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What was that?

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?

So begins Charles M. Blow in this Nw York Times op ed (whose title I have borrowed for this post).

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?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 04:10:05 AM PST

  •  NRA: Let us protect you from our guns... (8+ / 0-)

    If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. Albert Einstein

    by kharma on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 04:56:46 AM PST

  •  I just looked up some stats, only about 30 to 40% (6+ / 0-)

    of households have a gun.  We have 300M guns in this country so that means these households have 4-8 guns per household.  We have homes that are basically gun shops.

     I believe guns should be registered and that in order to be registered, you have to have a background check supplied by your local police organization(so they know who in the area is armed) and a certification from a psychiatrist/psychologist that you are not mentally impaired in any way.  You have to have a license and you have to have submit each of these certifications annually.  In addition we outlaw any weapon that has a bullet capacity of more than eight bullets.  

    If you are a hunter, you have time to reload and if you have a pistol, the first few shots will scare anyone off.  We also outlaw concealed carry, home protection is one thing but turning our streets into the Wild West is something else.

    I also believe we should outlaw gun shows.  You should only be able to transfer a gun through your local law enforcement. They should have to check it, make sure you are qualified to own and use it and enter it for tracking.  Guns are serious business, why should they be less regulated than cars.  

    •  All but the mental health cert. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Heart of the Rockies, CroneWit

      People keep talking about this, but no ideas on how to do it are offered. hIPAA is not the problem.  People would come for assessment knowing the info. Would be shared with others.  There is no way to screen people for capability of murder/ mass murder.  Unless someone is floridly psychotic, little could be done to pick out those who shouldn't be armed.  And the professional doing the assessment would be in constant severe danger of lawsuits if a mistake is made in either direction.

      Cats are better than therapy, and I'm a therapist.

      by Smoh on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 05:15:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They would not be screening for people capable (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Killer of Sacred Cows

        of murder, they would be screening for people in need of help.   We have a great deal of untreated mental illness of all kinds and the last thing these people need is a gun, what they do need is help and support.  We need some way to determine who should and should not have a gun.  The gun people have focused on mental health professionals as those people, so I am suggesting up a system to support their idea.  We do have many people in need of support, this idea solves two problems.  Fewer people qualified to own a gun and more people getting the help they need.

    •  Many of your recommendations (0+ / 0-)

      are worthy of consideration and make sense to me.  But I balk at the suggestion that we bring mental health professionals into any certification process.  We need to invest more in mental health treatment, not drag health care professionals into the certification process and stigmatize treatment even more.  Alcohol and drug abuse are likely to be at the root of far more gun violence than psychosis is, although the results of the latter are often far more dramatic. We cannot forget the number of people who die every day because someone had easy access to a gun and misused it.  Particularly children in urban areas.

      The campaigns against smoking and drinking while driving have been very effective.  They involve a massive public information campaign coupled with modest legislation.  The country's attitude towards guns needs to change, and that is a long term process. Hopefully some changes in the law will come sooner.

    •  Multi-gun households (0+ / 0-)

      I live in rural central NY.  Gun ownership is very common around here.  When my son was in high school back in the '90s, one of his teachers did a survey of the class on gun ownership.  First he asked the students which of them lived in a house that owned a gun.  In a class of about twenty there were only a few that did not raise their hands.  He then asked how many lived in homes that had five or more guns.  Over half the hands went up.  

      As I said, gun ownership is very common around here.  Most boys learn to shoot while growing up. While not part of day to day life, guns are pretty well integrated into most of the households. Kids learn to shoot before they learn how to drive a tractor. The common attitude about guns is that while they can be dangerous, proper training greatly minimizes their danger. My son went to gun safety class along with all of his peers.  Even though we've never had a gun in our household, living around here it would be naive to think our son would never be in a position where there were not any guns.  All of his friends owned rifles as teenagers for hunting and target shooting.  

      Outside of target shooting and hunting, when I've asked locals why they own a gun, protection is always mentioned.  Which is a little funny because there are no home invasions, car jackings, or muggings around here.  You're much, much more likely to get shot by a relative during a domestic dispute than a stranger in some random act of violence.

      I don't think you would get a lot of kickback, even around here, on a ban on larger magazines.  The annual licensing requirement that you're suggesting would be largely disregarded.  It would be like trying to enforce marijuana laws in the Seattle area. You could try, but the kickback would be severe. I don't think the local police would even try.

      In my experience attitudes about how guns are integrated into peoples lives vary a lot between urban and rural areas.  I've lived in cities where gun ownership was a lot less common.  People were just not grabbing a rifle and going out back to go hunt or shoot targets.  Last time I lived in a city I don't think any of my friends owned a gun.  Enforcing an annual licensing requirement there would have been much more successful than trying to enforce one where I now live.  Injuries and death from farm machinery is much more common than gun accidents and I suspect the locals would ask if guns are going to need an annual license because of their danger, why not have one for operating farm machinery.  Yeah, I know nobody is going to drive a combine into the local elementary school and massacre children, but that's what the local attitude would be.  

      Earlier this year I saw what was likely a rabid raccoon in my yard.  I called up the township animal control officer and asked what should be done about it.  He said I should shoot it and bury it.  He only handled suspected rabid dogs, other suspected rabid animals were out of his jurisdiction.  I called my neighbor, he came over and shot it, and then I buried it.  If I lived in a more urban area no doubt someone official would have been out to handle the rabid raccoon.  While not the wild west, around here the property owner is expected to handle it.

    •  More like armories (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows
      We have homes that are basically gun shops.

      "I'm totally pro-choice in the matter of abortion. But of course I'm also so radically pro-life that I think every person from birth onward must have full and affordable access to healthcare." - Gail Collins

      by gritsngumbo on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 07:45:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  NRA works for gun manufacturers (3+ / 0-)

    I just heard this week that they get most of their money from the gun manufacturers than from members.  That was striking to me, and it explains a lot.  If every school is armed more guns will be sold. That's not about the second amendment it's about $$$.

    I think this is a point we can all strive to educate NRA members on.

    I've been on many debates on FB this week.   One point that is raised is the "evil would find other ways of being destructive."  Yesterday someone linked to the wikipedia entry on Oklahoma/McVeigh to make that point.  I read the entry, and copied the sentence out about how McVeigh and his co-conspirators opposed gun control and supported militias.  

    The FB friend of a friend said, "I think we've both made our points here."   I think we did, and I think all the rational points are on my side of the argument.  Having these discussions isn't pleasant, but if they can be had in reasoned ways it educates more and more people.

    I for one am not going to be silent on this issue any time it is raised.

  •  Most weapons are manufactured by corporations. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies

    Corporations are artificial bodies set up and operated according to charters approved by state and federal legislative bodies, which are also corporations. It is a consequence of this similarity, I would argue, that the members of the legislative bodies are reluctant to restrict the industrial bodies--i.e. the manufacturers of weapons. Instead, our legislative bodies have fallen into the habit of trying to restrict actual or potential owners or end-users of the products.
    Why? Because it makes them feel more powerful to challenge the behavior of their masters (the citizenry) than to impose controls on their obvious subordinates.

    While it is true that weapons are designed and produced to intimidate and kill other humans and, when they are used to that end, it is not technically abuse, the premise we need to question is that human beings are to be used, as if they were tools, at all. The premise we need to question is the notion that obedience is a virtue and that, in the interest of coercing compliance, it is appropriate to abuse humans at any time. Punitive measures in the interest of gaining compliance, rather than simply to bring abusive behavior to a halt, need to be questioned and thrown out of our social model.
    What it boils down to is a matter of proper sequence. According to the Constitution, punishment is to be assigned AFTER the commission of an injury, not BEFORE to gain compliance with directives.
    Being generous, I presume that abusive persons have difficulty comprehending sequence. Either that, or they can't tell the difference between non-compliance and an offensive act.

    Anyway, trying to control human behavior by restricting man's access to tools is a losing proposition, as our relationship to the automobile has shown. On average, 100 people a day are killed in or by cars and trucks. Calling them "accidents" doesn't change the fact that the people are mostly prematurely dead. That we accept this carnage with equanimity is consistent with my hypothesis that our utilitarian attitude towards humans is in need of correction.
    Moreover, the translation of that attitude into dollars and cents serves to obscure it. Quantifying human life in terms of money has not made it more valuable.  That should tell us something about both man and mammon.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 05:27:15 AM PST

    •  See my point above (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      We have improved safety in cars by cracking down hard on DUIs, a strong public education campaign and improved car design.  Yes, we do take death by automobile as part and parcel of modern life, but in the past 50 years improvements have been made.

      Since we are not going to eliminate guns any more than are going to eliminate cars, we need to take steps to change the culture of gun ownership and tighten up access to guns that have no use or purpose other than slaughtering humans.

  •  The Violence Policy Center is not a good source (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    We Won

    They are an advocacy group and so present numbers to push their own view.

    I like the CDC or Justice Department or other non partisan sources a lot better.

    I heard a really great interview in Terry Gross the other day which sounded great, except that the guy from the VPC used some numbers that were outdated from the census bureau, current 5 year surveys done by that bureau surveying 45,000 gave the opposite trend to what the spokes person was saying. Yet he used the older numbers which gave the opposite impression, why?

    Since then I view every thing said by them with a pinch of salt. As well we should. I view any numbers from any advocacy group as slanted. Would we use numbers from the NRA? Certainly not, nor should we use them from the VPC.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 05:46:54 AM PST

  •  Where gun violence is concentrated: It's not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows

    where you might think"

     http://touch.latimes.com/...

    The 10 states that follow are ranked based on the number of gun homicides per 100,000 population.
    This is an interesting LA Times article. It also gives the rating of the state gun laws from the Brady Center.

    I think it matters if the gunshots are violent. Restricting law abiding citizens from owning guns or making it more expensive or harder to get guns may reduce the number of guns per capita, that may lead to for example a lower level of hunting accidents.

    Brand new favorite RSS feed of Daily Kos Radio Podcasts http://kagrox.libsyn.com/rss
    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

    by We Won on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 07:12:14 AM PST

    •  Here in Louisiana (0+ / 0-)

      We're #1 We're #1! (based on the LA Times rankings).

      Wait, that's not a good thing.
      8.8 Gun Deaths per 100,000 population. Twice that of #2 South Carolina.

      "I'm totally pro-choice in the matter of abortion. But of course I'm also so radically pro-life that I think every person from birth onward must have full and affordable access to healthcare." - Gail Collins

      by gritsngumbo on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 07:57:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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