claim that it is their constitutional right to own as many and as powerful guns as they want without registering them and with no training. Gun-lovers would rather people die than restrict guns so that criminals do not have access to them.

An example of the culture of violence in the United States comes from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in the aftermath of the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School: Put automatic weapons in the hands of all the first grade teachers, he says, so they can “. . . take[s] his [the gunman’s] head off before he can kill those precious kids.” Gohmert’s fantasy of murderous violence is the same as that of the Sandy Hook shooter.

The solution for gun ownership should be the same as for people who own motor vehicles: register them, test the drivers, make laws to control their use, and require liability insurance for all owners. It’s simple. People opposing gun-control laws claim that they feel safer without them. Why should that 47 percent feel safer than the rest of us?

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