What was that?So begins Charles M. Blow in this Nw York Times op ed (whose title I have borrowed for this post).
Seriously, what was the National Rifle Association performing on Friday? I thought it was going to be a press conference. It wasn’t. I really don’t know how to describe it. A soliloquy of propaganda? A carnival of canards? A herding of scapegoats?
It is well worth the read, as is always the case with Blow.
For example, consider this description of the "press conference" -
It was an appalling display of deflection and deception. So much smoke and so many mirrors.. Or perhaps, after Blow notes LaPierre's ranting against various types of unbalanced people, this
It is true that America has those types of people, but so do other countries. The difference here is that help can be too hard — and guns too easy — to come by.But forget the one-liners, as good as they are. What is most valuable in this piece is that Blow provides clear data from reputable resources. He cites this release from the Violence Policy Center that notes that the five states with the lowest per capita gun death rates were MA, HI, NJ, NY and CT, all of which have strong gun laws and low gun ownership rates, while the states with the highest per capita gun death rates - LA, WY, AL, MT, and MS - had weak gun law and high gun ownership rates.
Please keep reading.
I am well aware that correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. Nevertheless the pattern is clear. Weak restrictions on gun ownership and a greater percentage of the population owning guns seems to be a clear indicator of greater likelihood of dying by gunfire. It might not be murder. It could be suicide or accidental. That does not matter. The persons shot will still be dead.
But those statistics are incomplete. Blow cites another report from the Violence Policy Center which shows that while gun deaths have remained relatively flat over the past few years (2000-2008), the number of people shot has gone up nearly 20% since 2001. Advances in emergency services such as better 911 response and improved trauma centers has kept the death toll from rising accordingly. But the increase in shootings, I must note, is still a major cost to society. As Blow puts it,
Just because more people aren’t dying doesn’t mean that more aren’t being shot. And the report points out that survivors’ injuries are “often chronic and disabling.”LaPierre wants more guns in the hands of "good guys" to kill the "bad guys." Blow follows the lead of the two national teachers unions, American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, and takes a far different approach, to try to reduce the number of bad guys we produce. After all, as Blow notes, lax gun laws make it easier for "bad guys" to get them. As he writes
How about taking the opposite approach and better regulating guns? How about not giving up on so many children that we label “bad boys” so that they grow up without hope or options and become “bad men?”He then quotes extensively from the joint statement which is titled "Arming Educators Won't Keep Schools Safe." I strongly urge you to read the statement and to pass it on to your school board and state legislators. As a professional educator I know how much more we need to focus on the needs of our children, including providing mental health services and preventing bullying, both of which are already given short shrift and which are suffering when we cut those resources for more testing and "accountability" measures that do little to improve either the learning or the lives of our young people.
Read the Blow piece.
Read the cited pieces from the Violence Policy Center.
Read the joint statement from the AFT and NEA.
Then when you read the final sentence from Blow,
It’s time to call out the N.R.A.’s sidewinding and get serious about new set of sensible gun regulations.you will nod your head in agreement.
Wayne LaPierre did us all a favor yesterday. He made clear that the function of the NRA under his leadership is simply to operate as a front for manufacturers of weapons and ammunition to sell more, regardless of the cost to the rest of us.
Reasonable gun regulations do not deny responsible people the right to keep and bear arms.
The lack of reasonable gun regulations cost American society far too much - in death, injury, medical costs, lost of productivity, and fear.
We have less than 4% of the world's population.
We have more than half the world's firearms.
We have a gun death rate that is greater than the total gun deaths in all the other industrialized and developed nations in OECD.
We have a choice to make.
I choose to end with words offered more than 2,000 years ago, by Hillel:
If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then what am I?
And if not now, when?
I am for the safety of all of us, most of all for that of the young people entrusted to my care.
We can no longer wait.
Peace? Or more unnecessary death by gun violence?