Politics Magazine

The 10 Biggest Lies Protecting Gun Violence

Posted on the 14 April 2018 by Jobsanger
The 10 Biggest Lies Protecting Gun Violence (cartoon image is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.)
There is an epidemic of gun violence in the United States. That is undeniable, and this country needs to have a rational debate on how to lessen that violence. Unfortunately, the gun lobby has a litany of lies to prevent that rational debate.
Chris Ladd, in an op-ed for Forbes.com, has given us a list of the 10 lies most often used to distort the debate over gun violence. Here is his list (and you can go to the Forbes website for a fuller discussion of them):
Lie #1: There is no connection between mass gun ownership and gun deaths. It seems obvious that a country flooded with guns will have higher rates of gun deaths than countries with few of these weapons. Why are land mines and hand-grenades forbidden in the so-called “Land of the Free,” despite their obvious value in home defense? Because everyone understands that placing these killing machines in circulation would get a lot of people killed. So why don’t we recognize the same problem with guns? Obvious answers are never enough for us, so America has been running a deadly experiment on this question for decades. The results are exactly as you would expect. Mass gun ownership leads to higher rates of gun death. Careful regulation can limit that death toll, but not eliminate it. Lie #2: We don’t need stronger gun regulation because gun violence is declining. This lie is fun because of the way it depends on careful framing. Gun violence, defined as crimes committed with guns, has been declining for decades. That makes sense, since crime in general has been declining for decades. However, despite a lower crime rate, guns are now competing with automobile accidents for one of the leading causes of premature death in the US. When accidents and suicides are included in the statistics, gun deaths have been consistently rising while most other causes of death declined. And when gun deaths and injuries are compared to rates in other countries, it is hard to build a chart big enough to properly picture America’s towering rates of slaughter. Lie #3: We didn’t have this problem “in my day” because people loved Jesus and didn’t play violent video games. According to Franklin Graham, gun violence happens because Americans “turned our backs on God.” His “kids these days” explanation of gun carnage is a favorite of drunk uncles in MAGA caps all over the country. Though these claims frequently sour Thanksgiving dinners, they lack empirical support. Mass murder has always been a feature of American life, from the slaughter of Native Americans, to the lynchings of black citizens. We just haven’t always had such broad, unregulated, cheap access to such incredibly lethal toys. There’s nothing new about “lone wolf” killings, either, though our modern flood of unregulated high-powered weapons has made them more common and deadly. School shootings are as old as school. Young Matthew Ward murdered his teacher in front of the class in Louisville in 1853. He was acquitted Lie #4: The Second Amendment blocks gun regulation. Americans happily place curbs on our rights to religious freedom, blocking people from committing acts of violence, fraud or abuse in the name of faith. Free speech is limited by laws banning libel or incitement. Americans have a constitutionally protected right to obtain an abortion, yet many of the same people advocating Second Amendment absolutism suddenly lose interest in the constitution when the subject turns to reproductive rights. As a general rule, people tend to cite constitutional protections when they don’t want to debate the merits of an issue. Gun advocates are passionate about civil liberties until those liberties become inconvenient. Lie #5: The solution to gun violence is more gun ownership. This lie would be too bizarre to earn column space, but politicians are actually using it build policy, putting guns in places like schools, churches and bars. There is no empirical basis for the claim, but it is sometimes accompanied by one misleading data point. In a twist on Lie #2, gun advocates sometimes point out that a massive rise in gun sales in recent decades has coincided with a long decline in crime rates. Reductions in crime have also coincided with a long trend of rising ocean temperatures, and an increase in the number of black quarterbacks in the NFL. Without some explanation of cause, this factoid is useless. Lie #6: Chicago has tight gun restrictions and mass gun violence. Ergo, gun laws don’t work. Chicago’s seemingly intractable problem with gun violence is one of America’s fondest fascinations. It’s also a myth. Chicago has more gun murders than other large cities like New York and Los Angeles, thanks mostly to its long, unsecured border with North Alabamastan (sometimes called Indiana). However, Chicago’s murder rate still lags far behind the nation’s leaders, many of which are in red states with loose gun restrictions. America’s capital of gun violence is in deep-red Louisiana. New Orleans suffers from four times the rate of gun murders as Chicago. Such terrifying urban hellscapes as Kansas City, Memphis and Atlanta all rack up much higher rates of gun violence than Chicago. Expand the inquiry beyond crime, to include accidental gun deaths and suicide, and Chicago simply recedes from the frame. The obvious conclusion also happens to be an empirical fact: states with high levels of gun ownership have higher levels of gun death. Lie #7: We should enforce existing gun laws before imposing new ones. Calls for more determined enforcement of existing gun laws are the most darkly cynical lie in the debate over guns. Our gun laws are carefully crafted to be unenforceable. One law stands out as the most critical obstacle to enforcement of gun restrictions. A minor provision of the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act bans states or federal agencies from building gun registries. Six states already possessed some form of registry, thus were exempted, but further efforts to break the enforcement of gun regulations made it difficult for them to leverage that information in any useful way. Lie #8: We need guns to protect ourselves from the government. Until 2008, no federal court had ever recognized an individual constitutional right to own a firearm. If anyone imagined that the Constitution protected a right to use violence to overthrow the government, that idea was put to rest in 1794, when George Washington marched an army across Pennsylvania to squash citizens’ “Second Amendment remedies.”. . . Behind the “Second Amendment Remedies” lie lurks a dark reality: private arsenals have always been the bloody left hand of white supremacy. When gun enthusiasts shrug off the mass slaughter of innocent civilians to preserve “freedom,” they aren’t talking about your freedom or mine. Lie #9: No legislation can curb gun deaths in the US. Americans now have more guns in circulation than citizens. No credible regulatory scheme, no matter how smart or ambitious, is likely to bring the rate of gun deaths in America in line with global standards anytime soon. Whatever we achieve politically in the near term can only be a down-payment on a better world for our children. There are a few smart measures that could begin to slow the carnage and place us on a path to a safer future. If we start soon and persist over time, future generations can enjoy lives relatively free from mass gun violence while preserving their historic right to own weapons. Perhaps our most promising model would borrow lessons from the regulation of our other most dangerous product – automobiles.  No one is permitted to drive on our roads without obtaining a license. Every automobile is registered. Every transaction is taxed. All vehicle owners are required to maintain insurance to cover potential harm. . . . Our habit of imposing complicated and confusing restrictions on weapons by type and shape is largely theater, designed to create a sensation of progress while avoiding the fundamental problem. Instead, we should adopt a simpler, more powerful solution. Register every gun and every gun sale. Require gun owners to obtain a license. Make liability insurance a requirement for every gun owner, tracked to every gun. Require proof of insurance for every sale. Track sales of ammunition, just like we track the sale of Sudafed. Make these gun and ammunition registries available to law enforcement. It is a simple, constitutional approach that preserves the right of responsible adults to own as many weapons as they want, so long as they can demonstrate responsible, safe ownership. Lie #10: Americans oppose tighter gun regulation. When presented with concrete proposals to regulate guns, majorities of Americans almost always favor them. That support is so universal that it spreads across partisan lines. In fact, a ballot proposal on gun control passed in Nevada of all places. More than 90% of gun owners support universal background checks. A majority of Republicans support a national gun registry

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