What can be done to help get America out of its terrible trend of gun violence?
There’s an estimated 270 Americans shot per day. “The United States sees an average of 92 gun deaths per day — and more preschoolers are shot dead each year than police officers are killed in the line of duty,” writes the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof.
During the past decade, 6,000 Washingtonians have been killed by guns, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Approximately 90 million Americans own nearly 300 million firearms. There are obviously some gun owners out there with serious supplies of guns. Nearly 5 percent of those 90 million gun owners are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA), author Peter Dreier wrote recently in Salon.
What we have here is a significant gun culture, one that is uniquely American and one that most non-gun owners know very little about.
Everyone wants to see the end of gun violence. Opinions abound on how to do it.
As you can see above, the NRA has a surprisingly small percentage of members compared to the numbers of American gun owners, yet it remains one of the most powerful lobbying organizations advocating gun rights.
NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre, in particular, cuts a dastardly figure. He relies on gun lobbyists, the coffers of greedy gun manufacturers, and the weakness of some conservative members of Congress all to help block gun control legislation supported by the majority of Americans.
Here are some of those conservative opinions followed by their opposing opinions.
• Guns don’t kill, people kill. Guns are created to kill and, whether accidentally or purposefully, kill efficiently.
• More people should carry guns to protect against gun violence. Who wants to bring their families up where everyone carries a gun on them? What could possibly go wrong?
• The Second Amendment gives us the right to keep and bear arms. “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” writes most conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a 2008 decision.
• It’s the mentally ill who somehow get ahold of guns who are the perpetrators of gun violence; guns are not the problem. Mental illness does not equal violence. Blaming the mentally ill is pure discrimination. A majority of psychiatrists agree that the mentally ill are far more likely to be the victims of gun violence than the offenders.
Nicolas Kristof, in a recent New York Times op-ed, writes that “majorities even of gun owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.”
Still, others think another look at gun owners should be taken as the possible key to change. “The vast majority of people who buy guns never commit a crime, never shoot a person and are upstanding citizens who find their constitutional rights threatened unfairly every time there’s an incident like the one in Oregon,” writes author Dan Baum for Al-jazeera.
Baum believes that if we put our full focus simply on “trying to see to it that fewer people get shot,” there is a good chance that gun owners could be able to bring on the fix we’re looking for. And so, “the single most important thing we can do to reduce the number of people who get shot is to get gun owners to lock up their guns.”
Gun owners should not be treated like the enemy. This is one way our American gun culture might be able to change from the inside. “Outsiders can’t force this to happen,” Baum continues. Gun owners “have the power to make this country safer from gun violence.”
Just some food for thought.
— Marylin Olds is an opinion columnist. Questions and comments are always welcome at email@example.com.