President Biden is right. “For God’s Sake,” and our children’s sake, we must do something about gun violence in America. And we must do it now.
Back in 1996, after a few years of mass shootings, Australia experienced a mass slaughter on a scale like we saw yesterday in Texas. Their Supreme Court hadn’t ruled that Australian politicians could be owned by industries, so they passed extensive gun control and a nationwide gun buyback program. It was a turning point, and the mass shootings have since largely stopped.
Over at Daily Kos, Walter Einenkel has summarized how many millions of dollars the top Republicans in Congress have taken from the weapons industry: it’s a grim toll, starting with Mitt Romney taking over $13 million and Richard Burr over $6 million.
We’ve been at this point over and over again in America: will this be the one that punches through the wall of money the NRA and the weapons industry it fronts for wraps around Republicans?
Over on Fox News, one brilliant idea to deal with the slaughter of our children in our schools is to issue “Ballistic Blankets” to every school. This is how sick and twisted the Republicans taking money from the gun industry and their allies have become.
Twenty years ago, car accidents were the leading killer of children and youth: today it’s guns.
At the turn of the 21st century, there were about 14 car-crash deaths among young people (aged 1-24) per 100,000 young Americans, and only a bit over 7 gun deaths per 100,000. This year, almost 11 out of 100,000 children died from guns while only 8 per 100K died from car crashes.
And most all of those child gun deaths, mass shootings, and school shootings, which don’t happen in any other developed country in the world, are entirely preventable.
The GOP gifted gun manufacturers with near-absolute immunity against product liability lawsuits, so manufacturers have zero incentive to sell safer weapons or dial back their lobbying and marketing.
Their immunity from lawsuits is so extreme that the only way the parents of the kids murdered at Sandy Hook could hold Remington responsible was to instead go after their marketing: they had to point out how the company was “selling masculinity” to get guns into the hands of insecure boys.
The danger of an AR15 weapon-of-war in an elementary school couldn’t even be discussed.
America must “regulate” — a word found in the Second Amendment, it’s only appearance in the entire Constitution — guns.
A starting point is bringing back the assault weapons ban that Bill Clinton got passed in 1996 and George W. Bush let expire in 2006.
There are other commonsense solutions, like universal background checks, we could also put into law.
For example, back in the early years of the 20th century when cars had become so common they were regularly killing people in auto accidents, states hit on a simple formula to encourage safe driving and maintain clear lines of responsibility when things went wrong.
- *Every car was required to be registered every year with the state; if it was found out in public without registration it could be confiscated.
- *Every driver was required to prove knowledge of how to safely drive, with both a written and a real-life driving test.
- *And every driver was required to carry liability insurance, so if there was an accident the victims were covered, regardless of who was at fault.
For about 100 years drivers have lived with these three simple requirements, and they’ve worked. The liability insurance is particularly effective: as a “free market solution,” insurance companies now compile information on drivers’ safety records, including their history of violence, and set their rates accordingly.
Think about it: if Adam Lanza had murdered those kids at Sandy Hook by mowing them down in the street with his mom’s SUV, their families would have gotten $1 million each from Geico (for example). But because he killed them with a gun, they got nothing; even survivors of mass shootings and “accidents” get nothing for medical bills.
The only city in America who’s taken a cue from that century of insurance experience is San Jose, California which in 2021 put a liability insurance requirement into place for all gun owners in the city.
If you’ve committed gun-related crimes or your guns have killed people in the past, the “free market” for insurance will make it very expensive to own a gun; if you’re a gun owner who keeps your weapons in a gun safe and uses trigger guards, your rates will be nominal.
One of the main reasons fewer children are dying in car accidents now than a decade or two ago is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been compiling statistics for decades and has repeatedly identified safety flaws in particular vehicles or the way they’re used.
Gun safety advocates have, for years, called for a federal agency to compile gun injury and death statistics, but a bought-off member of Congress, Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey, attached the notorious “Dickey Amendment” to a must-pass omnibus spending bill in 1996.
In response to a growing number of research papers in the 1980s and early 1990s calling gun deaths a national health crisis and demanding federally funded science on the issue, his NRA-sponsored amendment banned any federal dollars from being used to research gun injuries or deaths in the US.
As The New England Journal of Medicine noted:
“Although substantial federal funding has been devoted to research on motor vehicle crashes, the firearm industry and gun-rights organizations, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been effective at keeping federal dollars from financing firearm-related research.”
There’s also the problem of the simple proliferation of guns, and the fact that more and more of them are semi-automatic weapons of war rather than simple revolvers or sport-shooting guns and rifles.
In 2010, a bit fewer than 10 million guns were sold in the US. Just the one year of 2020 saw that number more than double to nearly 22 million guns sold in just a 12-month period; 2021 added another 19 million guns to America’s homes.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more guns there are — particularly lacking any incentives to secure them safely — the more gun deaths (accidental, homicide, suicide) there will be.
There are now more guns in America than there are people, a bizarre situation that no other developed country in the world experiences. Literally none.
The average of all countries in the world is 9.86 guns per 100 civilians. The United States is highest in the world at 120.5 guns per 100 people. Yemen, which is in the middle of a war with Saudi Arabia and dealing with an internal insurgency, comes in second at 52.8. No other nation is even close; even Afghanistan and Iraq average around 20 deadly weapons in the hands of every hundred people.
While President Biden has signed an executive order banning the scourge of untraceable “ghost guns” and put gun safety in his last State of the Union speech, there is so much more to do.
Earlier this year a group of young activists including mass shooting survivor and March For Our Lives leader David Hogg covered the front of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office with body bags because of his unwillingness to bring gun control legislation to the floor of the Senate during this election year.
Meanwhile, the NRA, still flush with an infusion of cash from Russia, has succeeded in lobbying 25 states to allow anybody to carry a concealed gun with no background checks, no training, and no permit, regardless of their criminal or violent history.
America is neither poor nor stupid. We figured out how cars were killing people and put an end to most avoidable automobile deaths using a combination of commonsense laws (like mandatory licensure and insurance) and safety measures (seatbelts, carseats, padded dashes, anti-lock brakes, etc.).
The problem is that the GOP, their newfound concern for “the children” notwithstanding, does everything they can to block any reasonable solutions to the problem of gun violence and deaths in America, particularly among our kids.
We have both the technology and the resources to stop mass shootings and deal with childhood injuries and deaths from the only product sold in America that is specifically designed to kill human beings.
We must vote out the Republicans taking money from and embracing this death-dealing industry so America can put these reasonable steps — that have worked so well in other development nations — into place here.
Op-ed originally published at Commondreams.org, written by Thom Hartmann.