Friday, January 28, 2011


Ed Stein's commentary:
So completely has the gun argument been lost to the extremists that the president didn’t even make a half-hearted plea for any kind of control in his State of the Union message. The only voices we’ve heard have been those clamoring for even more guns in more places. The reasoning seems to be that if everyone carried a sidearm everywhere, people would be more reluctant to open fire–kind of a mutually assured destruction on a personal level. How this argument has prevailed despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary is a mystery. Too many western movies, maybe, in which the bad guys always miss and the good guy somehow picks off dozens of them. We ignore the inconvenient facts, some of which I’ll recount here.

31,000 Americans  died from gun violence last year.  The states with the highest number of firearms have the highest number of firearm deaths (shocking); the states with the fewest have the fewest. More guns do not equal more safety, despite the relentlessly repeated claims to the contrary. The myth of needing guns to defend yourself against the bad guys with guns? You are more than four times more likely to be shot in a confrontation if you are armed than if you are not. How many people actually successfully defend themselves in such a manner? Unknown, largely because the NRA has managed to prevent the government from spending money actually studying gun violence, but it’s unlikely to be very high number, or we’d hear a lot more about it. In Tucson, a man who was at the rally and armed, in the confusion of the moment, almost shot the person who disarmed Loughner, who fired off 31 shots in ten seconds, killing six and wounding 13 before anyone had time to react. Can you imagine the ensuing mayhem if everyone there started firing back in a crowd?

Oh, and the line about enforcing the laws we already have on the books rather than creating new ones? That’s the biggest laugh of all, given that the inconsistent patchwork of more than 10,000 local laws across the country. Washington, D.C. bans guns, but Virginia, a stone’s throw away, will sell you anything you want, no questions asked. A dealer in most states has to do a background check in his store, but not at the gun show on the weekend. A lunatic like Jared Lee Loughner had no trouble buying a gun and a high-capacity clip legally.

I love the fallback logic when all the other arguments fail: there are so many guns out there and it’s so easy for criminals to get them, if we start trying to control them now, only the bad guys will end up having them. In other words, we’ve been so successful at creating a country where violence rules, we have no choice but to live with the mess we’ve created.

And so it goes on. The gun absolutists even fight a New Jersey proposal that guns not be sold to people on the terror watch list, and probably will succeed in killing it. How safe does that make you feel?

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