Bushmaster gun control

Another gun massacre and another round of rhetoric.  US gun control types will talk about how guns really do kill people (this time elementary school children in Connecticut) and how we need to restrict just who gets their hands on these pieces of hardware that were designed specifically to (hmmmm) kill.

The gun loving folks will wait 24-48 hours and then they will start saying the usual stuff, “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” “This wouldn’t have happened if folks at the school were armed.” (Picture packing the pistol in little Suzy’s lunch pail).  It will escalate to the most commonly used NRA-hype, “It’s my constitutional right to carry a firearm to protect my family and my home.”

They will activate their network – and they are really good at this – so that every time someone like me writes a piece that favors restriction of access to firearms, there will be comments galore touting the gun industry message. It never fails to amaze me how quickly and effectively the gun lobby gets this done–do you think it could be related to all the money they make selling guns?

 

Have we gone completely mad?

As we get ready to repeat this all too frequent national, irrational, conversation on guns,” I have to wonder:  Have we gone completely mad?  Do we think things are going to get better if we keep on doing (and saying) the same old, same old?  When is this country going to show some common sense when it comes to guns?  When are we going to do something meaningful to stop the killings?

When I was running Physicians for a Violence-Free Society in the 90s, I used to meet with a lot of youth groups. Invariably, the young people would ask me, “Why aren’t you adults doing something about gun violence? Why do we have so many guns on the streets? Can’t you make gun control happen?

The answer to the last question is “no.” The gun control community is split on the best solution (ban guns, ban semi-automatic weapons, control ammunition, background screens, etc.)  We have also been relatively poorly funded. Around the time that Bush Jr. first got elected, there were only a handful of organizations willing to fund gun control activities – and one of the biggest of them pulled out shortly after that.

The well-funded gun community, on the other hand, sticks to their “constitutional right to protect” message and wins everytime. Since the 90s, most formerly gun-control favoring Democrats won’t go near the gun issue now as it is a sure way to have the NRA and the gunner right throw all of their considerable resources against your campaign. Little David Gun Control doesn’t have much clout against Goliath Gunner.

 

No one is willing to find a middle ground

It feels to me like the fiscal cliff conversations, no?  Each side is holding firmly to our entrenched positions and no-one willing to find a middle ground.  In the past, when I attempted to find a middle ground, I found that the pro-gunners thought the middle was only about a millimeter away from their position. I once tried negotiating a compromise with the California version of the NRA only to find that all they were willing to give me was subscription to their mailing li, t.

Come on guys. Wake up.  Guns are big business in the US. The NRA is no longer an organization with the mission of helping your kids learn about gun safety. They are the trade association, aka lobbyist, for companies that make and sell guns.

But we can no longer ignore or obfuscate the fact that guns are increasingly a serious public health problem. Like cigarettes, fast food, and other industry-related health issues, the gun issue is highly charged because of the big bucks at risk if anything changes the status quo. So, we have record levels of obesity, massacres in schools, and, by the way, we are still dying of cigarette-caused illnesses.

 

Reinstate the CDC’s violence prevention infrastructure

One thing we can do fairly quickly is to elevate the CDC’s Violence Prevention infrastructure back to the level that it had during the Clinton administration. This was gutted post-Bush. Another is for Foundations and other folks with money to step up to the table to make resources available to the “other side.”

Those of us who favor limitations on guns need to quit being silent because our silence empowers the pro-gunners.  This can’t keep on being about Red vs. Blue politics, conservatives vs. liberals, the Northeast and West against the South and the Middle.  This has to be about our kids and our sense of safety.  How many of you get creeped out going to a large movie theater or a mall or now, even a school?  Is this the way you want to live in the US of A?

I am sorry to say that I don’t know what the solution is, but I know it’s not more guns, less restriction, more packing, more massacres, and more hand-wringing.  We need a real honest public health approach to guns and we need it soon.

I don’t think I have to ask you, my dear readers, what you think, I am pretty sure I will be hearing from the NRA-types sooner rather than later, but, I would love to hear from the rest of you too.

Addendum 4:12 pm 12/14/12:  Apparently one of the murder weapons was a Bushmaster .223. Here is a link to the Bushmaster home page. Check out the skull and cross bones in case you have any doubt about what they are selling. And here one of their marketing messages:

What???

11 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Patricia: You have set up a great dialogue here. I too come from a hunting family, though I am more of a fan of bow hunting than rifle hunting. I grew up as largely a city kid, and have had plenty of guns pointed at me as a clinical provider in inner city areas. I am also a public health clinician and worked largely in the medical sequelae of illegal and legal drug use, mental health and, increasingly, medical response to large scale — natural and manmade — disasters. I think you are correct that the gun rights lobby will always have more muscle than those of us trying to have a meaningful dialogue on reform. I also think there needs to be far more dialogue and solutions on how best to manage mental illness in adolescence, particularly in adolescent males. There are a lot of parents out there badly in need of help and kind of giving up because we clinicians do little but to medicate, manage. Most healthcare insurance provides little opportunities for the type of inpatient care that might actually be of some help. But that is a post for another day.
    Thanks for posting this. Keep up the good work.

  2. My husband is a hunter, as are all of his friends. They have always been adamant about gun safety and do not purchase automatic weapons, or hunt with anyone who uses them. They’ve been hunting together for over 30 years, and they are very careful about how many animals they take off of their property, manage the herd, never kill anything too young, and we eat everything that they bring home. hey have taught their kids gun safety, and respect for nature… they have never allowed the kids to go around randomly shooting at birds or any other animals. It’s always very controlled.
    My husband is an avid gun rights supporter but even he says that assault weapons and automatics should be banned. But we also have discussed how banning them will make the price go up on all the weapons that are already out there… probably into the millions. Doomsday preppers stockpile them, many like to collect them, and our wonderful government sold a whole slew of them to criminals in a plan that backfired. Making them illegal to buy, sell, or own is a start but people need to realize that we will then face the challenge of getting them turned in, which is not going to happen easily.
    Then take a look at what kids are into. Our own grandson, age 11, likes all kinds of guns, from Nerf guns and cap guns to paintball guns and airsoft guns. There are paintball and airsoft shooting clubs and ranges all over the country. Kids have paintball or airsoft birthday parties. Of course this will lead into shooting real guns. If everyone would teach their kids proper gun handling and respect for weapons, it still wouldn’t take care of people who have mental problems, hot tempers, or cold hearts, and wish to do harm.
    I know that I’m rambling, but so many thoughts come into my mind. I’m a retired teacher, and fifteen years ago, one of my sixth grade students was accidentally shot and killed by a kid who was playing around with his father’s handgun…. he had sneaked it out of the house and was showing off with it, and thought he had it on safety. The sadness, pain, and suffering that both of those families endured has ruined their lives. Our school was in a turmoil. We read about these things often… the father who accidentally kills his own child while cleaning a weapon, the hunting accidents that sometimes occur, (one of my high school friends dropped his shotgun while putting it up after a hunt, and it blew his head off), kids who play with guns.
    And then, we have these horrible massacres, many in the U.S., but elsewhere, too. The massacre in Norway or Sweden, I’ve already forgotten where it happened, is an example. I would like to think that most reasonable, gun carrying Americans would be for stringent background checks before purchasing any weapon, mandatory gun safety classes, traceable ammunition, an assault and automatic weapons ban, and a program to turn in these weapons voluntarily, but I know some very nice and intelligent people who just go ballistic at the thought of any kind of gun control, and I don’t understand it. I hate it that the NRA fights legislation such as the bill to forbid people with domestic violence convictions from purchasing weapons. I think the gun lobbyists, and a lot of Americans, are so afraid that some of these very practical bans would somehow lead to a war on guns that would render the right to bear arms a thing of the past. I do not think that would happen.
    My own daughter got her right to carry license when she took a job that puts her in a vulnerable position quite often, and she goes to the range to practice every month. Frankly, it makes me feel better that she has done that. As for me, I’m afraid of guns. I might feel differently if I took a course, but I have a fear that I’d accidentally shoot myself, or someone else.
    There are just no easy answers to any of this. But we do have to start somewhere. The over repeated “guns don’t kill people” needs to go away. What we need to start thinking is “if this boy had not had any access to those weapons, what would have happened differently?” He could have made a bomb, or set the school on fire. He could have driven a truck into one of the classrooms. He could have arrived with knives, or an axe. We won’t ever know, nor can we know in any of the cases that have happened.
    When my son was small, I didn’t want him to have toy guns until he was old enough to be taught gun safety, even with toy ones. I wanted him to be old enough to understand the damage that a real bullet can do. When he was about 3, he picked up a garlic press, held it like a pistol, and aimed it at the window, saying “Pow!” His dad didn’t even have a handgun. We didn’t let him watch any kind of violent TV shows, but some kids in the neighborhood had toy guns.
    Where there is a will, there’s a way. Unfortunately, with so much mental illness in our society, folks would still find other ways to harm us. But I do agree that anything we can do to keep weapons out of their hands is a first step, because when people go off the deep end, and have an automatic weapon in their hands, they can inflict so much carnage so fast, that we end up with 27 people killed in the space of minutes. I do happen to think that if schoolteachers and administrators could carry a weapon, maybe we could stop some of the violence in schools. If I were trained, I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot someone trying to harm any of my students. Since Columbine, schools have had mandatory drills for emergency situations like this. Kids don’t take it seriously. My high school kids would giggle and complain throughout the entire drill, and would resist having to squash themselves into a corner of the classroom where a perpetrator could not see them through the window on the classroom door. They had all kinds of smart alec things to say. I would try my best to make them take it seriously, and a few did. In a real situation of course, they would be have differently, and I believe that our system would save a lot of lives. These things will continue to happen…. violence, evil, and mental illness has been in our world since the beginning of time. We have to keep trying, and we will, but it is such a hard task. We just can’t give up.

  3. We , the people must step up with all our energy to. Lobby legislators concerning what reasonable weapons should b sold to the public; Institue better background checks for those purchasing guns & become more aware of those in need of mental health help.

  4. Pat, I agree with you, but feel we also need to talk about how we ‘treat’ mental illness in this country. To me, this is the root cause of the issue…the people who commit these heinous crimes are sick. Mental health in our country is not addressed proactively and we don’t have the funding to do what needs to be done.

    Maybe part of the discussion should focus on how the gun lobby can help with bringing the gaps in treatment for mental health to prevent these senseless crimes from happening….(and not just the one’s that make national news)_

    • Interesting thought Anne. My experience with the gun lobby folks is that they do not want to do anything to decrease the number of paying customers they have – even those who most of us would agree should not be armed. They even lobbied against a bill to reduce access to guns by convicted domestic violence perpetrators:

      Domestic Violence Gun Ban and Brady Law (http://lautenberg.senate.gov/issues_update/guns_crime.cfm)

      Senator Lautenberg wrote the domestic violence gun ban to protect women and children by keeping spousal and child abusers from owning guns. Specifically, this law prohibits those who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from buying or possessing firearms. To date, this law has kept more than 200,000 guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers. Recently, portions of the law were challenged in court. However, in February 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Senator Lautenberg’s federal ban on gun possession by convicted misdemeanor domestic violence abusers. The Supreme Court rejected arguments by the gun lobby and a convicted domestic abuser that would have allowed convicted abusers in at least 25 states to rearm themselves with guns. Lautenberg had submitted an amicus brief to the Court in defense of his law. Senator Lautenberg was also a cosponsor and strong supporter of the Brady law, which established background checks for handgun purchases and has stopped more than 1.5 million felons and dangerous people from buying guns.

      ***
      We need a bold approach, one that galvanized people across the spectrum, analagous to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. (PAPP? Parents against Pistol Packers or CASA? Citizens against Semi-automatics). And we need $$.

  5. Not sure how there continues to be any support or justification for legally allowing these types of weapons. You can still protect gun rights but for handguns or even shotguns but not automatic weapons.

  6. 40 % of gun sales in the US are without any background checks. To which the gun lovers will answer “Guns don’t kill people do”. Wrong people kill much more efficiently when they have a gun, especially an assault rifle in their hands. All of the constitutional rights have their limitations. Even though we have freedom of religion one can not practice polygamy, or have animal sacrifices, prevent a child whose life is in danger from having a blood transfusion etc. Freedom of speech …of course can not “shout fire in a theater”, incite people to cause imminent bodily harm, must stay 100 yards away from deceased soldiers funerals while carrying obnoxious signs. I was a bystander at an NRA rally. Speaker stated they “Think our Constitutional rights do not apply because we are in an establishment that serves alcohol.” These people even advocate conceal and carry in a bar. Can’t drive and use alcohol yet, they think one should be able to be intoxicated and carry a gun. Why would any sensible person not want to ban assault rifles ? Why would any sensible person not want background checks ? Why would any sensible person not want to have ammunition traceable to the purchaser. If a gun was fired during the commission of a crime the ammunition should be traceable. The problem is though that the “Pandora’s box” of guns has already been opened. We have so many out there. “Guns don’t kill people do.” A whole lot of BS. Should be “Guns Don’t Kill People, But People with Guns Do”. “If guns are outlawed then only criminals will have guns”. Honest people can become criminals if they lose their temper when they have a gun in their hand. Can’t take it back. A final note: The US has a higher percentage of its population than any country in the world. Clearly we have more problems than just the proliferation of guns. What if we could do background checks so that the criminals do not have guns ? What if we could at lease prevent criminals like virtually all of the recent mass murderers from having assault rifles ? It may be too late, but one thing I know for sure. Loosening the gun laws to increase the number of untraceable guns is not the answer. Look at Japan and the UK, strict gun control, low crime rate. Reasonable restrictions on guns, like other US Constitutional rights should be done NOW. Should have been done years ago.

  7. I just came back from picking up my daughter at school. Watching all the kids pouring out after the 3:00 bell, laughing and teachers smiling, no one heard the news yet… made me cry behind my sunglasses. Until there are sensible gun laws in this country this is enough to make me want to homeschool. Has it come to this– we’re afraid to send our children to school.

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