Thursday, December 20, 2012

Newtown

"I'd love to hear people argue that we need 30-round magazines and that that's somehow tied to the right to bear arms." — Dannel Malloy, Governor of Connecticut 

NEWTOWN. It will never be just the name of a town again.

Perhaps if I were a gifted writer I could say something that hasn't already been said, or say it more meaningfully. I'm disappointed in myself for not having lent a louder voice in opposition to the NRA's unabated pursuit of the arming of America. The fact that we, the unarmed, and the laws that govern us are held hostage by this organization is just insane.

There's no reasoning with the NRA

Although I don't personally favor hunting, I understand that human beings are omnivorous and that hunting if properly executed is probably more humane than the cruelty inflicted by industrial meat production. Target shooting seems an acceptable sport. Sometimes I think I might enjoy learning to be a crack shot in a proper indoor facility. And my grandpa was an antique gun collector all his life, so I get that. 

But there are some types of guns and ammunition that no civilian should own, as is the case with let's say, nuclear war heads, weapons grade plutonium, armored tanks or weaponized anthrax. 

Here's what I don't get: 2977 of our citizens were killed on 9/11. In the same year, almost three times as many of us, 8583 to be reasonably exact, were killed with guns, yet our government spent 1.25 TRILLION dollars on the 'war on terror' (no wonder we're broke!) and allocated nothing that I know of to reduce the number of civilian-owned arms in America

The real war on terror needs to be here at home.

Jason Gottlieb wrote that the problem with guns is fairly straightforward: they make it easy to kill or injure someone. It's a brilliantly explicit statement. 

You may have heard the straw-man argument that if we were all armed, we'd all be safe because no one would ever dare try anything. As a friend of Paul's pointed out, that's like saying we can lower the drunk driving deaths by letting more drunks on the road. 

Contrary to such oxymoronic thinking, the famous Arthur Kellerman study found that 54% of firearm deaths occurred in the home where the gun was kept and that a gun kept at home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household or a friend than to stop an intruder.

Let's collectively demand change — and perhaps pray for forgiveness for not having done so sooner. 

The first step is to get clear in our own heads that we are not asking for anything unreasonable. Victims of bullying often gradually come to believe that what they want is wrong; and we have most assuredly allowed ourselves to be bullied by the NRA.

I'm going to work for:

• A ban on the sale of assault rifles and guns that accommodate large magazines of ammunition to any private person.

• A national system for instant background checks for those who are attempting to buy guns or ammunition.

• A national data base to register ownership of guns and ammunition.

• The institution of a meaningful national gun buy-back program.

Below are additional facts and figures in support of this reasonable agenda.

• Of the current population of 314,970,028 in the United States, there are approximately 300,000,000 firearms owned by civilians. (US Census Bureau; Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review)

• In England and Wales the ratio of guns to people is 6 guns per 100 people. In the US there are 95 guns for every 100 citizens. (The Guardian, UK; US Census Bureau; Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review)

• There are close to 15,000 more gun stores in the United States than there are grocery stores (51,438 gun retailers vs. 36,536 grocery stores). (ABC News)

• There almost as many gun dealers (retail stores, collectors, pawn shops, importers and manufacturers) in America as gas stations. (ABC News)

• American gun companies made 5.5 million new guns in 2010 and 95% of them were sold to Americans, yet it wasn't nearly enough to satisfy our insatiable demand for guns, so an additional 3.3 million guns were imported in 2010. (ABC News)

• In 2011 there were 8583 people killed by guns in our country. In the UK that figure was about 550. (The Guardian, UK)

• From 2006-2010, 47,856 people in the US were murdered with guns — more than twice as many people as those killed by all other methods combined(ABC News)

• 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles were bought back as part of new gun control measures in Australia after a 1996 mass shooting in which 35 people were killed.

Australia also prohibited private sales of such guns from 1995 to 2006. Homicides by firearms dropped 59 percent, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since then. (ABC News)

I suggest not wasting time writing to the NRA. Instead, write or call your Congresspersons and the President or add your voice to organizations where your impact will be multiplied by others of like mind. Here are some resources:

http://www.demandaplan.org, part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has a petition to sign asking Congress to 1) require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America 2) ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and 3) make gun trafficking a federal crime that includes real penalties for "straw purchasers".

http://www.csgv.org This is the website for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. There are all kinds of good resources here including videos and information about the necessity to closing the gun show loophole.

 http://www.bradycampaign.org This link takes you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. There are many resources here as well.

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