Common sense on guns

America the Outlier

America the Outlier

            Robert A. Levine 1/24/23

Being an outlier nation can be either good or bad depending on the issue in question. With high GDP or per capita wealth it is obviously good being an outlier in a positive direction as America is. In terms of income inequality being high, it’s bad to be an outlier. In a number of areas such as cost of health care, availability of child care and various social programs, America is a negative outlier. However, probably the worst aspect of American life where the nation is an overwhelming outlier is in the number of gun deaths and mass shootings, where no other nation in the world is even close to the mayhem seen in America.

In fact, the next ten advanced nations added together do not match the annual number of gun deaths in America. The reason for the excessive number of gun deaths is simple. America has more guns per capita than any advanced nation. Actually, there are more guns in circulation in the U.S. than the number of people. And not only are there more guns, people have access to automatic weapons and enlarged magazines to augment the number of bullets a weapon can fire before it has to be reloaded. This allows more people to be killed when a gunman decides that he wants to become a mass killer for one reason or another. (Women are rarely involved in mass shootings.)

Domestic terrorists associated with white nationalist groups are one of the sources of mass killers, usually aimed at minority groups.  However, the two recent mass shootings in California show the disease has spread to Asian-Americans who previously might have been considered targets. However, the two largest groups of people involved in mass killings are mentally deranged individuals and criminal gangs, the latter often using guns to settle turf wars with other gangs. Domestic violence is another factor in mass shootings usually limited to family members.

Aside from mass killings, individual lives are often taken in criminal activities, personal vendettas, or from mentally disturbed individuals. There are also more gun deaths by suicide in America than in any other country. The answer to cutting down on the epidemic of gun deaths is straight forward: cut down on the number of guns. This is merely common sense, but the National Rifle Association, gun lobbies and right-wing zealots are opposed to any common sense measures to reduce gun deaths, claiming that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” They claim that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives Americans the right to own an unlimited number of weapons of all types. However, the Second Amendment is ambiguous in its wording and could be interpreted in several ways, including that arms should be possessed by militia members. The Second Amendment was also written at a time when automatic weapons with extended magazines were not available and when ghost guns that are not registered could not be made by computers at home.

There is no reason for America to be an outlier with its number of gun deaths. Gun ownership should be limited to rifles for hunters and pistols for home self-defense, or for special situations to allow carry outside the home. The majority of Americans want automatic weapons, extended magazines and ghost guns banned and some surveys show that many gun owners feel the same way. But the power of the NRA, gun lobbyists and the right wing gun activists means that Americans will likely continue to kill Americans at an alarming rate and be an outlier in the civilized world.

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Common Sense vs. Politics on Gun Control

Common Sense vs. Politics on Gun Control

                        Robert A. Levine

There appears to be great hoopla among politicians in Washington over the new proposed gun control bill which will likely become law on a bipartisan basis. Unfortunately, it accomplishes very little because Republicans remain afraid of the gun lobby and the NRA. While it may put a crimp in the ability of 18 to 21 year olds to obtain guns instantly, they will still be able to get guns after an extended background check. The ‘red flag’ law may be of some value, but will depend on domestic partners, relatives or neighbors reporting someone as unsuitable to possess weapons. People may be reluctant to report individuals to the police because of repercussions if the weapons are not taken away or are returned after a certain period.

It is clear that the best way to prevent mass shootings is to ban assault weapons from the general public. While a case can be made for possession of pistols in the home for self-defense and rifles for hunting, there is absolutely no reason why civilians should be allowed to possess assault weapons or extended magazines. Assault weapons are weapons of war and large magazines allow more bullets to be shot at a faster rate without reloading. Why aren’t these weapons purposefully engineered for mass killings and quick killings during wartime banned for civilian use.

We all know why. Pure politics. The NRA and gun lobby gives campaign funds and advertises for those who support the easy purchase of assault weapons and advertises against those who want to make possession of assault weapons more difficult. During the ten years that an assault weapon ban was in force, from 1994 to 2004, mass killings were decreased, rising again when the ban was allowed to lapse. The initial ban on assault weapons was supported by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and received bipartisan backing in Congress.

Common sense tells us that if assault weapons and large magazines were unavailable to civilians, mass killings would decrease. America is the only developed nation in the world that allows possession of assault weapons by civilians, and gun deaths in America exceed those of any ten developed nations combined. The two major causes of death among young people are gun deaths and automobile accidents. It must also be emphasized that at the time the Second Amendment was written, assault weapons did not exist. The Founding Fathers relied on common sense when writing the Constitution and it is likely that the Second Amendment would have been altered if assault weapons had been invented by that time.

The goal of those in this nation who truly want to stop mass killings should be the complete elimination of assault weapons and large magazines in civilian hands. Polls have shown that the majority of the population agrees. Unfortunately, Republicans who refuse to ban assault weapons either lack common sense or are so dependent on support from the NRA and gun lobbyists, or are afraid of them, that they will not act in an appropriate manner to keep assault weapons out of civilian hands.

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