In one year on average, almost 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun, these include murders, assaults, suicides, accidents, or by police intervention, according to the Brady Campaign, the leading gun control advocacy organization in the United States.
“If we look just in terms of 5 to 7 years we’re getting something close to a million people being impacted by gun violence in the United States,” says Jackie Hilly, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates. The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher . Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States, according to the Brady Campaign.
“About 320 million guns are owned by civilians in the US, probably close to half the private firearms on the planet, so we are exceptionally armed in the US.” says Nicolas Johnson, Professor of Law at Fordham University.
In January 2011 a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery store in Arizona, killing six people including a nine-year-old girl and wounding at least 12 others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was severely injured with a gunshot to the head. In July 2012 – a masked gunman opens fire at midnight, in a movie theater, killing 12 and injuring 58 in Aurora Colorado. Less than a month later a Gunman kills six people at a SIkh temple in Wisconsin before being shot dead by police.
With the last two episodes, coming back to back many hoped it would ignite a national discussion about guns and gun violence. It didn’t.
With the latest horrific shooting that happened in Newton, Connecticut, upon us stands another opportunity. Will we take it or move on?
In 2008 President Barak Obama ran largely on the slogan of change and restoring America’s image abroad. Today four years later we have yet to address one of the biggest threats facing our nation, here at home.
“It’s not only a national disgrace but a national tragedy.” Says Hilly. If we look at the term of the next Obama presidency over the next four years based on past statistics 48,000 people will be killed in homicides involving guns.” she adds.
The Century 16 movie theater in Aroura Colorado was located just 10 miles from the University of Denver where Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went head to head for the first Presidential debate. The TV debate also took place about 10 miles in the other direction from Columbine high school where the 1999 rampage claimed 13 lives. However neither the President or Mitt Romaney or moderator Brian Learer made any mention of the events nor did they address the issue of gun violence.
Should they have talked about it? Morally yes, but the question is would they have effectively talked about it? When there are no clear effective answer that’s sitting on the shelf waiting to be implemented and that’s what President Obama should focus on, an effective solution to an ongoing trend.
“Every mass shooting that has happened in the last 10 years whether its Columbine or Virginia Tech or Northern Illinois University or Aurora has been involving assault weapons and has also involved high capacity magazines, so there is a common thread, which we should be focusing on, they are military weapons designed by the military for the military and they’ve just been made civilian by deleting a couple of features,” says Hilly.
“If you look the AR15 which was the riffle used in Aurora, that perticular riffle was developed by the US military after the Korean war and for the Vietnam war,” she adds.
And yes we know the National Riffle Association is a powerful lobby in the United States. Founded in 1871 with the mission of creating rifle clubs comprised of mostly Civil War veterans to improve their marksmanship, today with some 4 million members and annual revenues of $228 million, it has more than two dozen branches, including one focused on voter outreach and another that promotes hunters’ rights. The group is credited with successfully lobbying for, and in some cases helping draft, Stand Your Ground laws and legislation that allows people to carry concealed weapons in public. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ review of FEC data in the 2012 cycle, so far the NRA has funneled nearly half a million dollars’ worth of contributions to hundreds of congressmen. It is widely believed that due to the the NRA’s relentless work In March, 2004 the US Senate blocked an extension of the assault weapons ban. Repeated efforts since then to renew it have failed. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban barred the manufacture and import of a wide range of semi-automatic weapons for use by civilians, including the AR-15 used by James Holmes in the Aurora shootings. The legislation also banned high-capacity magazines, which feed large numbers of bullets to a gun. The law had a time limit of 10 years.
“The NRA has largely achieved its power through two very specific ways; one they are incredibly well funded, many gun manufcturers provide a lot of funding to the NRA and secondly they have very cleverly & falsely misrepresented the gun control debate,” says Richard Aborn former president of the Brady Campaign and the principal strategists behind the passage of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
“The gun control debate is about stopping the flow of illegal guns to the criminal market, however what the NRA has argued is that we want to ban all guns.” says Aborn who is now president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City.
He believes that the reason they have done that to keep their membership frightened.” Frightened that any bill passed will take away their guns.
The NRA’s tactics to scare gun owners about the imminent threat to their arsenal since US President Barak Obama took office have contributed greatly to the industry’s growth. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation between 2008 and 2011, jobs in companies that make, distribute, and sell firearms and ammunition have grown 30%. The NSSF estimates that the industry’s “direct economic impact” doubled to $13.6 billion in that time. Since 2010, Ruger and Smith & Wesson – America’s two biggest publicly traded guns makers – have enjoyed a 150% rise in stock market value. In May, Ruger’s first quarter earnings more than doubled . The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that the number of guns made in the US rose 16% between 2010 and 2011 to 6.4 million guns, and the FBI expects to run 17.8 million firearm purchase background checks in 2012 – up 9 % from 2011. Moreover, over 50 firearms-related companies have given at least $14.8 million to NRA according to its list for a donor program that began in 2005. That was the year NRA lobbyists helped get a federal law passed that limits liability claims against gun makers.
“In 1994 when the Assault Weapons Ban was passed by the US proved to be extraordinarily costly for democrats, after passing the bill House Speaker, Tom Foley, then Democratic House Speaker was unseated and lost his reelection bid in Washinton State and the democrats lost the house of reporesentatives.” says Johnson.
As we track forward Democrats concluded that the issue cost Al Gore the presidency against George W. Bush in 2004, because the Clinton Administration was perceived to be unfriendly to gun owners.
And while it’s unrealistic to believe that we will witness a sea of change in Washington on Gun Control Laws, perhaps we could start by talking to gun owners and members of the NRA.
At the end of the day this debate is not about violating the second ammendment or taking away everyone’s guns or about lawful citizens owning guns, its about illigal weapons, criminals getting guns and it’s about more americans being killed every year with guns than all the soldiers we’ve lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. While we strive to restore our image abroad, we must also work to restore our values at home.
image by: hcpress