“Guns, Kids, and Commonsense
Another gun massacre and another round of rhetoric. Us gun control types will yammer about how guns really do kill people (this time elementary school children in Connecticut) and how we need to restrict just who gets their hands on these pieces of hardware that were designed specifically to (hmmmm) kill.
The gun folks will wait 24-48 hours and then they will start saying the usual stuff, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” ”This wouldn’t have happened if folks at the school were armed.” (Picture packing the pistol in little Suzy’s lunch pail). It will escalate to the most commonly used NRA-hype, “It’s my constitutional right to carry a firearm to protect my family and my home.”
They will activate their network – and they are really good at this – so that every time someone like me writes a piece that favors restriction of access to firearms, there will be comments galore touting the gun industry message. It never fails to amaze me how quickly and effectively the gun lobby gets this done–do you think it could be related to all the money they make selling guns?
As we get ready to repeat this all too frequent national, irrational, conversation on guns,” I have to wonder: Have we gone completely mad? Do we think things are going to get better if we keep on doing (and saying) the same old, same old? When is this country going to show some common sense when it comes to guns? When are we going to do something meaningful to stop the killings?
When I was running Physicians for a Violence-Free Society in the 90s, I used to meet with a lot of youth groups. Invariably, the young people would ask me, “Why aren’t you adults doing something about gun violence? Why do we have so many guns on the streets? Can’t you make gun control happen?
The answer to the last question is “no.” The gun control community is split on the best solution (ban guns, ban semi-automatic weapons, control ammunition, background screens, etc.) We have also been relatively poorly funded. Around the time that Bush Jr. first got elected, there were only a handful of organizations willing to fund gun control activities – and one of the biggest of them pulled out shortly after that.
The well-funded gun community, on the other hand sticks to their “constitutional right to protect” message and wins every time. Since the 90s, most formerly gun-control favoring Democrats won’t go near the gun issue now as it is a sure way to have the NRA and the gunner right throw all of their considerable resources against your campaign. Little David Gun Control doesn’t have much clout against Goliath Gunner.
It feels to me like the fiscal cliff conversations, no? Each side is holding firmly to our entrenched positions and no-one willing to find a middle ground. In the past, when I attempted to find middle ground, I found that the pro-gunners thought the middle was only about an millimeter away from their position. I once tried negotiating a compromise with the California version of the NRA only to find that all they were willing to give me was adding me to their mailing list.
Come on guys. Wake up. Guns are big business in the US. The NRA is no longer an organization with the mission of helping your kids learn about gun safety. They are the trade association, aka lobbyist, for companies that make and sell guns.
But we can no longer ignore or obfuscate the fact that guns are increasingly a serious public health problem. Like cigarettes, fast food, and other industry-related health issues, the gun issue is highly charged because of the big bucks at risk if anything changes the status quo. So we have record levels of obesity, massacres in schools, an by the way, we are still dying of cigarette-caused illnesses.
One thing we can do fairly quickly is elevate the CDC’s Violence Prevention infrastructure back to the level that it had during the Clinton administration. This was gutted post Bush. Another, is for Foundations and other folks with money to step up to the table to make resources available to the “other side.”
Those of us who favor limitations on guns need to quit being silent because our silence empowers the the pro-gunners. This can’t keep on being about Red vs. Blue politics, conservatives vs. liberals, the Northeast and West against the South and the Middle. This has to be about our kids and our sense of safety. How many of you get creeped out going to a large movie theater or a mall or now, even a school? Is this the way you want to live in the US of A?
I am sorry to say that I don’t know what the solution is, but I know it’s not more guns, less restriction, more packing, more massacres, and more hand-wringing. We need a real honest public health approach to guns and we need it soon.
I don’t think I have to ask you, my dear readers, what you think, I am pretty sure I will be hearing from the NRA-types sooner rather than later, but, I would love to hear from the rest of you too.
Addendum 4:12 pm 12/14/12: Apparently one of the murder weapons was a Bushmaster .223. Here is a link to the Bushmaster home page. Check out the skull and cross bones , in case you have any doubt about what they are selling . And here one of their marketing messages: