mass shootings

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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Pro-Life Hypocrisy

Pro-Life Hypocrisy

            Robert A. Levine

There seems to be a pattern of beliefs associated with those who are so-called pro-lifers. They are against abortion as they believe the procedure takes a life even if it is done prior to the fetus’ viability. Yet once a child is born they do not mind if it is killed by a crazed gunman or someone seeking publicity or attention by killing children. The same people who are pro-life are also pro-guns and want gun rights in this country to be expanded even though gun deaths in America are higher than in any other nation in the world. For the most part, those who are vehemently against abortion are vehemently pro-guns.

They do not see any reason why the possession of assault weapons by civilians should be curtailed, even though these weapons were designed primarily for maximal killing on the battlefield. Their mantra has been “guns don’t kill, people do.” Of course, if people did not have guns, they couldn’t use them to kill innocents. The pro-life adherents generally don’t want enhanced background checks for people buying guns, age limits on the purchasing of guns, or licensing of guns. They see no reason why laws should prohibit the carrying of guns in public and it appears as if the conservative Supreme Court may go along with this idea.

Why should America be such an outlier among all the developed nations in the world, with more guns than people and more gun deaths and mass killings than all the European nations and Japan combined? Countries that are most similar to America like Australia and Canada have strict gun regulations. Common sense and rationality should show Americans that our gun laws need to be more restrictive. And the majority of Americans and perhaps even gun owners agree with this. But not the most ardent pro-lifers.

But aside from guns, pro-lifers in general do not want to help families properly care for children after they are born. They do not want to increase the availability of health care for poor families, including post-partum care for mothers and babies. They do not want federally subsidized day care to allow mothers to work. They are against food assistance for poor families. They are against spending more money on education, both K-12 and college. In fact, they are usually against any increased social spending by the federal or state governments, as increased spending can lead to increased taxes.

These interconnected ideas- pro-life, pro gun, decreased social spending, decreased taxes- are all part of the conservative agenda in America. Conservatives claim to favor individual rights over government regulation, but make an exception for pregnant women. As far as women who become pregnant and do not want the child for various reasons, the conservatives expect state and federal governments and the courts to force women to carry their pregnancies to term. They refuse to acknowledge the contradiction between their views regarding individual rights and government laws and regulations where women’s bodies are concerned. If one was truly pro-life, gun control and government assistance for poor children would be part of conservative policy prescriptions. Life does not begin and end in the womb.

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