I have now learned that a great way to increase the amount of public participation on your blog is to talk about guns. The feedback on my last post set a record.
I have also learned that having a reasonable debate on this subject is pretty much impossible. There is so much disinformation out there that people involved in the discussion seem to be speaking different languages.
Part of the problem is that there really is, as I noted in the last post, not a lot of good data on the effects of gun ownership and gun regulation. I know that sounds crazy and I have to tell you, as one who believes in making informed data driven judgments it is very frustrating. But it is true mostly because the government, which funds much of the academic research in the United States, has for years forbidden the organizations responsible for public health and safety to fund studies into the causes of death by gunfire. That leaves us arguing, for example, on the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004.
There is an excellent and new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in The American Journal of Medicine which finds, “The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 25 times higher than in other high-income countries, and the firearm suicide rate is eight times higher.” That is fine as far as it goes. But it does not try to connect the high rates of death to the differences in gun regulation between the United States and those other countries. In addition it was funded by The Joyce Foundation, which advocates for regulation.
That funding source leaves the study open to criticism from the pro-gun people, who spend vast sums of money debunking even the most straight forward studies of the gun death epidemic, my words, in the United States. The so-called “Just Facts” site looks to make a well argued and graphically supported point that the news media in America exaggerates the gun related death rate. I direct you to the link and will not copy their charts here. How many people will read carefully? I fear not many as I laugh at charts comparing a less than 10 in 100,000 murder rate in the United States with a 10 per 1,000,000 homicide rate reported by police in England and Wales. That indicates the rate in the U.S. is ten times greater, although the charts look the same.
We know that the killing rate in the United States is off the charts. And we know that the only significant difference between America and the other countries is the number of high powered, large capacity, rapid fire weapons of war that are available to the public in America. These are not the weapons the authors of the Second Amendment knew when they wrote. There is no reason why we must be bound, in the Twenty-First Century, by an Eighteenth Century law.
Moreover, we never were. Common sense applied until the gun manufacturing lobby and its National Rifle Association began its campaign in the 1970s to change the way our political leaders and courts read the Second Amendment since it was enacted. See the Brennan Center’s, How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment.
Perhaps the late Chief Justice of the United States, Warren Burger, a conservative and a Republican, put it best:
The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies — the militia — would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.Warren Berger,
Chief Justice of the United States,
MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, 1991
We can’t look to anyone else to fix this problem. It is up to us. The next time you hear about a mass killing skip the thoughts and prayers. Register and vote.