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Monday, October 24, 2016

A revealing thing happened in the grief-filled days that followed the massacre of helpless children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Virtually every conversation about gun control, about any possible remedy for gun violence, hit a roadblock. We just didn’t know a lot about the guns circulating in America.

How many guns are in the U.S.? We don’t have reliable figures.

Is there a connection between gun violence and the depictions of violence in video games and movies? Studies on that issue are few and inconclusive.

Just how do guns wind up in the hands of the mentally ill or the criminally minded? To answer that, we’d have to do a better job of tracking guns used in crimes.

This national ignorance is the cover under which the gun lobby hides. Its denialism and simplistic wishful thinking — the solution to mass shootings is more “good guys with a gun” — thrives and holds sway because we have failed to study the problem and base our policy decisions on a sound basis: evidence.

Things may be about to change. A new report pushes us one step closer to treating gun violence as a public health issue. If allowed to gain traction, this change in attitude will have huge consequences.

The report was issued by a panel of experts called together under executive order by President Obama after Newtown killings. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council assembled the panel and has set priorities to focus research.

Obama is asking for $10 million in the 2014 budget to fund research. Time will tell if Congress has the backbone to follow through. It has folded before.

Money for such research was halted in the mid-1990s under pressure by the National Rifle Association. Ever since, we’ve been stumbling along as a nation, racking up more than a quarter-million deaths by gunfire in the last decade alone.

Because we haven’t gathered a great deal of data on how guns are used in America — for self-defense, in crime, in suicides — we have permitted all sorts of magical thinking.

Hence, some have argued that the solution to mass shootings is to get rid of “gun-free zones,” which (they reason) create easy targets for killers to seek. Then there’s the argument that simply giving children more education about gun safety will lessen their chances of playing with a weapon. What does the evidence say? Well, studies conflict. More and better research would help assess policy proposals.

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • docb

    If our politicians in DC are too weak kneed to fund the is time that the money guys like Bloomberg step to the plate , along with we the private citizens..Then send the political cowards home from Washington permanently!

    • RobertCHastings

      For years the ATF has been collecting data on guns but is prohibited from sharing this information. The CDC still collects information on the social impacts of gun violence, but is prohibited from sharing this information

      • docb

        True, Hastings! And blocked by who? The Nra did not do this without Congress’s support’
        Here is another example of repubs obscuring DATA from the public..

        At the Fiscal times Obscuring Data by Bartlett

    • RobertCHastings

      Thanks for the heads-up regarding The Fiscal Times. It looks like something I have been looking for, an honest, straightforward analysis of current news regarding business and fiscal issues.

      • docb

        Do read Bartletts Bio…You get sound information there ..with facts to back them up.

        • RobertCHastings

          Sounds like he still adheres to conservative principles, but may be an apologist for some of them. At least what I read on The Fiscal Times SEEMED legitimate

          • docb

            I do not mind real conservative ideas but abhor the current right wing shams of conservative non-values today.

          • RobertCHastings

            Unfortunately, the Republican base apparently sees them as genuine values, based upon traditional conservative values of fiscal conservatism. However, tradition has become commingled with a smattering of demagoguery.

          • docb

            Faux the conflation not just demagoguery.

  • RobertCHastings

    The book entitled “The Last Gun” by Tom Diaz offers significant documentation regarding the issues Obama’s panel will be dealing with. The Centers for Disease Control was conducting studies over a decade regarding the issue of gun violence and its impact on society. The CDC was threatened with budget cuts if they continued. While this occurred during the Bush administration, it was NOT necessarily a Republican thing – it was legislation devised by ALEC and pushed by friends of the NRA. For decades the ATF has collected pertinent data on millions of guns in the US. This seems to be a no-brainer, after all, what should such an agency be doing anyway. While they still collect this information, they are prohibited(by law) from sharing this information with local or state authorities. Once again, the NRA and ALEC figure heavily in this travesty. As Ms. Sanchez notes, policy makers from the local level to the Capitol cannot make appropriate decisions without adequate information. None of us can. So why is the NRA so insistent that we do not obtain such information, as individuals, as voters, as Americans?

  • Dominick Vila

    When most Republicans voted against the expansion of Reagan’s gun control legislation to include sales of lethal weapons to criminals and the mentally ill, they revealed a commitment to the advancement of special interests at the expense of innocent Americans that is nothing short of contemptible and unworthy of people in leadership positions.
    Their focus is strictly on helping the folks that fund their campaigns, rather than what is best for the American people. Claiming that we all need to have lethal weapons to defend ourselves against real or imaginary criminals, while rejecting measures to make it more difficult for those criminals and the mentally ill to acquire lethal weapons is absurd and confirm that the real goal has little to do with Constitutional imperatives and protecting our personal safety, and a lot to do with material and political goals.

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      • Dominick Vila

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  • LaRae Bailey

    and in the way the government chooses to count gun deaths are the police shootings, the ones the cops shoot… and many more that are not connected in any way to actual gun violence in an attempt to give false reports on the true numbers of gun violence… they are misrepresenting the actual gun deaths… never trust our government to give honest responses

    • goyakhla ghandhi

      Never trust the gun industry they wont even allow for the study of gun violence, how can we begin to come to grips with this disaster if we aren’t even allowed to collect data and research it?

    • Sand_Cat

      You’ve never passed the sanity test; why should anyone listen to your moronic scribbling?

  • Jim Myers

    I agree with most of the content in this story, but the mention of the automotive industry is actually a paradox.

    On the one hand, huge improvements have been made in the actual safety of cars. While at the same time, in what can only be described as an unhealthy desire to make cars and trucks more irresistible and profitable, they have turned cars into private arcades.

    Adding “hands free” talking and texting, computer enhanced devices for entertainment, and a host of “improvements” that have been shown by nearly every study to actually make cars more accident prone and lethal.

    So, on the one hand, they have been providing cars that can help prevent accidents, while on the other hand they are pandering to the weakness of the buyers, by providing a more accident prone, “entertainment” environment.

    There was a time, “Long, Long ago, and Far, Far Away”, when automotive safety was taught in drivers education, and automotive manufacturers actually were on the same page regarding the fact that “Safety First” is the primary responsibility of the driver.

    Not any more.

    • RSDrake

      The best part of the article: “The aim is not to take guns away from people. It’s about making gun ownership and use safer. It’s about respecting the lethal nature of the weapons enough to reduce accidents, suicides and gun use by the untrained and criminals.”

      A new purchaser of a gun needs to: 1) attend a certified gun safety course; 2) pass a firearms proficiency test; 3} pass a background check; 4) register the gun; and 5) understand that the weapon must be locked up when not under the direct control of the owner.

      Jim, while I agree with your points and that menus on the dashboard are akin to texting while driving (auto industry is working to change this), there is also an applicable metaphor to gun and vehicle ownership. To drive a vehicle, you need to be trained, pass a written test, pass a driving test, and then you can drive. No one, in their right mind, would turn over their keys to an unlicensed driver.

      On the other hand, to own a gun today, in Virginia, my State, you simply buy one from another Virginian and go shooting – no training, no background check. Every day there is a child accidentally shooting a sibling, a parent accidentally shooting a family member, and in Virginia, even a case where a police officer shot himself in the hand while cleaning his weapon. .

      Guns are dangerous – gun owners need training.

      Bob Drake
      NRA Member
      Retired Executive

      • Jim Myers

        As someone who was taught to use a rifle at the local Armory when I was a teenager, (by a loyal member of the NRA), I respect what the NRA USED to teach and promote.

        However, I no longer feel that way. The leadership of the NRA has become overrun by executives hell bent on avoiding any responsibility for gun violence. The main focus now seems to be the protection and promotion of the gun manufacturers. And the lust for more and more money and power.

        The wishes of the majority of NRA members is now secondary to the wishes of the executives.

        Money and power are all they seem to care about. And because of that, the image of a once fine organization has become extremely tarnished in the eyes of the American public.

        • RSDrake

          I am in the NRA because it is a requirement to belong to my gun club. A background check is also required. All of the members I talk to want more gun control, so your “majority” statement could be expanded to “vast majority.” I would guess 75%.

          I think you are right on the money as to the public persona of the NRA. They are unequivocally “nut jobs.” Their primary interest is fundraising.

          However there are parts of the NRA that are what they USED to be. Our gun club routinely teaches free NRA safety courses. The gun range at the NRA Museum in Fairfax, VA also does training and courses before anyone is allowed on the range. Nearly all of our mem


  • tcburch

    “Things may be about to change. A new report pushes us one step closer to treating gun violence as a public health issue. If allowed to gain traction, this change in attitude will have huge consequences.”
    GUN violence is NOT a public health issue. Focusing on the weapon will not bring any changes…focus on the problem will. Limiting this “violence” to guns only does not make it a health issue by any stretch of the imagination. There’s a much larger “health” issue at stake that is not being recognized and discussed, or at the very least is being ignored. We need to ask ourselves, if it is being ignored…why and to what end? Now, if they want to focus on, and fully address societal violence, its causes and solutions, then we may make some progress. Until then, “gun violence” in and of itself will remain a talking point only, about a small aspect of the actual, much larger problem…the 800 pound elephant if you will. “Gun violence” certainly is not a “public health issue”…

    • Justin Napolitano

      Name just one thing, besides a gun, that can kill someone
      with just a flick of the finger?

      Some would suggest that guns are not a health issue but try
      and tell that to the 30,000 that are killed by gunshot in the US each year.
      Is violence a problem, sure but guns play a very big part of
      that violence because, again, just a flick of the finger can kill someone.
      When it was determined that dirty needles, shared by drug
      addicts, was causing the spread of AIDS a program was developed to allow old needles to be traded in for new clean needles. They didn’t cure the drug
      problem but they helped stop the spread of AIDS.
      Since we are not solving the violence problem we should do something about the device that is responsible for so many deaths and serious injuries; guns. Curtailing the spread of gun violence can and should be a three pronged attack: Do something about the violence in our society, do something about the massive proliferation of guns and make damn sure everyone that obtains a gun is trained to handle it and knows how to secure it.

      • tcburch

        In you closing argument you acknowledge that the problem is the violence in our society but we are not addressing the problem. The problem remains unsolved if you only address one aspect of it. It goes so much deeper than the device. Your 30,000 figure, at least according to the CDC, would necessarily have to include suicide to be anywhere close to valid…more like 17,000 are killed by acts of homicide where the victim did not have a choice or say in the matter. My only point mentioning that is, if we’re going to have a cogent dicussion about violence, let’s put the bloated figures bandied about aside and discuss the realities.
        Last point, and this borders on the histrionics side of things again, “Name just one thing, besides a gun, that can kill someone with just a flick of the finger?” Well, let’s start with the “Doomsday” button in the Oval office (that would take out a lot more lives with one flick of the finger than even I can imagine.)
        I do agree with your statement that everyone, and I do mean everyone, gun owner or not, should be trained to handle it and know how to secure it. That’s the biggest difference between “then” and now.

        • Justin Napolitano

          The 30,000 gun deaths figure is accurate and yes it does include suicides. But, just like the drug thing with aids and dirty needles there is a correlation of gun deaths with the massive proliferation of guns in our society. The US is a violent place in part because the tool of violence, the gun, is everywhere and we are killing thousands of citizens with this tool each year. Adding more guns will just add more deaths and while you personally might feel more secure with a gun, what about the millions of children that walk and play in our streets, attend school and ride in school buses. Do you propose we arm them or have someone, armed with a gun protect them in all aspects of their daily activities?

  • Allan Richardson

    Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!

  • TZToronto

    I recently read a book about the American Revolution (that I should have read years ago in college but did not). At one point during the war, when things weren’t going well for the British, they offered to give the “colonies” a measure of self-rule and to cancel the objectionable taxes that had been imposed on the colonies–if the colonists would lay down their arms while allowing the British to maintain their military in the colonies. Some patriots thought this was a reasonable solution to ending the conflict. Others worried that if they laid down their arms, there would be no way to evict the British should they renege on their deal. This appears to be the basis for the 2nd Amendment–that a militia is necessary to keep foreign powers from waltzing in and taking over. It is not so much the weapons that the 2nd Amendment protects as it is the militias.

    • RobertCHastings

      Do you recall the title of the book? It is a very interesting, and entirely feasible, idea. 5,000 new militia reinforced Washington’s position in New York just before the Admiral and General Howe landed their troops. These 5,000 were not armed, except with pitchforks, axes, etc., which somewhat belies the insistence of gun rights arguers that everyone was armed. While the guns of the day were by today’s standards quite primitive, they still required tooling and craftsmanship that the average man could not afford, and could not make by himself.

      • TZToronto

        The American Revolution 1775-1783 by John Richard Alden (copyright 1954). You’d probably have to find it in a library. What I found interesting are the diplomatic dealings that enabled the new United States to claim land up to the Mississippi River, leaving land to the west of the Mississippi to France but allowing the British to navigate the Mississippi River. The surrender of Cornwallis was not actually the end of the war, but it convinced most in Britain that the war in America was not winnable and could leave Britain vulnerable to attack by France and Spain.

  • angelsinca

    Since the studies so far are ‘inconclusive’, we should probably wait until the panel actually completes its study before pre-suggesting what we think it might conclude, as the article suggests.

  • tdm3624

    If this is a health issue, it doesn’t even crack the top ten.