A good book can change your questions, even if you’re not entirely convinced by the author’s answers.
By Charles Kiker
I am not obsessed with guns. But since the public conversation is so obsessed I feel that I, as a person of faith, should respond. In particular, I am responding to two legislative proposals in two different state legislatures.
First: a legislative proposal right here in the Lone Star State would allow students to carry guns on college campuses and in the classroom. I will be charitable in my characterization of that proposal as seriously misguided.
Widely accepted research into the development of the human brain informs us that the frontal lobe is not fully developed in young males until about age 25. Therefore they are more prone to rash and risky behavior. Insurance companies recognize this in their premium rates for automobile insurance for males under 25. (more…)
By Alan Bean
Art Kellermann, an ER physician and researcher at Emory University, crunched the numbers and discovered that “a gun kept in the home was 43 times more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense.” The NRA was so concerned about the thrust of Kellermann’s research that they shut it down. This isn’t about protecting the Second Amendment, it is about making the world safe for those who manufacture and sell firearms. If you didn’t catch this piece on NPR this morning, please give it a look, or click on the link below and give it a listen.
Vice President Joe Biden is getting ready to make recommendations on how to reduce gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. (more…)
By Alan Bean
“Guns don’t kill people,” David Cole says, “indifference to poverty kills people.”
So long as the consequences of gun violence are born by poor black males, Cole believes, the nation will not pass meaningful gun regulation laws.
There are two obvious responses to Cole’s argument. It has frequently been noted that most of the cities with high rates of gun-related homicide already have strict gun control laws. But this only underscores the need for national legislation that discourages people from importing guns into urban neighborhoods.
The second quibble is even more obvious: if poor black males are using guns to kill one another that’s on them. The only solution, this argument goes, is for young black males to use firearms more responsibly. (more…)
By Alan Bean
America has a gun problem, but gun control legislation is too weak a fix; we need a 12-step program.
Since the tragic shootings in Newtown CT, we have been buried in a welter of statistics. Support for gun control is rising, we are told, but the polls vary as to the extent of the shift. We are reminded that 60% of men but only 39% of women favor gun rights over gun control, and that Republicans (72%) are more likely than Democrats (32%) to place the priority on gun rights.
Those inclined to dig deeper into the figures recently compiled by the Pew Research Center will discover that support for both gun rights and gay marriage has been advancing in recent years, a sign that libertarian arguments are impacting a wide range of issues.
The Pew study also shows that whites are twice as likely as African Americans or Latinos to value gun rights over gun control. Moreover, white opinion changed radically in the wake of the election of Barack Obama. In 2007, 37% of white Americans valued gun rights over gun control; the figure is now 57%. White opinion on the gun issue flip-flopped in the space of four years.
Americans are far more likely to own guns than anyone else on the planet. Here in the USA, 88.8 out of 100 people own at least one gun, that’s almost one firearm per person. In Canada, the rate is 30.8, in Germany its 30.3, and in France its 31.2. But in most of the world, the rate of gun ownership is exceedingly low: (Mexico 15, Australia 15, Denmark 12, Israel, 7.3, England 6.2, Afghanistan 4.6, the Netherlands 3.9, Romania .7). In North America, Americans own guns at three times the rate of Canadians and six times the rate of Mexicans.
Americans are also far more likely to use firearms to kill people. In the United States the homicide by firearm rate is 3.2 per 100,000 per year. In the rest of the developed world, the rate varies between 0.0 in Japan (where only 11 homicides were recorded last year) and Belgium at 0.7. In Canada, the rate is 0.5, less than one-sixth the American rate. (more…)
Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA law school, wrote this piece for the Atlantic in September of 2011. The National Rifle Association has been roundly vilified in recent days. In the wake of the Sandy Hook slaughter of the innocents, an organization that opposes even the mildest attempt to regulate the sale, ownership and use of firearms comes off as insensitive and out of touch.
But why is the NRA so adamant on this issue? And has it always been so?
Winkler argues that until the late 1970s, the NRA gave a grudging blessing to gun control legislation, especially in the wake of the wave of political assassinations in the 1960s. Historically, he says, gun control enthusiasts have been primarily motivated by a desire to keep guns out of the hands of black people and that was especially true when leaders of the Black Panther Party made the most of their right to tote weapons in public.
But by the late 1970s things had changed. Ronald Reagan, once a proponent of legislation designed to limit the right of the Black Panthers to carry guns in public, had changed his tune. His new position was remarkably similar to the current policy of the NRA.
What accounts for this dramatic shift? And why have proponents of gun rights, black and white, taken a dim view of government and law enforcement? It has frequently been argued that the NRA is a racist hate group, and it is certainly true that the organization’s membership is overwhelmingly white and rural. But listen closely to the rhetoric of many gun rights people and you will hear a distinctly anti-government message. These people fear their government and insist on the right to arm themselves against it.
In short, American conservative have moved from the law and order rhetoric of the 70s and 80s to a new form of anti-government paranoia. Is this largely a function of having a black man in the White House? Is it a legitimate response to the kind of authoritarian overreach represented by the Patriot Act? Or might it be an complex combination of a multitude of factors? Those wishing to pursue this question should read Mr. Winkler’s remarkably evenhanded essay and the book he has written on the subject.
The Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked to control guns. The Founding Fathers? They required gun ownership—and regulated it. And no group has more fiercely advocated the right to bear loaded weapons in public than the Black Panthers—the true pioneers of the modern pro-gun movement. In the battle over gun rights in America, both sides have distorted history and the law, and there’s no resolution in sight.
By Adam Winkler
THE EIGHTH-GRADE STUDENTS gathering on the west lawn of the state capitol in Sacramento were planning to lunch on fried chicken with California’s new governor, Ronald Reagan, and then tour the granite building constructed a century earlier to resemble the nation’s Capitol. But the festivities were interrupted by the arrival of 30 young black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols. (more…)
By Alan Bean
A shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school this morning has left 27 people dead, 18 of them children.
What is there to say? We ask why anyone would want to carry two automatic weapons into a public place and start shooting. There is no good answer to that question. But we know that every so often somebody does just that. The public place might be a theater, or a mall, but schools seem to have a particular attraction for young white men with guns.
The Connecticut outrage may be the worst such event in American history. Unfortunately, that record won’t stand for long.
According to FOX news personalities it is tacky to argue for gun control in the wake of yet another tragedy. We shouldn’t make important decisions while we’re still reeling in shock. If people want to kill they will find a way. After all, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
But the people intent on killing people make a much better job of it if they can get their hands on an automatic weapon. I have no problem with the guy next door having a hunting rifle under lock and key, but there is no justification for any American civilian owning a weapon designed for killing lots of people quickly.
That’s all they’re good for.
And that’s why they should be banned.