Now Is the Time

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Here we are again.  How unfortunate it is that we can now probably recite gun violence statistics from memory. Some of the all too familiar numbers, thanks to NBC News:

  • Every year in the U.S., an average of more than 100,000 people are shot, according to The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.
  • Every day in the U.S., an average of 289 people are shot. Eighty-six of them die: 30 are murdered, 53 kill themselves, two die accidentally, and one is shot in a police intervention, the Brady Campaign reports.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 335,609 people died from guns -- more than the population of St. Louis, Mo. (318,069), Pittsburgh (307,484), Cincinnati, Ohio (296,223), Newark, N.J. (277,540), and Orlando, Fla. (243,195) (sources:  CDFU.S. Census; CDC)
  • One person is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week. (source: CDC)

The NRA Arguments Debunked

That bastion of liberty and freedom, the NRA, wraps itself in the American flag and, wielding the Constitution as if it were a sword, fools the public into believing that the organization is really only interested in a person’s rights, but we all know their real agenda is to maximize the profits for gun manufacturers.  Be reminded that the right of the individual to ‘bear arms’ does not go back to the Founding Fathers:  it is the result of the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

One of the NRA’s primary tactics is to instill fear, and convince people that the only way they can protect themselves and their families is to possess one or more guns, the more powerful the better.   There is, however, evidence that just the opposite is true.  From Statistics on the Dangers of Gun Use for Self-Defense:

  • A gun is more likely to be used to kill or injure an innocent person in the home than a threatening intruder.
  • Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that living in a home where guns are kept increased an individual’s risk of death by homicide by between 40% and 170%.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology determined that the presence of guns in the home increased an individual’s risk of death by homicide by 90%.3
  • Research published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that, even after adjusting for confounding factors, individuals who were in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession.
  • The gun lobby has often cited the thoroughly debunked statistic that guns are used defensively 2.5 million times per year in the United States.  That discredited estimate came from a 1995 study that suffered from several fatal methodological flaws, including its reliance on only 66 responses in a telephone survey of 5,000 people, multiplied out to purportedly represent over 200 million American adults.6  The authors of that discredited study themselves stated that in up to 64% of their reported defensive gun use cases, the guns were carried or used illegally, including cases where the victim was actually the aggressor.

Reportedly, in their information release following the tragedy in Orlando, this largest of the gun lobby organizations made three points:

  1. Lots of assault rifles are being made,
  2. Lots of people own or desire to own an assault rifle,
  3. They are great for hunting.

Clearly, items one and two are related:  you know, that supply and demand feature of the revered free market.  This author has heard an estimate that there are 25 million assault rifle owners in the US.  Sales can be attributed to the NRA’s focus on fear-mongering to increase the market for assault rifles.  And as for their laudable use in hunting, think about this.  People probably hunt for four main reasons.  First, for those who hunt for food, the use of an assault rifle would seem strange considering the damage that the ammunition can do to the carcass and hide.  Second, for those who hunt for the challenge of the sport, blasting away at prey hardly seems to require great skill.  Third, there are probably those who participate in hunting for the bonding that takes place,  possibly relegating the weapon to a symbol of something – perhaps power or prowess.  Finally, there are those who hunt simply for the thrill of killing. Only for this last group does using an assault rifle might make any sense.  Apparently, the NRA has become so convinced that they have the public thoroughly conned that they do not even take the time to prepare a cogent argument.

The Weapon

This is the assault rifle used in Orlando (Sig Sauer MCX – ‘Black Mamba’).

 sigsauermcx.png

Make no mistake.  “What the Orlando attacker used was a weapon of war. It was designed to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.”   Mother Jones reported that an audio captured by a bystander outside the Pulse nightclub recorded the shooter firing  24 shots in 9 seconds.

ammo.pngThe manufacturer describes it as compact and lightweight, modular, and quotes a fan extolling that it is a “blast to shoot.”  Modularity supports the substitution of different stocks, grips, and other parts of the rifle.  It also means that it can easily be disassembled and reassembled – perhaps the better to conceal?

The thirty round high-capacity magazine uses large-sized ammunition, similar to the second and third bullets in the graphic.

A bullet exits the muzzle at a speed of well over 500 feet per second, which means it can travel a mile in under 10 seconds.  At closer range, this velocity makes the weapon even more lethal.   It is a powerful, high velocity implement of death that kills quickly, effectively, with maximum damage and carnage to the bodies of the victims and minimal effort by the shooter.

On Wednesday, June 15th, Rachel Maddow did a very informative segment devoted to this weapon.

The Shooter

In the blink of an eye, even before the siege was over, the usual suspects, with hair afire, arms flailing, and mouths in overdrive began blaming foreign terrorists from the Middle East, radical Islamists, in fact all Muslims – well, you know the drill.  Since  the investigation was not yet  underway, they did not let the lack of actual facts stop them from spouting their vile rhetoric.  But then again, it never does.  But Omar Mateen was not a foreign terrorist who found a way to get into this country to exact vengeance.   His parents came to this country legally from Afghanistan in 1983, most likely to escape the conflict related to the Russian occupation during the ‘80s.   Omar was born in 1986 in Queens, NY (coincidentally also the birthplace of Donald J. Trump).  Perhaps instead of blaming Barack Obama for Orlando, the episode should be laid at the feet of President Reagan.

What do Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, James Holmes, Jared Lee Loughner, Adam Lanza, and Dylan Roof have in common?  They are all young white males who perpetrated some of the more infamous of recent mass shootings.  They are also Christians, and yet there is nobody who would claim that the entirety of their religion must be held accountable for their actions.

As more information is becoming available, it seems that the driving forces behind the Orlando massacre may be a complex amalgam of religion, culture, and gender identity, all interacting in unexpected and ironic ways.  Forensic science has come a long way; however, profiling Mateen’s motivation is a challenge because he is no longer able to speak for himself.     Understanding what drove him to commit this atrocity does not in any way exonerate him, but maybe, just maybe, it will provide information that can lead to the prevention of similar acts in the future.  Activity that leads to resolutions is of value:  the blathering of ill-advised politicians is not.

The frequency of mass shootings has not inured us to their horror.  Our efforts to eliminate this particular scourge are blocked at every turn.  It is time for elected officials to prioritize conscience and conviction over career.  It is time to put people before politics and profit.  It is time to turn outrage into determined, sustained action.   It is time to stand up, and, with a single unified voice that roars from ‘sea to shining sea’, shout ENOUGH!

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

  1. Arthur L. Kellerman et al., Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home, 45 J. Trauma 263, 263, 266 (1998).
  2. Garen J. Wintemute, Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public’s Health, 358 New England J. Med. 1421-1424 (Apr. 2008).
  3. Linda L. Dahlberg et al., Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study, 160 Am. J. Epidemiology 929, 935 (2004).
  4. David Hemenway, Private Guns, Public Health 78 (2004).
  5. Charles C. Branas, et al, Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault, 99 Am. J. Pub. Health 2034 (Nov. 2009), at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2759797/pdf/2034.pdf.
  6. See David Hemenway, Policy and Perspective: Survey Research and Self-Defense Gun Use: An Explanation of Extreme Overestimates, 87 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 1430, 1432 (1997).
  7. Gary KIeck & Marc Gertz, Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun, 86 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 150, 174 (1995).
  8. Marty Langley & Josh Sugarmann, Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use: An Analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Crime Victimization Survey Data, Violence Policy Center 1, 9 (Apr. 2013),
  9. Marty Langley & Josh Sugarmann, Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use: An Analysis of Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Crime Victimization Survey Data, Violence Policy Center 1, 2 (Apr. 2013), See also, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Crime in the United States, 2009, Expanded Homicide Data Table 15, at http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_15.html (last visited Oct. 10, 2010)(reporting that of the 13,636 Americans who were murdered in 2009, only 215 involved justifiable homicide by firearms and only 165 involved justifiable homicide by handguns).
  10. David Hemenway, Deborah Azrael & Matthew Miller, Gun Use in the United States: Results from Two National Surveys, 6 Inj. Prevention 263, 263 (2000).
  11. http://www.people-press.org/2013/03/12/why-own-a-gun-protection-is-now-top-reason/
  12. http://www.factcheck.org/2012/12/gun-rhetoric-vs-gun-facts/
  13. http://econbrowser.com/archives/2015/12/mass-shooting-casualties-by-religion-of-perpetrator-muslim-vs-non-muslim
  14. http://everytownresearch.org/reports/mass-shootings-analysis/

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