This article was originally published in The Huffington Post.
“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
The debate has reached fever pitch and the rhetoric of vitriolic proportion over what to do about injury, murder and massacre caused by firearms in our country — from NY’s Governor Cuomo telling his state’s residents the other day that New York will have the stiffest gun control laws in the country and outlawing all assault weapons, to the likes of an Alex Jones who started the petition to deport Piers Morgan for the latter’s challenges to what the 2nd Amendment should be all about, and Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, who thinks an AR-15 should be available to anyone who wants to buy it. They are examples of the gun advocates who preach that guns are to save us from the tyranny of our government and whose minions want to compare President Obama’s use of executive power to improve gun safety much like Adolf Hitler’s or Joseph Stalin’s power over their country’s citizens. How sickening and ghastly a comparison! Jones and Pratt recently appeared on Morgan’s CNN evening show, and Jones was the one who literally screamed at Morgan that if guns are taken away, his ilk will take us back to the days of 1776 to overthrow the government. Then there was a guy named Ben Shapiro, an author of a book called Bullies who said to Morgan that the reason assault weapons should remain for sale is that someday — maybe decades from now — we will need them to fight our government when it becomes tyrannical. And then there is the NRA that advocates providing the good guys with more guns to fight the bad guys who already have the weaponry to kill and maim innocent Americans that were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It also sees Obama as wanting to abolish the 2nd Amendment and placing guns in schools is the best thing since sliced bread.
Americans, listen up; it is no longer possible to scream in silence about the nonsensical verbiage espoused by the likes of those just mentioned; it is no longer possible to scream in silence about the epidemic we call gun violence on the streets of our country! We all need to stand up and be counted, speak out, and not take the status quo about how more guns take fewer lives. Guns kill; people do not.
Recently, I attended an evening get-together on violence brought about by firearms sponsored by theTenthDems, the organization of Illinois’ 10th Congressional District Democrats, north of Chicago. I was particularly drawn to a well-put together presentation of Mr. Bill Jenkins, who has gathered much-needed data to set the record straight; unfortunately, he also lost a son some years back to a gunman’s bullet. As his data is compelling, it informs much of what follows in this post.
Any debate with gun safety starts with the wording of the 2nd Amendment — that our right to bear arms shall not be infringed. When that word “infringed” was scribed as part of the Constitution, it meant to not infringe something, not to abolish, cancel, break, or destroy. The word did not mean to “infringe upon”, as if to mean inconvenience or put borders around, establish parameters. What we are talking about today by suggesting background checks for all gun sales, limiting magazine or clip sizes, and the like is not to abolish the 2nd Amendment, but to put reasonable borders around its interpretation and then its practical application. Being inconvenienced is not to abridge, decimate or destroy the 2nd Amendment. Any right given to us has responsibilities attached to it that a democracy can ensure exists for the protection of all. This is what the current national debate is all about. As Justice Scalia said in the Heller case that the Supreme Court decided five years ago, “… the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.”
So if infringe does not preclude inconvenience, why do the NRA-type folks still cry foul when millions of Americans have already spoken up supporting sensible and pragmatic ways to improve gun safety, like insisting on background checks for all purchasers or resellers of firearms (gun shows included), keeping military style (assault) weapons off the streets, improving mental health systems so that those who should not have guns don’t get to them, having manufacturers install locking mechanisms that only the owner can undo to use a gun, and serialize or code all firearms for tracking purposes — even installing smart chips that prevent their use in certain locations like in and around schools, ensuring interlinking civilian and military computer data bases to track guns and their use, and imposing criminal and civil sanctions on gun owners who do not properly maintain and secure their purchased guns.
Then, of course, there is the concealed gun argument sanctioned by the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the right to bear arms. Recently, the federal appeals court sitting in Chicago in a 2-1 decision threw out Illinois’ law ban on carrying concealed weapons in public, saying a gun to protect oneself is just as important outside the home as it is inside. The state’s Attorney General has just filed a petition asking the entire court (10 sitting members) to rehear the case (an en banc hearing) — a wise move because there is, indeed, a distinct difference, i.e., no rational basis, to equate protecting one’s person and home with a pistol from walking around in public with a loaded one that no one can see or knows about.
In America, nearly 30,000 deaths a year are caused by a gun with another 90,000 injured; half are by suicides. Compare this data to the UK where 39 deaths occur or north of our border, in Canada, where the gun homicide rate is 200 per year. Something needs to be done in our United States, and needs to be done ASAP, if these other countries are any example for us to follow.
Those that abhor any further gun safety say the more guns the better in order to protect us. But of the 300 million guns that exist in the U.S., perhaps 1 percent of them (.25 percent of the population) are ever fired. Twenty-five percent of our citizens are gun owners and 20 percent of American adults own a gun though only 16 percent of them support the NRA’s political agenda. As to carrying concealed weapons, data reveals that before various states adopted such legislation, the overall crime rate (1985-2009) was heading downwards, but after their enactment in various jurisdictions (like Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri Florida), violence from guns bumped up. D.C. does not have concealed carry, yet violence from guns have followed the downward national trend; ditto for Illinois as well. So, to say that more guns in America, even with concealed carry, means less deaths and violence is false and a product of gun manufacturers and their fronting lobbyists like the NRA wanting merely to see more guns sold to boost profits.
Why is the profit motive important? Because according to a 2011 report from the National Opinion Research Center, household gun ownership is the lowest in decades, peaking at around 55 percent in the 1970s to 32.3 percent now, and personal gun ownership from around 30 percent in the 1980s to 21 percent now. To quote Mr. Jenkins, this is the “profile of an industry in trouble in America.” Many states report a steady decline in hunting that has been going on for decades. The only segment of the gun industry that has increased is the criminal market, again according to Mr. Jenkins’ data.
There are more specifics to be sure — and for that contacting the TenthDems organization to obtain Mr. Jenkins’ data would be a worthwhile undertaking. In the end, it is all about money and the diminishing profits of a sagging industry producing a product I call, weapons of mass carnage. But we all need to have our voices heard… loudly… now!
As to speaking up, recall the quote atop this post. No, it did not come from the current debate surrounding guns and Americans passionately wanting to get guns off the streets; the quote surely could have come from any one of them. Instead, it came from the 1976 movie, Network, and it was uttered by noted actor Peter Finch, a news anchor lamenting the deplorable state of his industry at the time. Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same; but the quoted language fits right into what needs to be said… over and over and over again to all our elected representatives.
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