By Randy Ihara, South Riding
Over the years, the outright refusal of our elected representatives in Congress to seriously confront the issue of gun control, and their failure to renounce the craven fealty to the NRA and their gun manufacturer-patrons, has once again resulted in tragedy. This time, in young lives of students and families in the latest shooting incident.
In the wake of that long-standing moral irresponsibility, the futures of seventeen high school students at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have been snuffed out at the hands of a deranged, nineteen-year-old, who had been expelled for discipline “issues.” His record of troubling behavior raised red flags among his peers and apparently among school administrators. But their decision was not to try to seek professional help, but to get rid of him. So, he was expelled. Problem solved. But like a bad dream, he returned armed with a recently-purchased AR-15, handguns, plenty of ammunition, and a plan to infect the families of his former classmates with his misery.
In the aftermath of yet another tragedy, effort will again be wasted placing blame. Predictably, as the second-guessing begins, the same question asked at Sandy Hook, will be repeated, “What could we do?” Since the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six teachers in Newtown, CT, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. In those incidents, 438 people were shot, 138 of whom were killed, according to the New York Times. However, these represent only 18% of the approximately 1,300 incidences of mass shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook (New York Times, Oct. 2, 2017).
As a nation, it is long past time that we face one of the roots of the problem: Too Many Guns. America is swimming in guns, the very implements of domestic death and mayhem that has been a tragic feature of American society for too long. According to the ATF, we now have a society where there are 310 million guns (114 million handguns, 110 million rifles, 86 million shotguns), enough for almost every American to own a gun. All in the name of the bogus interpretation of the Second Amendment—no basis in with the campaign investments by the National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers in Congress.
In 2012, the Department of Justice reported that US gun manufacturers produced 2.9 million guns in 2001. Within a decade they had increased production by 90 percent to 5.5 million. By 2013, the cumulative total of 357 million guns in private hands had surpassed 317 million, the number of US citizens in that year. In its analysis, National Public Radio attributed the increase to the failure of Congress to pass gun control legislation.
The latest tragedy in Parkland, FL, should be understood against the background of this progressive flood of guns into American society. Though the evidence may be circumstantial, the association of the availability of firearms, principally handguns and rifles, and the growing incidences of murder and mass murders should not be dismissed as random occurrences without comprehensive, multi-variant statistical analyses of gun death and mass shooting incidences. Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association, the cabal of gun manufacturers—whose interest is strictly limited to gun sale profits, not that results of the use of those instruments–and their well-funded Congressional allies have passed legislation barring Federal agencies from conducting such analyses, a contemporary version of the old strategy of “keep ‘em ignorant and down on the an
One day after a man and his wife shot and killed 14 and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, CA, the Senate voted to rejected a bill (48-50) that would tighten background checks for gun purchases. Forty-nine of the campaign coffers of 49 0f the 50 Senators that voted against passage received a total of $615,000 from NRA and the gun manufacturers.
The gun lobby’s efforts to obscure and rationalize the relationship between the prevalence and accessibility of guns, mass shootings, homicides, and other uses of their product, at a minimum is politically irresponsible, and morally reprehensible.
For example, criminologist Grant Duwe’s analysis of FBI data on the average of 649 murders annually over 36 years, from 1976-1999, finds that 69% of those involved the use of firearms. (Mass Murder in the United States: A History, 2007) He shows that the frequency of mass public shootings began to accelerate in 1960s, and accelerated rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s. Over the 33-year period, 1966 -1999, there were 95 mass shooting incidents, more than 60% of which occurred in the last ten years. This seems roughly consistent with CRS’s finding that during the period 2001-2011, there were more than 208,000 mass murder victims killed by firearms.
The Congressional Research Service has found that the United States has had about 30 mass shootings annually for the past 30 years! Based on Department of Justice data, between 1999 and 2011, CRS reported the rate of mass homicides using firearms, was 80 incidents annually over the period. (Mass Murder with Firearms: Incidents and Victims, 1999-2013)
The last line of evidence, is based on comparative international statistics of the 34 OECD member nations. As a general proposition, with two exceptions, the United States homicide rate of 3.82 per 100,000 is the highest among the other member nations. Likewise, the 2016 US gun homicide rate, 38 per 100,000, is also the highest in the OECD. It is not, then, surprising that 88.8 (guns per 100 population), the US gun ownership rate, is also one of the highest in the world, exceeded only by Japan, South Korea, Poland, and the Netherlands.
As a nation, we have allowed