Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wrong, Dead Wrong

So many of the issues that created the Civil War, beyond slavery, have never been resolved. That battle between urban and rural values has never been settled, rearing its ugly head time after time in our nation. Desegregation. The KKK. Voting and civil rights. Prohibition. Women’s right to vote.  School prayer. Creationism vs. evolution. Separation of church and state. Government regulation. State’s rights. Police on minorities. Just looking around at the number of Confederate flags waving around the South (didn’t they lose the war?), the incredible and passionate belief of those with deep rural values about God, climate change and the right to have guns, really sophisticated weapons that have one purpose: killing people.
We have “stand your ground,” “your home is your castle,” “open carry” and little or no background checks in too many states over private gun show sales.  We have an absolutely inane and ultra-violent organization that foments gun wide ranging gun ownership (even to overthrow a government you don’t agree with) on behalf of gun manufacturers with the power to force people running for office to lose if they don’t toe the line. The National Rifle Association. In short, not only do we have almost one gun for everyone living in the United States, but many states have statutes that allow gun-owners to use them against their fellow man without legal risk. We have mass shootings, shootings on live television, and gun murders all over the country every day.
The NRA lies, telling you that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” and “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”… even though people with guns kill vast multiples of people than those without guns, and the ratio of defensive use of guns to out-and-out aggressive homicide is over 1 defensive use to 30 aggressive uses. The NRA and all of its supporters are and have for a very, very long time been completely, unequivocally, and statistically wrong!
In the vast litany of unimpeachable data showing how extremely horribly more people die in societies where guns are pervasive than nations with reasonable gun control legislation, too many rural-value Americans still hide behind a misinterpretation of the Second Amendment (what happened to that “well-regulated militia” part?) and cling to those murderous weapons. If you read my blogs, you have reams of supporting statistics.
Ready for another, this one from a recent study from the University of Alabama? “Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, looks at the ‘dark side of American exceptionalism’ in a new study to be presented Sunday at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association [ASA] in Chicago. In ‘Mass Shooters, Firearms, and Social Strains: A Global Analysis of an Exceptionally American Problem,’ Lankford uses a quantitative analysis of mass shootings around the world between 1966 and 2012 to attempt to understand their prevalence in the U.S., and he consults previous research to try to understand the factors behind this unmatched frequency.” Newsweek, August 23rd.
U.S. News and World Report (August 23rd) summarizes that study: “The United States comprises only 5 percent of the global population, but it accounts for 31 percent of public mass shooters worldwide, a new study shows… [Lankford] defined public mass shootings as incidents that resulted in the deaths of more than four people, did not occur in homes, were not gang-related and were not hostage situations or robberies… ‘The United States, Yemen, Switzerland, Finland and Serbia are ranked as the top five countries in firearms owned per capita, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, and my study found that all five are ranked in the top 15 countries in public mass shooters per capita. That is not a coincidence,’ Lankford said in an ASA news release…
“Lankford also examined differences between public mass shootings in the United States and in other countries… Public mass shooters in other nations were 3.6 times less likely to have used multiple weapons -- typically more than one gun, but occasionally a gun and another type of weapon -- than those in the United States, where more than half of shooters used at least two weapons.
“‘Given the fact that the United States has over 200 million more firearms in circulation than any other country, it's not surprising that our public mass shooters would be more likely to arm themselves with multiple weapons than foreign offenders,’ Lankford said… ‘I was surprised, however, that the average number of victims killed by each shooter was actually higher in other countries [8.8 victims] than it was in the United States [6.9 victims] because so many horrific attacks have occurred here,’ he added…
“He also found that U.S. public mass shooters were more likely to strike in schools, factories/warehouses and office buildings than those in other countries, who were much more likely to attack military targets, such as bases, barracks and checkpoints.
“Lankford offered Australia as an example of what stronger gun control laws can do… ‘From 1987 to 1996, four public mass shootings occurred in Australia. Just 12 days after a mass shooter killed 35 people in the last of these attacks, Australia agreed to pass comprehensive gun control laws,’ Lankford said… ‘It also launched a major buyback program that reduced Australia's total number of firearms by 20 percent’ he said. ‘My study shows that in the wake of these policies, Australia has yet to experience another public mass shooting.” U.S. News.
The problem is manifold. One, the guns of today bear no resemblance to the single-shot flintlocks around when the Bill of Rights was enacted. Two, today our nation has 80% of its population in significant urban areas where people live in very, very close proximity to each other, with well under 2% embracing everyone who works on a farm. Three, the vast majority of U.S. residents have access to local police forces, no longer have to defend themselves living in isolated rural communities, can phone or email and can climb into their cars when necessary. Four, we are vastly over-armed when compared with every other country in the world. Five, where civilian guns are used on people, they are not “militia” related, seldom used for self-defense (compared with aggressive homicide), and are generally used for criminal purposes, suicide or result in “accidental” deaths. Etc. Etc.
And then there is this other category of mass killings, huge given the volume of offenses: domestic disputes that don’t end well. The August 25th Huffington Post explains: “The majority of mass shootings in the U.S. take place in private. They occur in the home, and the victims are predominantly women and children… The untold story of mass shootings in America is one of domestic violence. It is one of men (yes, mostly men) targeting and killing their wives or ex-girlfriends or families. The victims are intimately familiar to the shooters, not random strangers. This kind of violence is not indiscriminate -- though friends, neighbors and bystanders are often killed alongside the intended targets.
“The Huffington Post analyzed five years of mass shooting data compiled by Everytown For Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization backed by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. We looked at shootings in which at least four people were killed with a gun (the common definition of mass shootings, though there is debate over the best way to define them).
“We found that in 57 percent of mass shootings, the shooter targeted either a family member or an intimate partner. According to HuffPost's analysis, 64 percent of mass shooting victims were women and children. That's startling, since women typically make up only 15 percent of total gun violence homicide victims, and children only 7 percent.” Note how the relevant data is provided by a private survey group.  Why?
The NRA has prevented full statistical accountability from governmental agencies for gun deaths has made gathering data difficult, but even they are unable to stem the tsunami of facts that contradict most of the litany of falsehoods that they have spread. If we are going to live in a society where gun use is simply a way of life, where people accept that guns are used by the angry and adult bullies to enforce their demands of their fellow residents, then let’s just call it what it is: a nation of murderous guns and too many angry or self-righteous people – who believe they have a right to use their weapons against those they wish to dominate, intimidate or with whom they simply disagree. Stop hiding behind a false interpretation of the Second Amendment.
It’s time to stop tip-toeing and kowtowing around the NRA and their adherents, knowing that today more Americans die every year from unjustified gun deaths than in military battles or terrorists attacks.

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