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On gun control in America. December 18, 2012

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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I was going to do the usual one-line-each link roundup, but decided there was too much worth quoting. Paragraphs ahead. More to come.

Nicholas D. Kristof for the New York Times, “Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence.

So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.

American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill. […]

As one of my Facebook followers wrote after I posted about the shooting, “It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Look, I grew up on an Oregon farm where guns were a part of life; and my dad gave me a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I understand: shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?

Cliff Schecter for AlterNet, “5 Issues That Divide Gun Owners and NRA Leadership

So whether the NRA is working to restore gun rights to violent felons , protect the ability of terrorists, drug kingpins and serial domestic abusers to purchase high-capacity clips at gun shows, or fighting for military style weapons to be available to the Jared Loughners, John Patrick Bedells and James Holmes’ of the world, you can bet that whatever comes out of LaPierre’s mouth, his only interest is protecting the real clients of today’s NRA: arms dealers .

This is made crystal-clear by the fact that the NRA’s own membership, many of whom joined only because of an outdated understanding of what the leadership of this organization actually stands for, agree with most Americans that our gun laws should protect our families, and not the financial interests of a clique of craven elites.

[…]

2. Terror Gap

If you are put on the U.S. terror watch list you cannot board an airplane. You can, however, still purchase guns and explosives. According to the Government Accountability Office , “From February 2004 through February 2010, 1,228 individuals on the watch list underwent background checks to purchase firearms or explosives; 1,119, or 91 percent, of these transactions were approved.”

NRA members understand this even if their leadership stubbornly tries to protect the gun-ownership rights of terrorists (but they’re patriots, I tell you!). Eighty-two percent of NRA members think this gap should be closed.

Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan for Jezebel, “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America

It’s perhaps too easy to forget how many times this has happened. The horrific mass murder at a movie theater in Colorado on July 20, another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on August 5, another at a manufacturer in Minneapolis on September 27—and now the unthinkable nightmare at a Connecticut elementary school on December 14—are the latest in an epidemic of such gun violence over the last three decades. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. We’ve mapped them below, including details on the shooters’ identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed.

Weapons: Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns. (See charts below.) Just as Jeffrey Weise used a .40-caliber Glock to slaughter students in Red Lake, Minnesota, in 2005, so too did James Holmes, along with an AR-15 assault rifle, when blasting away at his victims in a darkened movie theater. In Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza wielded two handguns and a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle as he massacred 20 school children and six adults.

Ezra Klein for the Washington Post, “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States

When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”

Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.

[…]

2. Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States.

Time has the full list here. In second place is Finland, with two entries.

Mark Landler and Peter Baker for the New York Times, “‘These Tragedies Must End,’ Obama Says

“No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” he said. “But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.” He added that “in the coming weeks I’ll use whatever power this office holds” in an effort “aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”

“Because what choice do we have?” he added. “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

The relevant WhiteHouse.gov petition is still open, and will be for several more weeks.

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