We have witnessed another senseless tragedy: the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Desperate cries for gun control almost immediately surfaced. While the motivation for such pleas cannot be questioned, their timing and impact can be.
Gun-related homicides take place every day in the United States with New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta leading the way on a per capita basis. Chicago barely makes the top ten (#9).
These major cities roughly parallel the rates of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia, Brazil, and South Africa, respectively (and Guyana in the case of Chicago).
Yet, our moral outrage is often reserved for mass casualty events. Perhaps, it is because they are given more media attention while everyday killings are not. However, from a victim’s perspective, death is death regardless of the circumstance.
The historic result of the predictable calls for gun control has been a radical increase in short-term gun sales. It is tantamount to a “strike while the iron is hot” theory that has rarely provided any desired result.
We seem to be conditioned to accept the political exploitation of innocent victims while never questioning the complete lack of legislative progress.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes.
Note: Mass killings (or any homicide) should not be confused with “traditional lawful purposes.”
The real issue has less to do with the “means” than the “end.” With the proliferation of knife attacks, bombings and the weaponization of vehicles, particularly within the context of terrorist attacks, we cannot effectively ban every device that can be used to inflict injury and death.
However, we should take intelligent steps toward lowering the probability of such attacks.
Unfortunately, neither party seems inclined to debate rational ways to manage the issue much less pass effective legislation. Consider the following chart, which demonstrates that both parties have had ample opportunities to address gun control had they chosen to do so.
Both parties have had periods during which they controlled the House of Representatives, the United States Senate and the presidency. Yet, they conveniently failed to address the issue when they had the chance.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, most people are unaware that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been prevented from studying causation and prevention issues relative to gun-related deaths for over 20 years.
After a 1996 CDC study suggested that private firearm possession could pose a statistically significant danger, the United States House of Representatives tried to shut down the entire $46 million in funding for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention.
When that failed, the $2.6 million appropriation for gun studies was re-appropriated toward other studies that were unrelated to guns.In addition, under the Prohibition on Use of CDC Funds for Certain Gun Control Activities, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act specifically states: "None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
Referring once again to the chart that addresses the periods during which both parties have enjoyed legislative and administrative control, the question becomes: Why has neither party chosen to pass gun reform or at least allow the subject to be studied?
The NRA lobby is an obvious part of the answer. However, that only addresses the gun ownership aspect of the CDC’s research. Another aspect had to do with the impact of video games, movies, etc.
If you are beginning to think that both parties had a base to protect and that big money was involved, you might be on to something.
Let’s hope that our political representatives come together someday to have a meaningful debate on the issue. After all, an old document, which they often choose to ignore, suggests that it is their responsibility to provide for our common defense and general welfare. It would be nice if they took that responsibility seriously.
In the meantime, sporadic mass murders will continue to attract self-righteous indignation, an onslaught of political rhetoric, and nothing in the way of legislative action.
Grants for Injury Control Research Centers, authorized under section 301 (a) of the Public Health Service Act, and Section 391 (a) of the Public Service Health Act, as amended; Section VIII, Other Information, Require Federal Citations, Lobbying Restrictions.
Photo Source: Reuters