Monday, October 26, 2015

224.4 - Outrage of the Week: the continuing toll of gun violence

Outrage of the Week: the continuing toll of gun violence

And in that fact, that fact that nothing happens, lies one of our regular features, the Outrage of the Week.

We need to start from the basic fact, one often overlooked but should be central to the whole discussion, that gun ownership is a minority position. Only a minority of US households have a gun. Different surveys have different results, with a range from 34% to 43%, but they all say the same: gun ownership is a minority.

We are the majority. We have been the majority. We continue to be the majority. And still nothing happens.

The facts of guns in this country - the facts of gun violence in this country - simply cannot rationally be denied, although the gun nuts will do their best to do so. But those facts are a hard, cold reality.

There are far, far, more gun homicides per 100,000 population in the US than in other developed nation on the planet. The rate of murder by gun in the US is double, triple, quadruple, five times, ten times, even more than twenty times the rates in other nations.

And that is true despite a 39% drop in gun homicides in the US between 1993 and 2011.

More guns means more gun homicides. Overall in the US, the higher the rate of gun ownership in a state, the higher the rate of gun homicide in that state.

What's more, the relationship between the rate of gun ownership and gun suicide is even stronger than that between guns and homicide.

At the same time, it also works the other way: The states with the strictest gun control laws have the lowest rate of gun-related deaths.

And still nothing happens.

It's been argued that mass shootings are only a very small part of the total mayhem caused by guns, which is true, and that they are exceedingly rare - which is not true if you use a more reasonable definition of mass shooting, which instead of where at least four people are killed, its one where at least four people are shot.

By that definition, there is nearly one mass shooting a day in the US - and in 2015, there has been more than one a day.

And still nothing happens.

Babies are killing people - including other babies - in this country.

Recently a reporter for the Washington Post said he spent "a few hours sifting through news reports" and found 43 cases in the US this year, more than one a week, of a toddler, a child less than four years old, finding a gun and shooting someone.

In 31 of those cases, the toddler shot themselves. Fifteen people were killed in these incidents; in 13 of those, it was the toddler themselves.

As the writer points out, his numbers are probably an undercount. There were probably cases of toddlers shooting someone but causing only minor injuries - and likely many more where the gun is fired but the bullet doesn't hit anyone.

And remember, these are toddlers. He only counted cases where the child who pulled the trigger was no more than three.

What about older children? We don't know. We don't know how often children shoot other people, either accidentally or deliberately.

But the one thing you can be pretty sure of is that every one of those guns was owned by a no-doubt self-described "responsible gun owner" whose God-given right to amass firepower must not be abridged.

And still nothing happens.

And part of the reason nothing happens?

Because in 1996, at the behest of the Nutzoid-Rabbit-brains of America, the NRA - and let's not forget, despite what it claims, the NRA does not represent gun owners, it represents gun manufacturers, who want to sell as many guns and as much gun paraphernalia as they can, not caring how many die as the result of their pursuit of profit - but at the behest of the Nutzoids, Congress stripped money for firearm injury research from the CDC and re-directed it - and included language directing that no CDC injury research funding could go to research that might be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control. Since it's hard to imagine any research on gun injuries or gun violence that could not be made to look like it was arguing for gun control - since that is the direction in which the facts all point - this amounted to a ban on federally-funded research on gun violence. This year, as it has year after year, Congress rejected attempts to lift the ban.

This has meant that CDC funding for research has pretty much dried up. The gap has not been filled by private sources and researchers have shied away from the field, not least because those who do try to research gun violence report receiving angry emails and death threats from the gun nuts.

It's a deliberate creation of a state of ignorance which the gun fanatics fill with their lies, their paranoia, and their Wild West gunslinger fantasies.

And nothing happens.

Except, wait, something does happen: We continue to die by gun by the tens of thousands every year. It is an outrage.

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