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.