Monday, July 23, 2012

Those who dream of cowboy justice wake up to the reality of mass murder at the movies.

By Marc Jampole

Facing the facts on guns in American society completely demoralizes me, and no more so than when I have to view those facts through the prism of yet another mass murder committed by someone who legally purchased his weapons and ammunition.

Perhaps most depressing is the nature of the political discussion. The debate should center on the formulation of a mix of new gun control laws and regulations that could screen a nut like James Holmes, who killed 12 and injured nearly 60 during a midnight showing of a new Batman movie in an Aurora, Colorado theatre.

But the discussion in the news media is not about fixing the problem, but about the extreme unlikelihood that we will even consider stronger gun control laws.  At the root of every article about the inability of our political system to consider tighter gun control is the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the billions of dollars it has spent over the years to buy politicians and spew pro-gun propaganda to the public.

The NRA has achieved its goals. Compared to 20 years ago, more Americans currently support loosening our already sieve-like gun control laws. One of the weapons Holmes used was an assault rifle, which is essentially a light machine gun. The assault rifle is a weapon neither of the hunt nor of sport shooting, and yet a majority of Americans now support their legal sale. 

As with global warming, healthcare reform and tax policies, a large portion of Americans prefer to ignore the facts of gun violence in the United States. Here are some I pulled from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence:
  • The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.
  • Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide than to be used in a self-defense shooting; 11 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault or homicide and four times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting death or injury than to be used in a self-defense shooting.
  • Every year there are only about 200 legally justified self-defense homicides by private citizens compared with more than 30,000 gun deaths.

In short, loose gun control laws in the United States sacrifice the lives of 30,000 people every year, all to shield from prosecution 200 people who killed others with guns while protecting themselves.

These facts are never part of the core discussion concerning gun violence. And yet we hear—and the news media publish—the yahoos who propose that if more people had guns, perhaps fewer people would have died in the Aurora movie theatre or other mass murders.

Let’s play out the nightmare of which these gun supporters dream.  You’re in the theatre and all of sudden the air is filled with smoke and gun shots.  So you pull out you gun and start shooting back in the direction you think it’s coming from. Someone on the other side of the theatre sees you fire your weapon and thinks you’re the shooter and starts aiming at you. Meanwhile, the hundreds of other people in the theatre now have gunfire coming at them from three, maybe even more, directions. I know that Will Smith survived the Mexican standoff at the end of Enemy of the State, but that was a movie.  Remember, all the other actors survived as well, because the bullets were fake. Not so in Aurora. More guns shooting would have lead to one thing only—more dead and more injured.

Considering that it was gun-loving Colorado, I want to thank the x number of gun owners who were packing that evening who decided not to draw their firearms.   

Gun control laws demonstrate the corruption of our current political system.  Any number of politicians would be delighted to support stronger gun laws, that is, if enough people would pony up both the small fortune they would lose from the NRA and the large fortune to match what the NRA will spend to defeat them. It’s all about money and getting elected.