Friday, June 07, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #111 - Part 9

The dirty secret of gun control: handguns

As of June 4, at least 4,720 Americans - including at least 45 in Massachusetts - have been killed by gunfire since Newtown. That is 234 more than the number of American soldiers killed in the entire eight years of the Iraq War.

This deserves more time than I'm going to give it. But every time I try to start it, I'm sorry, my stomach knots up. But I had to at least mention the dirty little secret of gun control.

That secret is that there is one way in which the gun nuts are right: All of the proposals, at least the "serious" proposals, the ones that the political and social elites will dare to raise for fear that going beyond them is "not politically feasible," those "serious" proposals will do little to control our shocking rate of death by gun. If every one of those proposals passed - and they should pass, make no mistake about it  - but if every one of them passed, it would make only a small difference in the gun murder rate and the overall gun death rate.

Why? Because those proposals arise from and are driven by the events that shock us, that are large enough to move us from our torpor. The mass shootings. The Auroras. The Newtowns. But those are almost exclusively done with weapons like assault rifles, semi-automatics, using large-capacity magazines. Such events might take the lives of hundreds of innocents over the course of a year - but that is but a fraction of the thousands of deaths, both by murder and by accident, that occur every year in this country as the result of handguns. And beyond the standard answer of "background checks," handgun control is not even on the agenda.

It was at one time; in fact, not even handgun control, a ban on handguns. In 1959, 60% of Americans told a Gallup poll that they supported a ban on handguns except for people who actually could show a need for them. By 2011, before Aurora and Newtown managed to sufficiently shock our national conscience, Gallup said that support for gun control as an issue had fallen to its lowest level in 50 years - but even then, at that lowest point, still 26% of the people of this country favored a handgun ban.

So even though if you suggest it now you'll be made to feel it's a fringe position, don't let anyone fool you: It's really not.

And it shouldn't be. We are an incredibly violent nation. We have whole neighborhoods terrorized by guns, by handguns, whole neighborhoods where people dream of being able to just go for a walk in the evening without risking their lives. And that's not going to change, it's not going to stop, until we do two things: one, realize just how much crime is rooted in economic injustice and inequality.

And two, ban handguns.


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