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The mothers against gun violence in America

by Cesar Chelala

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s signing into law of a bill making the state one of the most gun-friendly places on the planet has provoked considerable concern among those who desire an end to unnecessary deaths by U.S. gun violence.

The law allows the presence of guns in bars, churches and even outside the Transportation Security Administration security cordon at Hartsfield-Jackson International airport, an extremely busy transportation connecting point.

As the abuse of guns continues to exact a heavy toll on the population, a group of mothers, One Million Moms for Gun Control, is fighting the influence of the gun lobby and its supporters, and may even win the battle.

They want to counteract the pro-gun rhetoric of NRA chief Wayne LaPierre. At his organization last meeting in Indianapolis, LaPierre urged NRA’s supporters to “stand and fight” for gun rights.

LaPierre also told backers that only their guns and their contributions to the NRA can protect them from murderers, liberals and the actions of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently donated $50 million to groups like Mayors Against Guns and Moms Demand Action.

LaPierre drew a picture of a crumbling America with declining values, killers and rapists to argue that guns are always needed: “There are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and knockout gamers and haters, campus killers, airport killers, road-rage killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals, or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all.”

LaPierre didn’t mention that the widespread availability of guns in the U.S. is one of the reasons for all of the ills that he so carefully depicted. He insisted that “The NRA has become a metaphor for the core American freedoms that we all want preserved.”

LaPierre’s rosy assessment of his organization is not shared by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group made up of survivors of gun violence that tries to bring a common-sense approach to the issue of gun ownership.

In a report titled “Not Your Grandparents NRA,” Everytown for Gun Safety (Bloomberg’s gun control group) states that the present NRA leadership has led the organization through a fundamental transformation, relentlessly pressing legislators throughout the U.S. to enact more dangerous gun laws, while blocking Congress from taking actions to properly address the national epidemic of gun violence.

The cost of widespread availability of guns on American families, children and communities has been considerable. It is estimated that guns kill 86 Americans every day. According to the FBI, there were 8,583 homicides by firearms in 2011, out of a total of 12,644 homicides. In addition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of 38,264 suicides in 2010 almost 50 percent involved a gun.

Easy availability of guns is behind all of these phenomena. It is estimated that there are 310 million guns in the country. There is now one gun per person, up from one gun every two persons in the 1960s. The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership of any country in the world by a wide margin.

Easy availability of guns translates into the U.S. having the highest rate of homicides (5.1 murders per 100,000 people according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) among all industrialized countries in the world.

The next most violent developed country in the world is Finland, with a homicide rate of 2.5 per 100,000, approximately half of the U.S. rate.

In the meantime, private groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, are becoming increasingly active in their efforts to bring common sense to the issue of gun ownership in the U.S.

As Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, has stated: “For too long, the conversation about gun violence in America has been controlled by those who stand to profit from easy access to guns. In the meantime, American families continue to be destroyed by gun violence.”

Cesar Chelala, M.D. and Ph.D., is an international public health consultant and a cowinner of the Overseas Press Club of America award.

  • Kimber_TLE

    There is now one gun per person, up from one gun every two persons in the 1960s.

    You failed to mention that violent crime has gone down as the number of weapons has gone up per the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The Firearm Violence, 1993-2011 report released May 7, 2013 says firearm-related homicides declined 39%, and nonfatal firearm crimes have declined 69%.
    ♦ 24,526 homicides in 1993
    ♦ 14,612 homicides in 2011

    Wait! There’s more! In the news (April 23, 2014) we read that in Florida:
    ♦ The crime rate dropped 4.7 percent in 2013.
    ♦ Violent crime is down 2.4 percent.
    ♦ Nonviolent crime decreased by 4 percent.
    ♦ There was a 2.8 percent drop in all sex offenses.
    ♦ “We’re at a 43 year low in our crime rate, and that’s impressive,” said Gov. Rick Scott.

    Further more, per the Florida Department of Agriculture:
    ♦ On June 30, 1999 there were 26,807 Conceal Carry permits.
    ♦ On March 31, 2014 there were 1,429,505 Conceal Carry permits.

    That’s a 53-fold rise in Conceal Carry permits in 5,389 days, or over 100 added permits per day. And crime in Florida has gone down as the number of Conceal Carry permits have gone up!

    As you say, the number of weapons have doubled. And crime has gone down, not up!

    • nyc8675309

      Please show me stats for how many children have died in their own homes at hands of relatives based on negligent storage of weapons by so called responsible gun owners. How many people have been murdered by intimate partners? I am advocating for gun sense. You should be also.

      • Kimber_TLE

        First here’s something for a comparison…

        ► According to the FBI, there were 565 children under the age of 18 killed by firearms in 2011.

        ► According to the CDC, more than 1,200 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes. Now, here’s the kicker: More than two-thirds (~800) of fatally injured children were killed while riding with a drinking adult driver.

        From the CDC we have multiple sources. Using the CDC WONDER and WISQARS systems, we find similar data…

        Children Deaths by Guns, CDC

        FIREARM DEATHS AND DEATH RATES AMONG CHILDREN AGES 1 -14: 1999 – 2010
        1999: 481 @ 0.9
        2000: 423 @ 0.7
        2001: 403 @ 0.7
        2002: 409 @ 0.7
        2003: 372 @ 0.7
        2004: 351 @ 0.6
        2005: 397 @ 0.7
        2006: 403 @ 0.7
        2007: 382 @ 0.7
        2008: 367 @ 0.6
        2009: 341 @ 0.6
        2010: 369 @ 0.6

        WISQARS:
        Choices: All Intents, Firearm, 1999 – 2010, ages <1 to 14, No Age-Adjusting, Group by year:
        1999 489 0.82
        2000 436 0.72
        2001 416 0.69
        2002 419 0.69
        2003 380 0.63
        2004 358 0.59
        2005 404 0.67
        2006 409 0.68
        2007 398 0.66
        2008 376 0.62
        2009 355 0.58
        2010 380 0.62

        ===============================
        FIREARM HOMICIDES AND HOMICIDE RATES AMONG CHILDREN AGES 1 – 14: 1999 – 2010
        1999: 274 @ 0.5
        2000: 215 @ 0.4
        2001: 235 @ 0.4
        2002: 254 @ 0.4
        2003: 227 @ 0.4
        2004: 220 @ 0.4
        2005: 224 @ 0.4
        2006: 279 @ 0.5
        2007: 249 @ 0.4
        2008: 243 @ 0.4
        2009: 223 @ 0.4
        2010: 208 @ 0.4

        WISQARS:
        Choices: Homicide, Firearm, 1999 – 2010, ages <1 to 14, No Age-Adjusting, Group by year:
        1999 282 0.47
        2000 227 0.38
        2001 246 0.41
        2002 263 0.43
        2003 235 0.39
        2004 226 0.37
        2005 230 0.38
        2006 285 0.47
        2007 264 0.44
        2008 252 0.41
        2009 234 0.38
        2010 219 0.36

        ============================
        FIREARM SUICIDES AND SUICIDE RATES AMONG CHILDREN AGES 1 -14: 1999 – 2010
        WONDER:
        1999: 103 @ 0.2
        2000: 110 @ 0.2
        2001: 90 @ 0.2
        2002: 86 @ 0.2
        2003: 74 @ 0.1
        2004: 59 @ 0.1
        2005: 84 @ 0.1
        2006: 62 @ 0.1
        2007: 53 @ 0.1
        2008: 50 @ 0.1
        2009: 64 @ 0.1
        2010: 81 @ 0.1

        WISQARS:
        Choices: Suicide, Firearm, 1999 – 2010, ages <1 to 14, No Age-Adjusting, Group by year:

        1999 103 0.17
        2000 110 0.18
        2001 92 0.15
        2002 86 0.14
        2003 74 0.12
        2004 59 0.10
        2005 84 0.14
        2006 62 0.10
        2007 53 0.09
        2008 50 0.08
        2009 64 0.10
        2010 81 0.13

        I'm advocating for smarter, more responsible parents.

      • wireknob

        Firearms are one of the least common causes of fatal accidents among children. There are about 35 fatal firearm accidents per year for children age 10 and younger, which accounts for about 1% of fatal accidents among these children (about as common as drowning in five-gallon buckets). And not all of these are due to negligent storage. (source: CDC)

        There are at least 45 million gun-owning households, which means that accidents occur in only a teeny-tiny fraction of these homes. So gun owners are apparently a pretty responsible bunch, at least when it comes to their firearms. Far more irresponsible than gun owners are drivers; you may want to direct your emotion-driven vitriol towards them instead.

        The first step in applying “sense” is to become informed. You might try doing a little independent research instead of allowing your opinions to be guided by anti-gun propaganda and your own prejudices.

      • wireknob

        Firearms are one of the least common causes of fatal accidents among children aged 10 and younger, with about 35 of these incidents per year (source: CDC). That’s about 1% of fatal accidents for this group, and about the same number of children die by drowning in five-gallon buckets left laying around. Considering how many guns and gun-owning households there are in this country, it seems as though gun owners are among the most responsible people around, at least when it comes to their firearms. Wish we could say the same for drivers, don’t you?

  • nyc8675309

    group of mothers, One Million Moms for Gun Control, – NEW NAME: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

  • wireknob

    The contention that the availability of guns causes violent crime is overly simplistic. Even so, the data do not support this contention since violent crime, gun-related crime, and even gun-related homicide rates have all gone down dramatically as private gun ownership has gone up significantly and concealed carry restrictions have been relaxed in almost all states.

    The problem with the rhetorical shell-game that Cesar Chelala presents is that it makes no distinction between law-abiding gun owners and criminals with guns. That is the disingenuous gun-control gambit: associate criminal acts involving guns with law-abiding gun owners as a pretext to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. In other words, the focus is misdirected to the implement and away from the criminal actors, who are almost never mentioned in connection with their crimes.

    • 151E

      You are correct that it is absurd to suggest that the availability of guns causes violet crime. However, the increased availability of guns clearly makes it easier for criminals (and would be criminals) to acquire a firearm, and significantly increases the potential deadliness of any incident in which they are involved.

      What’s more, the desensitisation to violence through repeated exposure to simulated violence in popular entertainment, operant conditioning that rewards killing in many video games, large social inequality, and a culture of stand-your-ground vigilante justice, have been statistically shown to lower people’s natural inhibition to violence and increase the aggressive predisposition of a small minority of the population; combined with the ready availability of firearms, a small minority of maladjusted individuals can have a disproportionate influence on homicide and violent crime rates. There are a number of ways to tackle this problem, but limiting access to firearms is one which has worked well here in Japan.

      • wireknob

        There is no doubt that criminals and mentally unstable people in possession of guns is a bad thing. But law-abiding citizens owning and using guns is a good thing when it comes to deterring, disrupting and defending against crime. If gun control advocates focused on criminal possession and use of guns rather than fixating on restricting, penalizing, and criminalizing lawful gun ownership I would be on their side. The goal should be to reduce illegal possession and use of guns while, at the same time, not infringing on or restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear the arms that they deem most appropriate for their legitimate uses.

        I don’t think you can make generalizations about entertainment, etc. either as the vast majority of people who are exposed to these potential influences do not become violent criminals. Moreover, stand-your-ground laws have absolutely nothing to do with vigilante justice, it only applies when someone who did not provoke a violent assault acts in self-defense without the legal obligation to try to run away first, which may get you killed. There should be no legal obligation to put your life in increased danger before being allowed to defend your life from a criminal attack.

        Japanese style gun control would not work in the U.S. because it relies on violating not just second amendment rights but a whole slew of rights that Americans cherish (Japan controls many aspects of its citizens life, not just gun ownership, and they don’t recognize many civil rights we have in the U.S.). And since there are examples of countries with equally low crime rates but many guns (e.g., Switzerland) and countries with low gun ownership rates and high crime rates (e.g., Mexico), it doesn’t appear that outlawing guns is necessary or sufficient to reduce crime, and that other socio-economic and cultural factors are more important. In other words, I think you are giving far too much credit to gun control policy for Japan’s low crime rates.

      • 151E

        Three points:

        (1) I concede that the “culture of stand-your-ground vigilante justice” was a poor choice of phrase that appears to conflate two issues, but one which was simply meant to convey the aggressive take-the-law-into-your-own-hands mentality of people like Rodney Peairs, George Zimmerman, and Markus Kaarma, who such laws to justify their own use of excessive deadly force.

        (2) With regards to desensitisation to violence through repeated exposure and operant conditioning that rewards killing, this is supported by the history of military and police training procedures developed to increase their ranks’ rates of fire. Now, violent entertainment obviously doesn’t turn the vast majority of people into dangerous criminals. But it does tend to lower the threshold for violence amongst people, and can serve to further disinhibit a few outliers who are already on the edge. So not suggesting that violent entertainment causes real world violence, but can desensitise and lower people’s natural inhibition to violence.

        (3) Many anti-gun-control advocates, such as yourself, complain that those who support gun-control ignore criminal possession and use of guns, and instead fixate on restricting, penalising and criminalising lawful gun ownership. I find this critique rings rather hollow since police can only really often act after the fact in response to a crime; illegal possession and criminal use of a firearm are already offences but neither jail nor the death penalty are effective deterrents for criminals who act impulsively, convince themselves they won’t get caught, or don’t care if they do. It seems the only effective ways of pre-emptively reducing the number of armed criminals are to (1) reduce the social factors that push people towards crime and, (2) reduce the number of weapons in circulation. Common-sense attempts at limiting criminal possession through background checks and gun-registries are often bitterly fought against and denounced as government over-reach. So let me throw it back to you and ask what you would propose to tackle illegal gun ownership and criminal use, without inconveniencing or limiting in any way otherwise upright law-abiding citizens?

        By the way, I enjoy this kind of civil discourse even if we do not fully agree.

      • wireknob

        I, too, appreciate this type of exchange. Testing each others “facts”, logic and conceptions is what makes these forums useful as we all have something to learn from each other. We’re not really far apart, if we disagree at all, on the first two points. I think everyone that keeps a gun for defense should take a (government subsidized) class on the legal issues involved and understand when it is justifiable to use deadly force. They do have such classes where I live. Bottom line, whether or not it is justified you want to avoid the use of deadly force if not necessary.

        Before I answer your last question, I just want to point out that the vast majority of policies that gun control advocates promote are specifically directed at law-abiding gun owners and carriers: bans on weapons based on stylistic and ergonomic features, gun-free zones, magazine capacity restrictions, punitive taxes and fees on guns and ammo, legal penalties for having your gun (property) stolen, etc. These policies in no way hinder, or even address, criminals.

        From what I’ve read, I agree that harsh penalties are not an effective deterrent for violent criminals on the street, but long prison terms for violent offenders keep them off the streets and the majority (in some cities, the vast majority) of gun-related crime involves perpetrators and victims with criminal records who have been released back onto the street. As you “police can only really often act after the fact in response to a crime,” so it is important that law-abiding citizens be allowed to provide for their own defense, especially since our system exposes them to increased danger by letting so many violent criminals back out onto the streets.

        I agree that our goal should be to reduce the number of armed criminals and address the social factors that push people towards crime, but I disagree that we should reduce the number of weapons in circulation. On the latter point we need to make a distinction between law-abiding gun owners and criminals in possession of guns. The former is not the problem, while the latter is. It is a disingenuous pretext that the rights of law-abiding citizens must be infringed in order to address criminal actors (and we don’t do that with any other civil right in this country). The goal should be to reduce the number of guns in criminal possession while not impacting the number of legally owned guns. Misguided gun controllers attempt to do the opposite.

        So, to answer your question, I think there are at least four useful approaches to mitigating violent crime in general and gun-related crime in particular while not infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners: (1) targeted policing where these crimes are geographically and demographically concentrated; (2) intervention programs that attempt to steer those who are prone to turn to crime and gangs in a different direction; (3) helping citizens effectively provide for their own defense against criminals; (4) provide a way for private gun sellers to check the criminal and mental health background of prospective gun buyers (this last point is probably the least effective).

        On the last point, if we had a stamp or encoding on everyone’s ID (e.g., driver’s license) that indicated whether the individual was prohibited from possessing firearms, all sellers of firearms, commercial and private, could easily run a check. Background checks would be run on all citizens with these IDs when they are issued, irrespective of whether they wish to own/buy firearms, and the ID could be checked visually or by simply scanning it (could even do this from a smartphone with a scanner). For private sellers there would be legal penalties for not conducting a check but no record keeping requirements (they would have to be caught in the act to pursue legal charges).

        This type of universal background check would help private gun sellers avoid selling to prohibited persons, but since there many ways to procure a firearm illegally and a relatively tiny fraction of firearms in circulation is needed to satisfy criminal demand, I don’t think background checks will have a big impact on crime. It may help a bit, though, and do so without gun registries, additional costs or inconvenience.

  • wireknob

    What countries do you consider “industrialized”? Do Mexico, Brazil, and Russia qualify? And “one thing that separates the US from these other countries” is gun policy, but what are some of the other things that distinguish them from each other and is it reasonable to assign all the differences in crime to just one factor, guns, especially when you’ve cherry picked the countries that you compare to? Within the U.S. how do homicide rates correlate with gun policy, and does the geographic and demographic concentration of violent crime tell you anything?

    You can tell the good guys from the bad guys by their criminal records, gang affiliations, etc. Are you arguing that we treat all citizens like criminals in order to disparage their rights? Again, this is the gun control pretext: we can’t tell whether you are good or bad so we will treat everyone as bad and deny them their constitutional rights and individual liberties. Would you be willing to apply such prior restraints on all other constitutional rights and civil liberties, including the ones you appreciate?

    It is illegal to own an automatic assault rifle without a special license in this country. So-called “assault weapons”, which I think you intended to refer to, are semi-automatic rifles and only distinguished from other non-ban-worthy semi-automatics by their ergonomic and stylist features. They function the same way and are no more “lethal”. They only look scarier to some people. They are actually safer to operate than most rifles because of the improved ergonomics.

    Many other countries have much higher homicide rates and incidents of mass murder. Most are distinguished by very low private gun ownership rates and economic/social instability. When examining all countries for which the data exists you will find a fairly strong negative correlation between private gun ownership rates and homicide rates, meaning fewer privately owned guns is correlated with more homicide (more gun-related homicide, too). Bombs and arson are actually the most effective means of committing these crimes, by the way.

    You hear and see so many negative stories, and so few positive ones, concerning guns because the media is a propaganda machine and the mainstream media has an anti-gun agenda. You are obviously not a critical thinker and therefore your opinions are easily swayed by such propaganda. And, let me ask you, do you have life, health, and/or homeowner’s insurance? If so, why are you so paranoid?