Column ignored HCI statistics on gun violence
This is in response to John Bayless’ recent opinion article in the Sierra Sun, in which he puts the blame for the Arkansas tragedy on the video entertainment industry, the lack of individual responsibility and the parents. He lambastes the “liberal legislators” for their efforts to outlaw assault weapons and calls it “fortunate” that the house and senate “end such foolishness.”
Even as a news editor it is, of course, Mr. Bayless’ privilege to ignore any statistics which disprove such simplistic reasoning. Here are just a few of them:
1. 110 people die every day from gun violence in the United States.
2. More people are killed by guns in the U.S. during an average week than in all of Western Europe in one year.
3. American youngsters are 12 times more likely to die by gunfire than their counterparts in the rest of the industrialized world.
4. With 14 times Australia’s population, the U.S. has 64 times as many deaths from guns.
5. In West Australia, which has the toughest gun control laws of the country, the death rate from guns was 2.7 per 100,000 residents. In Tasmania, with the least gun control laws, the death rate was 7.2 per 100,000 residents.
The source for these statistics: The Journal of American History, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Handgun Control, Inc., Common Cause, Australian’s Prime Minister John Hower, College Professor and expert on international gun control issues Wendy Cukier.
Mr. Bayless appears to deplore any ban of assault weapons. What are weapons used for that can fire a few hundred thousand rounds a minute? Hunting? Target practice? They were made for only one purpose: To kill!
After the Port Arthur massacre, which killed 35 men, women and children, Australia passed a law forcing half a million firearms and pump-action shotguns to be relinquished to the government, which rebated $260 million to the gun owners. Violations are punishable of up to $12,000 and up to two years in jail. Australia’s move now leaves us as the only industrialized nation to allow its citizenry to possess such weapons. Prime Minister Howard, a political conservative, states that his most effective argument in amassing support for the new law was this line:
“The gap between the United States and the rest of the world on homicide is just so great that there has to be an explanation. I don’t wan Australia to go down the American path.”
By the way: The $260 million rebate was raised through a Medicare levy, costing Australians all of $1.60 a week.
Why are our House and Senate so reluctant to follow Australia’s and 22 other industrialized nations’ examples by passing stricter gun laws? According to Common Cause, the National Rifle Association made a total of $7,169,879 in political contributions from 1987 through 1997. Here is the effect on our politicians, according to a study by the Non-partisan Center for Responsible Politics: The 239 House members who voted to REPEAL the assault weapons ban received an average of $4,450 in contributions from gun-rights Political Action Committees and $2 from gun control PACs. The 173 members who voted to MAINTAIN the ban, received $33 from gun rights PACs and $280 from gun control PACs. That’s the kind of representation of constituents that the news editor of the Sierra Sun finds so laudable.
“Laws will have no effect,” he tells us. The Brady law’s five-day waiting period is stopping suicidal, enraged or intoxicated individuals from walking into a gun store and walking out minutes later with a deadly handgun. Its background check stopped an estimated 100,000 felons and mentally deranged people from getting guns during the first two and a half years. What other than anti-gun laws are responsible for the huge discrepancy in gun deaths between our country and all of the industrialized nations?
“It’s the perpetrators, not the weapons,” Mr. Bayless preaches. I think that ABC’s Sam Donaldson put it pretty succinctly in response to the NRA slogan: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
His answer to the NRA official: ” If the killer held a toothbrush instead of a gun, what would have happened?
Can it be a simple coincidence when of the 11 schoolyard shootings in the past five years over half took place in five of the gun-loving Southern States, killing 16 people? No, Mr. Bayless, it’s not the movies, the videos, TV and irresponsible parents that kill; in the final analysis it’s the guns and the bullets.
Tell us: What “guns” were available when the often cited second amendment was ratified by the states in 1791? Assault weapons? Bazookas? Grenade launchers? Machine guns? No! Simple muskets which took a professional, experienced English Red Coat a full 15 seconds to load. And why is it that the “well regulated militia” portion of the second amendment is never cited by the gun lovers? Because today we have a legal “militia,” it’s called the National Guard.
What tortured logic so often cited and repeated by Mr. Bayless when he asks why we don’t ban cars or fire because they can kill people. As an extension of his logic, why not also mention airplanes, since they may crash? Cars and planes are not built and fires are not made to kill people, guns are. Do they have to remain so much of our culture when the estimated 50 million firearms in the United States are responsible for the needless deaths of thousands and thousands of our people, year after year?
Ralph Rauscher is a Tahoe City resident.
Sierra Sun E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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