By Susan Grigsby /Daily Kos
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the even further right-leaning Gun Owners of America continue to stoke fears of gun confiscation in America with able assistance from their political arm, the Republican Party. This is happening in spite of the fact that no Democratic politician is suggesting such a thing or sadly, appears to even want such a thing. Writing for Talking Points Memo, Catherine Thompson compares the current hysteria over gun confiscation to the threat of the Jade Helm exercise, and suggests that this too will all blow over in a couple of months when no guns are confiscated. Meanwhile, politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump use the issue to raise funds from their base and increase their poll numbers.
The point of the gun confiscation hysteria is to prevent any discussion of gun control.
The NRA does not want us to talk about ways to control gun violence through restricting, in any way shape or form, guns or ammunition. Because of that, if for no other reason, we should discuss it. We should discuss it because firearms are used to kill people, including children. We should discuss it because while they are only 13 percent of our total population, blacks represent 55 percent of the victims of firearm homicides. We should discuss it because over 20,000 people used guns last year to commit suicide.
It is time to start paying more attention to the unalienable right of all Americans to life, and a little less to a tortured interpretation of a pretty straightforward amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Let’s start by discussing statistics, or the lack of them. The NRA has fought for years to stop the federal government from collecting data about the threat that guns pose to human health.
In 1993, a study supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that, rather than conferring protection, keeping a gun in the house raises the risk nearly threefold of being shot by a family member or intimate acquaintance. Enraged by what it has called an “almost vicious sentiment against personal firearms ownership,” the National Rifle Association in 1996 successfully lobbied Congress to insert this restriction into the CDC budget: “None of the funds made available … may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” It was a pointed prohibition that went far beyond the rule that federal research money cannot be used for lobbying on any issue. The restriction, which was interpreted broadly by CDC, served as a virtual ban on firearms research. Since the mid-1990s, the agency’s gun safety research budget has dropped by 96 percent. In 2011, the NRA’s official website offered a rationale for its efforts to stifle research: “These junk science studies … are designed to provide ammunition for the gun control lobby by advancing the false notion that legal gun ownership is a danger to the public health instead of an inalienable right.”
What the ban on research really does is allow the gun lobby to pull numbers out of the ether to buttress their arguments for selling as many guns as their sponsors can manufacture. Few of those arguments are as ludicrous as the claim that guns are used in self defense 2.5 million times every year.
In its 2013 report, “Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use,” the Violence Policy Center (VPC) quotes the 2004 book Private Guns, Public Health by Dr. David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center:
Proponents of such putative benefits often claim that 2.5 million Americans use guns in self-defense against criminal attackers each year. This estimate is not plausible and has been nominated as the “most outrageous number mentioned in a policy discussion by an elected official.”
The VPC’s report goes on to state:
According to the NCVS [National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics], looking at the total number of self-protective behaviors undertaken by victims of both attempted and completed violent crime for the five-year period 2007 through 2011, in only 0.8 percent of these instances had the intended victim in resistance to a criminal “threatened or attacked with a firearm.”11 As detailed in the chart on the next page, for the five-year period 2007 through 2011, the NCVS estimates that there were 29,618,300 victims of attempted or completed violent crime. During thissame five-year period, only 235,700 of the self-protective behaviors involved a firearm. Of this number, it is not known what type of firearm was used or whether it was fired or not. The number may also include off-duty law enforcement officers who use their firearms in self-defense.
That would mean just over 47,000 uses of a gun in self-defense, per year, in a nation that owns over 300 million guns. Meanwhile, more than 6.5 million victims threatened or attacked a criminal without using a weapon during the same five-year period.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2014 Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program Expanded Homicide Data, there were a total of 229 cases of justifiable homicide using firearms. During the same period there were 8,124 firearm murders, which means that for every single justifiable homicide, there were 35 murders committed using guns. Those figures do not take into account the number of suicide by firearms, as they are not included in the FBI’s report. Using the 2013 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we know there were 21,175 suicides committed using firearms. During the same period, there were 227 justifiable homicides using firearms, for a ratio of one justifiable homicide for every 93 suicides.
And yet the NRA has done such an incredible sales job for the arms dealers that the latest Pew Research Center survey shows that more Americans believe that owning a gun can keep them safe than believe it risks their safety. This in spite of all evidence to the contrary, going back as far as the 1993 CDC report mentioned above.
A recent Stanford study found:
The murder rate increased in the states with existing right-to-carry laws for the period 1999-2010 when the “confounding influence” of the crack cocaine epidemic is controlled for. The study found that homicides increased in eight states that adopted right-to-carry laws during 1999-2010.
And from MarketWatch:
What’s more, a growing body of research suggests that simply owning a gun is correlated with an increased likelihood that you’ll be a victim of violence. A study published this January in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who live in homes with firearms are over three times as likely to die from suicide and two times as likely to be a victim of homicide as those who don’t have access to firearms. The study analyzed the results of 16 other studies and found that in all but one, access to guns was linked to a higher probability of murder or suicide. In another study published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, two Harvard researchers conducted a review of 26 studies on gun availability and homicide in multiple countries and found that most of them “are consistent with the hypothesis that higher levels of gun prevalence substantially increase the homicide rate.”
The same Pew survey showed a change in the public’s attitude about gun control versus gun rights. Between 1993 and 2008, Americans consistently favored gun control over protecting the rights of gun owners. But that all started to change in 2008. Gee, I wonder why?
Far be it from me to suggest that any of the Republicans that were polled by Pew had a single little racist bone in their entire bodies, but check out when it was that their opinion on gun control changed:
It wasn’t the mass killings in Aurora or Newtown that changed attitudes: It was the presence of a black man in the White House. Neither the NRA nor the munitions manufacturers care very much what the reasons were, as long as the fear that was created led to the sales of more guns.
Determining the annual sales of American arms dealers is problematic. Putting it frankly, they just don’t want us to know what their sales numbers are. Their sales arm, the NRA, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), their trade association, are happy to report how many background checks are run every year, and claim that this shows an increase in sales, but hard numbers are more difficult to obtain. MarketWatch reported estimated sales of $14.7 billion in 2013.
We do have some numbers that show what the cost of their free market bonanza is to the rest of us. A team of reporters from Mother Jones investigated the cost of gun violence. They added the direct cost of emergency, police, medical, courts, and prison to the indirect costs, quality of life, and loss of earnings, and came up with an annual figure of $229 billion, or $700 a year for every man, woman and child in the country.
Our investigation also begins to illuminate the economic toll for individual states. Louisiana has the highest gun homicide rate in the nation, with costs per capita of more than $1,300. Wyoming has a small population but the highest overall rate of gun deaths—including the nation’s highest suicide rate—with costs working out to about $1,400 per resident. Among the four most populous states, the costs per capita in the gun rights strongholds of Florida and Texas outpace those in more strictly regulated California and New York. Hawaii and Massachusetts, with their relatively low gun ownership rates and tight gun laws, have the lowest gun death rates, and costs per capita roughly a fifth as much as those of the states that pay the most.
This is a two-minute summary of the data, but the article itself is worth much more of your time.
Suicide is an impulsive act, and most who attempt it regret it. Less than 3 percent of suicide attempts using drugs (the most common type) are fatal. But a whopping 85 percent of suicide attempts using a gun are successful. Pulling a trigger in a moment of high stress leaves no time to reconsider or to call for help.
In a 2001 study that surveyed survivors of suicide attempts, 70 percent of them indicated that they had decided to kill themselves within one hour of the attempt, and 86 percent indicated that the decision had been made within eight hours of the attempt. Almost a quarter of the survivors made the decision within five minutes of the attempt. Five minutes. That suicide is an impulsive act is borne out by the fact that 9 out of 10 suicide attempt survivors do not go on to try to commit suicide again. A gun doesn’t allow them the opportunity to not attempt suicide a second time.
A 2008 study titled “Guns and Suicide in the United States” compared suicide rates in states with the highest rate of gun ownership to states with the lowest. What they found was that the states with the highest rate of gun ownership have suicide rates that are 3.7 times higher for men and almost eight times higher for women than those in the states with the lowest rates of gun ownership. The rates of non-firearm suicides are roughly the same for both types of states, so those who live in states with higher rates of gun ownership are no more likely to attempt suicide than those in other states, but the ready availability of guns makes it far easier to succeed.
Put simply, the fatal link applies across the board. “It’s true of men, it’s true of women, it’s true of kids. It’s true of blacks, it’s true of whites,” says Azrael. “Cut it however you want: In places where exposure to guns is higher, more people die of suicide.”
The gun lobby doesn’t want us to talk about any of this. They don’t want us to consider the impact that guns have on all of us. Even the CDC, in its National Violent Death Reporting System, only collects data from 18 states.
Compare this with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which amasses extensive details within 30 days of every fatal car crash on public roads, from the time and location of the accident to weather conditions to the role of alcohol and drugs. Partly as a result of this bureaucratic diligence, the fatality rate from car crashes has dropped by about a third over the last two decades.
According to the Mother Jones investigation:
Using statistical models to estimate a range of costs both tangible and more abstract—from property damage and traffic congestion to physical pain and lost quality of life—the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a 300-page study estimating the “total value of societal harm” from this problem in 2010 at $871 billion. Similar research has been produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impact of air pollution, by the Department of Health and Human Services on the costs of domestic violence, and so on.
But no federal agency is allowed to amass any data on the societal cost of gun violence. That’s the kind of tight control the arms dealers exert on our government. They have gagged the federal agencies that exist to protect our safety, all in the name of their profit.
It may be hard to believe today, when something as basic as universal background checks can’t get through Congress, that at one point not all that long ago, the American public was evenly divided over banning the sale of handguns. Seriously. In March 2000, 47 percent of the public both agreed and disagreed with banning the sale of handguns. That is the closest we have ever come to popular support for such a measure—but then we elected the cowboy from Kennebunkport, Maine.
Today we are told that the issue is a non-starter. That no serious discussion of controlling gun violence can include talk of bans. But it seems to me that as Democrats, we will be accused of gun confiscation regardless of what we suggest.
Hillary Clinton was accused of trying to confiscate guns from red-blooded Americans for this:
“The Australian government, as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of automatic weapons, offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns. Then they basically clamped down going forward in terms of having more of a background check approach, more of a permitting approach,” she said. “But they believed, and I think the evidence supports them, by offering to buy back those guns they were able to curtail the supply and to set a different standard for gun purchases in the future.”
Which led to tweets like this:
Make no mistake, when Clinton refers to common sense Australian gun control measures, she’s talking about confiscation #2A
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) October 19, 2015
And then Andrea Mitchell had to ask Clinton aide Jen Palmieri if Clinton was planning on confiscating Americans’ guns.
“Of course not,” Palmieri said. “What she was referring to is places where there have been mass shootings and the countries have done something to act on it. She’s put forward a very common-sense proposal that would have background checks for everyone, that would remove the special protections the gun industry has from liability. But it’s all very common-sense measures that the majority of the public supports.”
Discussing common sense gun control measures with NRA supporters makes no more sense than trying to negotiate with the Freedom Caucus. Being reasonable in our demands means surrendering to theirs.
So let’s stop being so damn reasonable and start asking for what we really want. Gun control that will result in fewer deaths.
- Restrictions (not a ban) on the sale and possession of handguns, which were used in 5,562 of the 8,124 gun homicides reported by the FBI for last year.
- Mandatory universal background checks on all firearm purchases.
- A federal database that includes those individuals that the states have determined are not mentally capable of handling weapons.
- A means to report family members or friends whose behavior leads one to suspect that they may harm themselves or others which would lead to a temporary suspension (10 days) of their right to posses a gun pending an investigation.
- A removal of the NRA-dictated gag on federal research into gun violence.
- The repeal of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gun manufacturers from the same negligence and product liability lawsuits that every other manufacturer in the United States must face.
We may lose, but at least we will be fighting battles that are worth the effort.
Damned anachronistic Second Amendment. This article ought to be required reading for every gun owner.
Yes, certain firearms should be banned for civilian use: military-style semi-automatic rifles, large-capacity magazines, hand-held large magazine weapons, some others I can’t think of right now.
And YES, the federal government should confiscate those weapons already in public hands.
Philly Joe Swendoza says
Let’s stop pussy-footing around & demand immediate abolition of so-called gun rights. Unlike the abolition of slavery, no constitutional amendment is required, nor is confiscation. If you don’t have the right to drive a car, you certainly have no right to pack a gun. Make licensing mandatory & universal along with liability insurance. Force the gunslingers to qualify & pay for their privilege.
The right to be able to own a firearm goes hand in glove with the absolute most fundamental of human rights, the right to life. The idea behind the second amendement, is regardless of what any future tyrant tries to tell you, you have a fundamental right to your life unless you take someone’s elses and a jury trial of your peers finds you guilty and a just judge sentences you to death. Also, statistically, you are more likely to come out alive if you are attacked and you have a firearm, so I guess people with firearms should get an insurance discount. If my aim is to kill myself or kill someone else, I will find a way to do it. As I am sure a man of your intelligence probably realizes, suicide and homicidal thoughts are a teeny weeny bit more complicated than just having a gun lying around, and thinking, hmmmmm a gun is just laying here so I will think I will go ahead and use it just for the hell of it.
If the President did not _want_ to confiscate our handguns (regardless of whether he intended to make such a proposal at _this_ time), he would not have cited other countries that did just that as having a better way.
jim smith says
Re: “No One is Talking About Taking Your Guns”
In 1976 a gentleman by the name of Nelson Shields said the following “The first problem is to slow down the increasing number of handguns being produced and sold in this country. The second is to get handguns registered. And the final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition – except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs, and licensed gun collectors – totally illegal.” Nelson Shields was one of the founders of Handgun Control Inc which is better known under their current “re-branded” name as The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In 1987 another gentleman by the name of Josh Sugarmann said regarding so called assault weapons “The weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.” In 1988 in response to an NRA comment about criminals always being able to get handguns he also said “The NRA is Right: But We Still Need to Ban Handguns”. On 11/4/99 he said in a NYT interview “A gun-control movement worthy of the name would insist that President Clinton move beyond his proposals for controls — such as expanding background checks at gun shows and stopping the import of high-capacity magazines — and immediately call on Congress to pass far-reaching industry regulation like the Firearms Safety and Consumer Protection Act introduced by Senator Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey, and Representative Patrick Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island. Their measure would give the Treasury Department health and safety authority over the gun industry, and any rational regulator with that authority would ban handguns. Real gun control will take courage. In the long run, half-measures and compromises only sacrifice lives.” Josh Sugarmann is currently the head and founder of the Violence policy Center and was one of the founders of The Coalition to Ban Handguns which is better known under their current “re-branded” name as The Campaign to Stop Gun Violence. While the names and tactics of these organizations may have changed, the goals and a lot of the personnel remain the same.
Also, more recently, we have Senator Diane Feinstein (google youtube k3DKuN2ey80)
jim smith says
Re: “firearms are used to kill people”
Guns have 4 uses – deterrence, intimidation, control and lethal force and only the latter causes injury or death.
jim smith says
Re: “The NRA has fought for years to stop the federal government from collecting data about the threat that guns pose to human health”
As your article pointed out, there is no prohibition on the CDC collecting data or doing research – only on advocacy for an anti-gun agenda. The following is an example of why the restriction was deemed justified.
In 1989 a top CDC official announced, “We’re going to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes deaths. We’re doing the most we can do, given the political realities.” [P.W. O’Carroll, Acting Section Head of Division of Injury Control, CDC, quoted in Marsha F. Goldsmith, “Epidemiologists Aim at New Target: Health Risk of Handgun Proliferation,” Journal of the American Medical Association vol. 261 no. 5, February 3, 1989, pp. 675-76.] Dr. O’Carroll later said he had been misquoted and disavowed any pre-existing agenda. But his successor Dr. Mark Rosenberg was quoted in the Washington Post as wanting his agency to create a public perception of firearms as “dirty, deadly — and banned.” [William Raspberry, “Sick People With Guns,” Washington Post, October 19, 1994, quoted by Kates, et. al. in Tennessee Law Review
You want ‘gun control’ as a way of reducing the murder rate. I get it. And you say you reallyreally don’t want to confiscate anyone’s guns. I hear you. I don’t believe you and either does anybody else, but we hear you.
Understand that gun control laws attempt to prevent bad things happening — a Department of Pre-Crime, if you will. If we don’t already know that’s a fool’s errand, then reason and logic will be to no avail in discovering what we ought to do in the future.
Let us stipulate that in the absence of guns there would be no gun murders. Is it equally valid to suggest that in the absence of guns there would be no murders? I can’t think of anyone who would answer in the affirmative. So why the laser-focus on “gun violence”? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about plain old violence? This is why the pro-gun side so severely discounts your arguments.
We know that laws against murder don’t prevent murder, but they do give us a vehicle for preventing a recurrence. Laws against having a gun similarly only provide a vehicle for preventing future gun ownership. Alas, our Constitution provides for that same future gun ownership, so your proposal is a non-starter.
Now, if you wish to make a law against “murder by gun” then… oh, wait, that’s already subsumed within “murder by any means”, isn’t it? Never mind…
Regardless, it’s time for you to stop wasting everyone’s time with this nonsense. American gun owners have already spoken, and they have said “No”. They have widely and enthusiastically ignored CT’s draconian assault weapon registration law as well as NY’s risibly misnamed NYSAFE Act. In WA and OR, requirements for BGC’s for all transfers (not just “sales”) are publicly flouted even in the presence of the police.
We appreciate your deeply-held feelings that something ought to be done, but we need you to understand that mandating others’ defenselessness is NOT the thing that needs to be done. We will no longer acquiesce to such arguments, and you can’t make us because we have the guns.
P.s.: Have you fully-considered what might happen should you get your way and the government orders mandatory confiscation of civilian weapons? (No, I realize this will never happen; I’m just noodling.)
The act will trigger a civil war of an extent and ferocity that will make historians puke. Most of the police will be on OUR side; most of the military will be on OUR side; the government will fall overnight. Senators and Representatives will find themselves targets of assassins. It will be among the most hazardous of occupations to be a cabinet member or the head of a federal bureau. And you worry about “gun violence” now?? Honey, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!
Which is why it will never happen. Which is why you should stop wasting your time. And ours.
Anna Daniels says
This comment is replete with paranoia and treason–“The act will trigger a civil war of an extent and ferocity that will make historians puke. Most of the police will be on OUR side; most of the military will be on OUR side; the government will fall overnight”– fear and intimidation–“We will no longer acquiesce to such arguments, and you can’t make us because we have the guns.”
In short, this is delusional trolling.
Given the easy access to the historical record, there is simply no excuse for you to state that no one is talking about gun confiscation in the USA. I took me all of 15 minutes to find the quotes included in a response to this piece:
In particular read the response by “Excedrine” posted on March 2, 2015 at 12:12. So the closest thing I can imagine to a valid excuse for your statement is willful ignorance.
In short, there are many in the USA calling for outright confiscation. You just don’t want to know about it.
bob dorn says
Gun blowhards betray themselves when they display their bruised egos. One of you above predicts, “It will be among the most hazardous of occupations to be a cabinet member or the head of a federal bureau. And you worry about “gun violence” now?? Honey, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!” And even, “you can’t make us (accept even modest controls) because we have the guns.” Can you people hear yourselves?
Doug Porter says
So, gang, it would appear as though our posting has been discovered by the Sipsey Street Irregulars, a blog profoundly influenced by the idea that right is might.
Unfortunately, the opposition comments that I’ve approved have been the nicer ones.
I blocked the guy who thought submitting 7 or 8 long comments was a good idea.
I trashed all the threats: No, we’re not moving to North Korea, and No, we’re not particularly fond of Hitler, Stalin or Mao.
I blocked all the racist comments..what is it with you guys?
Block, Blocked and more blocking…
So, in the interests of my productivity, I’m turning off comments for now.