Gun Crazed Americans
Robert A. Levine 4-25-23
What is it about America that makes a portion of its populace so avidly love guns? With all the injuries and deaths in our nation as the result of guns, one would think there would be an aversion to guns. But no! The leading cause of death among children and teenagers is not some esoteric infectious disease but the result of guns. This includes both homicides and suicides. There are more gun deaths in the United States than in all other advanced societies combined. What is wrong with us?
All the mass shootings that have occurred in schools and public places in the last two decades have done nothing to permanently restrict the number of guns in circulation. In fact, though there are more guns than people in our nation, sixty million more weapons were bought by Americans in the last three years. So many of the deaths caused by guns are the result of mistakes by the shooters, hitting the wrong target or mistaking the person shot for a criminal. In just the last two weeks we have had two deaths and a serious injury caused by gun owners imagining they were being home invaded when people have turned into the wrong driveway. A simple mistake results in death. And it is possible the shooters will face no criminal charges if they believed they were at risk and were protecting their homes.
Our romance with guns is based on the Constitution’s Second Amendment which the Supreme Court interpreted as allowing civilians to possess unlimited guns. However, the Second Amendment is certainly open to interpretation and could indicate that gun ownership should be limited to members of organized militias. But guns have now been part of American history and folklore since before the Revolution and it would be impossible for the government to ban the hundreds of million guns that are now out there. In fact, many of the gun owners believe conspiracy theories and keep their guns to protect themselves from government intrusion. For some, guns are a reaffirmation of a man’s masculinity, even though women are also gun owners. The supposedly high crime rate is another reason that people own guns to protect themselves in case they encounter criminals. But as we have seen, they are likely to shoot innocent people as much as criminals. An Opinion article in the New York Times on Sunday noted that there were more than 4300 young people who died in America in 2020 from guns, while the Netherlands the previous year had two deaths that were gun related. According to the Brady Center, 321 people in the US are shot every day and 111 are killed daily. Gun violence costs the American economy at least $229 billion yearly. And the NRA and gun lobbyists ignore the statistics. Shocking, no! Crazy, yes!
We are not going to rid America of the proliferation of guns that has occurred. But we can take commonsense measures to reduce the carnage from guns. From 1994 to 2004, when assault weapons were banned, the number of mass shooting and deaths was down significantly according to the Department of Justice. This ban did not include weapons already possessed but the purchase of new assault weapons. It is time to ban all assault weapons as they are weapons of war and should not be in civilian hands. They can be repurchased by the government and no new ones sold. Obviously, Republicans are not going to support this no matter how many mass shootings occur. It will have to wait until the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the Presidency and can override or discard the filibuster.
The nation also needs to change the carry laws. The only people who should be allowed to carry guns on their person should be those who show they are in danger without them. Stand your ground laws should also be abolished as citizens thinking they are defending their property may kill others by mistake. Ghost guns made by computers should be banned as well with severe penalties to anyone who makes one. Background checks must also be strengthened significantly and a waiting period added before people can obtain guns. All these measures will not end unnecessary gun deaths but they will greatly lessen the toll of lives taken. But will common sense prevail?
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