Vail Daily column: We must demand solutions
The gun lobby is incapable of understanding gun control as regulation intended to increase public safety, but rather frames it instead as the eventual and absolute revocation of gun rights. Any reasonable suggestion to reduce gun violence such as requiring guns, which after all are lethal weapons, be kept secure is tantamount to gun seizure. It is inaccurate and is intended to incite fear and prevent rational discussion.
Following the Roseburg shooting, GOP candidates Chris Christie and Donald Trump claimed that increased gun laws result in increased gun violence and then pointed to Chicago. The problem with using Chicago as an example is that Chicago is not some discrete, hermetically sealed entity. It is a large, porous city surrounded by localities and states that have little or no restrictions on gun purchases. Most of the guns used in crimes in Chicago were purchased outside of Chicago in Cook County or in other states such as Indiana and Mississippi.
The Harvard School of Public Health, unlike Christie and Trump, has come to the opposite conclusion based on extensive research rather than NRA talking points. Rigorous academic examination exposes that where there are more guns there are more homicides: “Studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S. where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide” (www.hsph.harvard.edu).
A Vail Daily letter writer opines that outside urban areas, “the murder rate in America is pretty low.” Perhaps our murder rate is lower than Honduras or Venezuela, but let’s get real and compare the United States to equivalent countries such as other Western democracies. According to the FBI, in 2012 the U.S. murder rate per 100,000 people was 4.7, in Germany it was 0.8, in France it was 1.1 and in the UK it was 1.2. It is callous to dismiss the problem as confined to cities such as Baltimore and New Orleans while forgetting that two of our nation’s most infamous mass shootings, Columbine and Aurora, happened in our own fair state.
“We don’t blame cars for drunk drivers, why blame guns for violent people?” appears on my Facebook wall with some regularity. This argument is employed in an attempt to draw an analogy between two unrelated hazards. Cars exist primarily for transportation. Guns exist to inflict damage either in self-defense, hunting or murder. Deaths from automobiles are almost always unintentional. However, when someone pulls the trigger the intent is to harm. In response to deaths from drunk drivers the drinking age was increased, blood-alcohol limits were established and tough penalties for driving while intoxicated were instituted. We did not ban alcohol or confiscate cars. We took measures to separate the two and drastically reduced auto accident deaths from alcohol-impaired drivers.
Ninety-two percent of Americans support universal background checks. Many people are surprised to learn that guns can be purchased without a background check online and at gun shows. Federally licensed dealers who submit background checks for potential gun purchases have turned down 2.4 million applicants since 1998. These background checks are intended to prevent those with diagnosed mental illnesses, felonies and illegal immigrants from purchasing weapons. Background checks did not prevent Charleston or Roseburg, but with millions of applicants turned down, we will never know what they did prevent.
Then there is the canard that mass shootings occur at gun-free zones because the shooter knows they will not meet resistance. Umpqua Community College was not a gun-free zone. Mass shooters pick locations with ample victims. Mass shooters are often on murder-suicide missions. But most importantly, most shootings, the kind that do not make the headlines, happen in homes, which are most definitely not gun-free zones.
The cockamamie award goes to the letter writer regurgitating conspiracy-theory nonsense that had Germans only been allowed to “bear arms” than the whole nasty business of World War II and the Holocaust would have been averted. Never mind that it took the combined strength of the American, British and Russian militaries to defeat the Germans. Somehow, according to the theory espoused by exactly zero reputable historians, citizens armed with rifles and revolvers would have been able to withstand the might of the Wehrmacht, Schutzstaffel (SS) and the Luftwaffe.
In response to my previous column on gun control I was accused of “getting upset” and coming up with “unrealistic solutions.” Since that column ran there have been 40 mass shootings in America (shootingtracker.com). I hope more Americans get upset and demand solutions beyond the do-nothing bromides supplied by the NRA and its minions.
Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be found online at clairenoble.org or follow her on Twitter @thewriteclaire.