One topic that divides the nation of the USA more than any other is guns. More specifically - gun control.
Nobody (except John Oliver) would dare to suggest that a compulsory gun buy back program such as we had here in Australia would work in the USA.
In fact many pro-gun lobbyists in the USA still distort (or simply make up) facts to "prove" that gun reform in Australia simply hasn't worked. The NRA even ran an informercial with the totally fabricated statistic that since the gun buyback Australian gun murders increased by 19%.
This sort of "spin", especially when it involves the lives of real, actual people who were KILLED by bullets fired by guns that were triggered by other real, actual people is utterly disgusting.
They love catchy slogans like "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" but, as they say in this excellent article from 'Armed with Reason'
Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more often and more efficiently than people without guns. People do not behave in a vacuum. They are influenced by their environment, and when that environment is occupied by guns, people behave aggressively and impulsively.
The article also discusses the other flawed mantra "Gun control doesn't work because criminals don't follow laws."
Why is it that a certain minority (and it is a very vocal, very powerful group but it IS a minority) like the gun lobby is so adamant that not only every American has the right to bear arms but they should not be dictated to as to how to store, maintain or even properly train themselves as to how to handle their firearms?
In 2013 with 90% of Americans in favour of universal background checks for gun buyers... that's not gun control, that's just a quick background check before someone is permitted to purchase a weapon... but still that simple bill was unable to pass through the US senate: (from this website)
"A small, passionate group of people, no matter how radical or extreme, can be more successful than a reasonable but less passionate majority," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The National Rifle Association's grip on Congress is more myth than reality, he said, but even modest gun control advances remain difficult.
Forget background checks then, how about just photo ID?
A 2012 Minnesota effort to require voters to produce photo identifications appeared overwhelmingly popular at first. But state voters ultimately rejected it.
"A year and a half ago, when this polled at 80 percent, you know it was organizations with networks in communities who jumped in and who started talking to people about the facts," activist Dan McGrath told local reporters.
The U.S. gun lobby takes a different approach, spending enormous resources to keep lawmakers in its corner even when public sentiment is elsewhere.
"The gun lobby is the most powerful special interest in America," said Mike Barnes, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland and former head of the Brady Center. Many Republican lawmakers, he said, "live in total fear that the gun lobby might consider them less than perfect."
Since the Sandy Hook massacre (which many pro-gunners claim was "staged" in order that President Obama could frighten citizens into passing stricter gun control laws) the gun lobbyists started spreading the word that stricter laws WOULD be passed with the intention that gun owners would stockpile more guns just in case future laws prevented them from being able to buy them as easily.
This led to the gun lobby claiming that since the massacre
Sales of the assault rifle used by the shooter went UP by 52% the gun manufacturer proudly reported. This could also be due to, in part, the fact that while 39 gun laws were tightened after the massacre, 52 others were actually loosened making it even EASIER than ever to buy a gun in the USA.
Yet the NRA claims that gun ownership is higher than ever (yes, more guns are being sold every year in the USA) but look closer at the figures and you'll see that the number of households with guns is steadily declining.
From this site:
While there are more guns in the US than there were thirty years ago, less households actually have guns. According to UPI, over half of US households in 1977 had guns; now less than a third have guns. The reason for the steep decline, says UPI, is “aging of the current-gun owning population, a lack of interest in guns by youth, the end of military conscription, the decreasing popularity of hunting; land-use issues that limit hunting and shooting and the increase in single-parent homes headed by women.”
Pew Research found in 2013
The survey also found that 58% of people who didnot have a gun in their household said that having a gun would make them feel uncomfortable.
The NRA argues that gun ownership is essential for personal protection with its executive director Wayne LaPierre issuing statements like: "The one thing a violent rapist deserves is to face is a good woman with a gun!" and "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"
The argument that private gun ownership actually reduces crime is a testable claim and has been tested here by the University of Pennsylvania, the Harvard School of Public Health, the New England Journal of Medicine ands several others.
As you can read here:
Viewed in this light, the NRA's insistence that rapes can be prevented with firearms or that teachers should be armed appear even more stupid than they already seemed. It is worth remembering that just as America leads the world in gun ownership, so too does it lead the world in gun homicide, with 11,000 to 12,000 murders committed by firearms each year. The tired old rationalisation that guns protect people is frankly contradicted by the evidence. The inescapable conclusion is that gun ownership makes everyone less safe. The logic the NRA espouses is perverse and transparently self-serving.
This brings me to the reason for me sitting down and blogging all of this.
My Facebook feed shows me all sorts of fascinating things and, because two of my 5000 FB friends are pro gun (and post about it a lot) I see things like this:
The City of Orlando trained and equipped women throughout the area with handguns. The Orlando Gun Training Program lasted one year and focused on training women on how to use a gun for self-defense but also allowed other citizens to take the class.
The meme (the photo with text above) does seem to play up this Orlando history anecdote.
Researchers point out that while rapes did drop the following year (there were three less rapes in 1967 than in 1966) by 1969 the rates had gone back up. Also the number of rapes that were looked at in the 1960s study was only 14, a very small number for any type ofstatistical significance to be drawn from.
There is a constant flood of SPIN being generated by the pro gun lobby trying to discredit gun control and either frighten or reassure people into buying guns. BUYING guns. The bottom line is all about money. They are in the business of selling guns and all the associated paraphenalia, training courses etc. They are in the gun businesses and, just like "big tobacco", they will say anything in order to sell more product and make more money.
THIS piece was one of the more offensive of recent times.
An armed assailant fired more than 100 rounds of ammunition and a Police Officer shot him. This special interest group 'Guns Save Lives' is using THIS INCIDENT as an argument FOR GUNS! "Guns save lives". Yes, a gun stopped the rampage... but what was the assailant using? A GUN!
There are simply too many guns, too easily accessible in the USA and waaaay too many in the wrong hands.
The NRA argues that the fact that ANY CITIZEN could be carrying a gun PREVENTS crimes, but the fact that ANY CITIZEN could be carrying a gun results in accidental shootings like this by Police:
And, of course, we read of accidental shootings in the USA on more than a daily basis where people "didn't think the gun was loaded", or were cleaning their weapons, or just had guns laying around the house instead of locking them away safely.
If fact, gun advocate John Lott can take full responsiblity for those deaths as he irresponsibly argues AGAINST locking your guns up at home here:
My research on juvenile accidental gun deaths for all U.S. states shows that mandates that guns be locked up had no impact. What did happen in states with such mandates, however, was that criminals attacked more people in their homes and crimes were more successful: 300 more total murders and 4,000 more rapes occurred each year in these states. Burglaries also rose dramatically.
Statistics are being manipulated, figures are being made up, fear is being mongered and all in the name of profit.
For a more realistic look at gun volence figures in the USA today take a look at this from the Gun Violence Archive
Pro gun lobbyists argue that the figure of 11,269 deaths is inflated because it (probably) includes suicides, drug and gang related crimes etc... but a human life is a human life and these lives were taken by guns.
Yes, they may have been taken by knives or other means had guns not been as easily accessible, but does anyone really believe that there would be as many deaths if guns were not as easily accessible?
Does the presence of privately owned guns save lives? Again, the statistics are so manipulated you can find surveys backing whatever opinion you hold, but the reality is that the USA has the highest rate of guns per person in the world (90 guns per 100 residents), as well as the highest rate of gun homicide at 4.7 per 100,000 of population as compared to Australia at 0.11.
Switzerland has 45 guns per 100 residents and is often touted by the NRA as an example of how gun control is unneccesary as they only had 40 homicides by gun in 2010 (that's 0.52 per 100,000 of population).
The vast majority of men between the ages of 20 and 30 are conscripted into the militia and undergo military training, including weapons training. The personal weapons of the militia are kept at home as part of the military obligations, however they are not allowed to keep the ammunition. They are TRAINED and they are NOT ALLOWED TO KEEP AMMUNITION AT HOME.
In the USA they are untrained gun owners and can buy ammo from WalMart!
Australia banned guns, and we have very few intentional of accidental deaths or injuries caused by gun... surprise, surprise.
When will the USA wake up to the fact that they are being manipulated by those who seek to profit from them at whatever cost of human life? Whether it be big tobacco, the corn syrup industry, or weapons manufacturers.
And more importantly, how do those gun manufacturers, knowing that they are lying to the public and selling ordinary, untrained citizens, products that have no purpose other than to harm living beings, live with themselves?