December 21, 2012
Guns, Smoke and Mirrors
By CHARLES M. BLOW
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?
Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s executive vice president, blamed gun violence in general, and mass shootings in schools in particular, on everything except for the proliferation of brutally efficient, high-capacity guns and his organization’s efforts to resist virtually any restriction on people’s access to those weapons.
It was an appalling display of deflection and deception. So much smoke and so many mirrors.
He blamed American culture, and the media, and video games and even natural disasters. But not a society saturated with guns that spray bullets the way that Super Soakers spray water and have made us the embarrassment of the developed world.
He blamed “every insane killer,” “monsters and the predators,” and “people that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them.” 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.
The simple truth is that more guns equal more death.
An analysis this year from the Violence Policy Center found that “states with low gun ownership rates and strong gun laws have the lowest rates of gun death.” The report continued, “by contrast, states with weak gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership had far higher rates of firearm-related death.” According to the analysis, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut had the lowest per capita gun death rates. Each of those states had “strong gun laws and low gun ownership rates. On the other hand, “ranking first in the nation for gun death was Louisiana, followed by Wyoming, Alabama, Montana, and Mississippi.” Those states had “weak gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership.”
What’s more, deaths may be a misleading statistic that minimizes the true breadth of gun violence. Another report this year by the Violence Policy Center, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that while gun deaths remained relatively flat from 2000 to 2008, the total number of people shot went up nearly 20 percent since 2001. Why the difference between rates of shootings and deaths? “Advances in emergency services — including the 911 system and establishment of trauma centers — as well as better surgical techniques,” the report said.
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 didn’t talk much about the broad societal implications of all this. Instead, he kept his “solutions” (if you want to call them that) to school safety. His big thought: Put armed guards in school. As LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
That seems to be quite an apocalyptic gun policy, especially since lax gun regulations pump an ever-increasing number of guns into our country, thereby increasing the chances that “bad guys” will get them.
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?”
As the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association said in a joint statement on Thursday:
“Guns have no place in our schools. Period. We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.”
The statement continued:
“But this is not just about guns. Long-term and sustainable school safety also requires a commitment to preventive measures. We must continue to do more to prevent bullying in our schools. And we must dramatically expand our investment in mental health services. Proper diagnosis can and often starts in our schools, yet we continue to cut funding for school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists. States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. It is well past time to reverse this trend and ensure that these services are available and accessible to those who need our support.”
It’s time to call out the N.R.A.’s sidewinding and get serious about new set of sensible gun regulations.
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© 2012 The New York Times Company
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs