WHEN IT COMES TO GUNS AND GUN VIOLENCE THERE IS BUT ONE SIMPLE TRUTH WE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE AND ADDRESS OR NONE OF THE REST MATTERS
As we go around and around and around again regarding our reactions to yet another mass shooting at an American school, far too many of us retreat to the same tired, ineffective and, frankly, silly arguments about laws, the Second Amendment, mental health, freedom, tyranny, cars, baby cribs, knives, parenting, discipline, spanking, video games, illegal immigrants, what is and what isn't an automatic weapon and on and on and on. Most are straw man arguments rife with false equivalencies and very little critical thinking.
I, too, get emotional about the issue but I also try to stay beholden to facts and evidence. When we remove sadness, anger, despair and self-righteousness from the equation and from all those varied arguments about guns and their role in American culture, there is but a single unassailable truth which cannot be denied or disproven no matter how fervently either side tries to parse it.
Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths.
We are too much in love with guns for the gun's sake and we unnecessarily glorify them. There are an estimated 300 million guns in the United States. Per capita gun ownership is 101 guns per 100 people. That's nearly twice as high as any other country. But even as the number of guns has been rapidly increasing, gun ownership is ever more concentrated in fewer households. Only 40 percent of households (including mine) have a gun but per capita gun ownership is now twice as high as it was as recently as 1968.
So why so many guns? Why have we, just in recent decades, become so interested in owning so many more guns? What is the cultural linchpin which was pulled to make us so gun crazy? The answer seems complicated but is actually an easy one. Blame the National Rifle Association.
What used to be an organization which advocated for hunters and sport shooters and gun safety (I earned safety and marksmanship badges as a teenage member) has morphed into a political lobby whose singular goal is to make sure there are as few barriers to buying a gun and as few laws regarding the safety and use of those weapons as possible. It now doles out millions upon millions of dollars to politicians' campaigns in exchange for assurances that they will take no action whatsoever to curtail the ever upward spiral in the number of guns in America or to take any steps to try to keep them out of the hands of people who should not have them because they...absolutely identifiable individuals...are a danger to society when armed. The NRA and it's sycophantic supporters have even managed to prevent Congress from passing laws to keep known terrorists and terrorist sympathizers from legally purchasing guns. Lawmakers beholden to the NRA's campaign dollars passed a law last year which made it EASIER for people adjudicated as mentally ill to buy guns. It's absolute madness. off white garments suitable for wedding
And where does the NRA's funding come from? It used to operate on money collected from citizen membership dues. Now it gets its blood money from gun and ammunition manufacturers. They hold board positions at the NRA and they are the ones driving the provably false narrative that a gun keeps your family safer and that if only more people carried them around we'd have fewer people getting shot. They use fear, bigotry and lies to dupe us into buying more and more of their deadly products. They are shamelessly stoking a dangerous mindset in order to increase their profits. Quite simply, they are more than willing to add thousands of names to the death toll in service of the almighty dollar.
I am not advocating for banning guns altogether or for establishing limits on how many guns we can own. If your hobby is gun collecting or sport shooting or hunting or if you genuinely believe having a gun in your home protects you, fine with me. But why do so many law-abiding gun enthusiasts and gun rights advocates oppose even widely supported and common sense proposals like universal background checks, preventing known terrorists and terrorist sympathizers from buying guns legally and regulations which would keep those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill from being able to buy guns as easily and legally as anyone else? I do not buy the argument of the most ardent gun rights advocates that the Second Amendment tells us that any regulation is tyranny because it doesn't. After all, the term "well regulated" is in the amendment itself. If people must die in order for you to avoid any minor inconvenience while legally purchasing a gun...or many guns...then I no longer believe you when you dress up your opposition in patriotism.
Certainly we need to address things like mental health treatment and underlying societal issues which leave too many people feeling helpless, alienated and angry. But we've always had those problems. What we haven't always had is so damned many guns. As we have almost exponentially increased the number of guns, we've seen the number of gun related deaths increase and the number and frequency and death toll from mass shootings increase, too.
We've let the gun industry redefine our truths. But there is still that one truth which gun and ammo manufacturers and the organizations and lawmakers which take their money and promulgate their message cannot hide from. Again...it's simple. More guns, more gun deaths. If we don't take back that truth, if we don't counter the NRA's fear-based lie that only guns can protect us and that your freedom depends on the presence of guns everywhere, if we don't identify lawmakers who toe the gun lobby line and vote them out...nothing will change. We simply do not need so many guns and we need to stand up to those who try to make us believe we do and profit from it.