I’ll give you a hint: I don’t think it’s a lack of video games or a surplus of religiosity.
As with the health care debate, what’s so frustrating about the US gun control debate is this country’s stubborn refusal to learn from the rest of the world, as if the US is so special that what works for everyone else won’t work for us.
Factcheck.org has an interesting article called “Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts.” Just so you know, this isn’t an anti-gun rant with cherry-picked facts. For example: gun murders are actually declining, and now are at their lowest rate since at least 1981; this despite the fact that the number of guns-per-capita is increasing.
However, [Catherine] Barber [at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center], said gun violence has “dropped precipitously” from the early 1990s — a trend criminologists chalked up to “changes in the crack cocaine market.” Her observation is supported by crime data and surveys.
In other words, there are other factors besides the availability of guns.
But among advanced countries, the U.S. homicide rate stands out. “We seem to be an average country in terms of violence and aggression,” says Harvard’s Hemenway. “What we have is huge homicide rates compared to anybody else.”
Says Wintemute: “The difference is that in this country violence involves firearms and firearms change the outcome.”
Yes. And this is obvious to the rest of the world but not to us. Why not? One big reason is our hugely-well-funded gun lobby, headed by the National Rifle Association.
Can we finally admit, after listening to Wayne LaPierre’s stupid rant the other day, that the NRA is little more than a lobby for gun manufacturers? It should be clear by now that the gun companies don’t exist to promote safety or freedom. That’s just propaganda for the masses. They exist to provide shareholder value. To do this they need to sell product in an increasingly saturated market, and to do that they need to promote both fear and the belief that individuals need to take up arms against the objects of their fear.
This is precisely the rhetoric that gun companies have bought and paid for, and this is why they have as legitimate a place in a discussion of public safety as tobacco companies have in a discussion of public health.
We will never have an intelligent national discussion about guns until the NRA is excluded from the conversation. Understand, I don’t want to take away their right to free speech, but I want their money to become politically toxic, something that can end the careers of politicians who are found to have accepted it. We can’t control the flow of NRA dollars, but we can make the givers and recipients of those dollars into objects of scorn and derision. Then and only then will we have a chance of implementing gun laws based on data and results, rather than on some manufactured paranoid ideology.