Curating a Common Sense Approach to Firearm Safety: The Potentially Curable American Disease.
The words come spilling forth. Here’s what we have learned in a few short days following the Sandy Hook slaughter of innocents.
1) There will soon be more firearms in America than citizens – 300 million weapons at last count.
2) The United States has the worst record in the industrialized world in protecting adults and children from firearm violence and semi-automatic rampages.
3) The US Supreme Court has the worst “court” record in the industrialized world in protecting citizens from gun proliferation – striking down a ban on handguns by the District of Columbia in 2008, “ruling that there is a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense.” (New York Times, December 18, 2012) – while the Seventh Circuit appellate court recently struck down an Illinois law that prohibited most people from carrying a loaded weapon in public. Supreme Court and appellate court justices involved in such opinions should be personally required to attend the funeral of every child killed by gun violence through 2020. Let’s see if they can live with that sentence.
4) Congress has failed all of the nation’s children and approximately half of all adults on firearm safety. Instead of greedily accepting campaign funds and hidden retirement benefits from the NRA, Congress should direct the NRA to provide life annuities to gun-violence survivors and to the families of gun victims killed during the act of living normal lives. It seems a fair enough trade.
5) Senator Diane Feinstein – who pushed through the 1996 assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 – is again one of the few Members of Congress to demonstrate guts on this issue. Feinstein will introduce new gun-control legislation at the beginning of 2013 banning the sale, transfer, transportation and possession of assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. Feinstein intends to get the “weapons of war off the streets of our cities.”
How does the United States rank on gun safety?
There’s another important difference between this country and the rest of the world. Other nations have suffered similar rampages, but they have reacted quickly to impose new and stricter gun laws.
Australia is an excellent example. In 1996, a “pathetic social misfit,” as a judge described the lone gunman, killed 35 people with a spray of bullets from semiautomatic weapons. Within weeks, the Australian government was working on gun reform laws that banned assault weapons and shotguns, tightened licensing and financed gun amnesty and buyback programs.
At the time, the prime minister, John Howard, said, “We do not want the American disease imported into Australia.” The laws have worked. The American Journal of Law and Economics reported in 2010 that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006. In the 18 years before the 1996 laws, there were 13 gun massacres resulting in 102 deaths, according to Harvard researchers, with none in that category since.
Similarly, after 16 children and their teacher were killed by a gunman in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, the British government banned all private ownership of automatic weapons and virtually all handguns. Those changes gave Britain some of the toughest gun control laws in the developed world on top of already strict rules. Hours of exhaustive paperwork are required if anyone wants to own even a shotgun or rifle for hunting. The result has been a decline in murders involving firearms.
In Japan, which has very strict laws, only 11 people killed with guns in 2008, compared with 12,000 deaths by firearms that year in the United States — a huge disparity even accounting for the difference in population. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed on Monday while ratcheting up his national anti-gun campaign, “We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one.” – New York Times Editorial, December 18, 2012
What is there left to say? It’s time to act.