Thursday, June 27, 2013

Will Stricter Gun Laws Decrease Violence and Death

gun lawsWith so many shootings in the news lately, it’s no surprise that Mother Jones is calling 2013 “…the worst year of mass shootings in modern US history.”

Mother Jones is one of the oldest, social-justice oriented, independent nonprofits in the United States according to Sourcewatch, the publication for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
The Center, an online nonprofit investigative reporting consorteum which includes and PR Watch, is not blameless, but still stands head and shoulders above such entities as the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who appear aligned in their libertarian and/or rightist stance. 

Mother Jones and the CMD both lean in the opposite direction. For example, CMD has prepared a special report on US counterterrorism, which it confirms was used to keep track of America’s Occupy movement with the same tools (and under the same name,  PRISM) that the NSA recently admitted it had used on every single American (over the age of 18, presumably, though who knows for sure?).

Does Your 5 Year Old Enjoy His Gun?

It will come as no surprise to some that the US, whose military might and will make it the world’s watchdog, is also the owner of 300 million firearms, or one for every person over the age of five. This wealth of weapons is one that Mother Jones attributes to extensive and well-funded National Rifle Association-supported (NRA) gun laws. What the publication does not note is the number of states which have concealed-carry or open-carry gun laws for handguns. The concealed-carry is a situation which one Wiki describes as being permitted in “most states”.

Based on data compiled over three decades, a graph shows yearly shooting fatalities, which were never less than 7 and – in three cases – more than 40. During two of those years, 1999 and 2007, correlations can be made with millennial fever and the global economic meltdown that resulted in a lingering recession still being felt in fewer job numbers both nationwide and worldwide. Millennial fever probably doesn't need explaining.  
Only in 2012 did those numbers rise to almost 80, or nearly double the number of shooting fatalities in any year back to 1982. Moreover, most of these casualties resulted from mass shootings; that is, one or two individuals killing two or more people, sometimes for no immediately apparent cause. These 7 incidents include a Colorado movie theater, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

By the numbers, 25 mass shootings have taken place since 2006, 7 of them in 2012 alone. More importantly, more than half the mass shootings occurred because shooters owned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, or what police officers and the public call assault weapons. These shootings have engendered tremendous sorrow among the survivors and a sense of displacement and guilt among those left to carry on. Some have even resulted in lawsuits via personal injury lawyers. The awards that may arise do nothing to bring back the dead, but they do rescue the living from a sense of impotence in the face of mindless hate.   

Two Schools of Thought

There are two schools of thought re the ownership of weapons, notably assault weapons – whose definition defies anything approaching accuracy. The NRA says that every American should be armed: the current administration is all for banning all weapons that shoot bullets. A middle ground, banning only assault weapons, rapid-fire weapons, military-grade weapons (machine guns) and other weapons that have been adapted to accept a clip of more than one bullet, doesn’t seem feasible, since no one (including President Barack Obama) understands or can agree upon what makes a gun an “assault” weapon. For Obama, it is either an AK-47 or an “automatic” weapon. The same misconceptions are extensive among the U.S. population at large. 

The NRA truly believes that if all US citizens were armed, none of these shootings would have occurred. This is patently false. In no instance has a mass shooter been stopped by an armed citizen. In fact, the closest any citizen has gotten to shutting down a mass shooter occurred in Portland, but even that individual failed to fire his weapon for fear of shooting an innocent bystander.

What will stop these unfortunate and often highly lethal shooting incidents? A ban on assault weapons – if Congress and the gun industry can agree on a standard – might reduce the incidence by about half if written with the same inclusions as Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed bill. These are: handguns with magazines containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition; military-type weapons; and semi-automatic rifles. No game hunter worth his or her salt is likely to carry a semi-auto into the woods. Even stricter gun laws will no doubt decrease the number of mass shootings, but will also – as many gun owners correctly note – put US citizenry at the mercy of the real criminals (drug dealers, gang members, et al).

If and when gun bans fail to reduce mass shootings, we Americans might turn our eyes to several other areas that precipitate this kind of mindless rage. We might, for example, extend our social safety net to catch those unfortunates who fall outside sociometric norms and have at one time or another called attention to themselves – in school, in business or in other group settings – as being deeply angry, mentally unbalanced or victimized.

gunsIt’s a tall order, and infringes on privacy, so Americans are unlikely to subscribe to it. Other than that, we can take the initiative as parents, teachers and mentors to see that those already disturbed not get their hands on violent video games. These, according to Brown v. Entertainment Merchants (June 2011) cannot legally be removed from commerce since they show no definitive or “persuasive” psychological link to violence. Even among very liberal, no-gun advocates, it is generally agreed that violent video games attract violent individuals rather than the other way around.

Finally, until society recognizes the inherent injustice of the top 1 percent owning 40 percent of US wealth (a situation that Vanity Fair’s Joseph E. Stiglitz noted, as far back as mid-2011, as an “inequality even the wealthy will come to regret”), we will always have the disgruntled, dispossessed and discarded among us, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. 


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