“The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens.”
Trump to NRA convention in Texas, 5-28-22
OK, President Trump, you are entitled to speak your mind. But if your assumption is true, then Americans owning more guns should lead to less evil, i.e., fewer shootings.
But that is not the case. The more guns we Americans have, the more evil there is in the US, as measured by gun deaths. Here are the facts.
Since 1968, per capita gun deaths are up and “active shooter” incidents have skyrocketed (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/02/03/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/ ). Further, over the last 20 years shooting deaths of children are way up (https://www.nbcnews.com/data-graphics/6-charts-show-rise-guns-us-people-dying-rcna30537). That’s the definition of pure evil.
Meanwhile, the number of American guns has gone from 90 million to 400 million. In 1998, fewer than 900,000 guns were sold in the USA. Gun sales were up to 40 million annually by 2020 due to weak gun laws (https://americangunfacts. com/gun-ownership-statistics/ ).
As a result, shooting deaths per capita in the US are much higher than other nations (https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2022-us-gun-violence-world-comparison/ ). For example, the US gun death rate is 4 deaths per 100,000 while Germany and Denmark are 0.1. In other words, our rate is 40 times higher.
Does that mean our citizens are 40 times innately more evil than democracies like Germany? Or 40 times innately more mentally ill than the Danes? Call me crazy, but I don’t think so. The problem is that there are more guns in the US than there are citizens. And many people should never have been able to buy them to start with.
Conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz are against any gun control measure saying – “That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.” He is partially correct – not all crime will be prevented via gun control. But he is 100% wrong implying that shooting deaths will not go down, based on what we see in other democracies with strong gun control.
He is also 100% wrong when he says Congress “must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the constitution” by approving gun control legislation. First, until it’s controversial 5-4 2008 decision, the Supreme Court has always found that the Constitution did not guarantee private ownership of guns (versus state militias).
Second, when Justice Scalia wrote the 2008 decision, he specifically clarified it by stating, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” And “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill… or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” (https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/16/politics/second-amendment-heller-scalia-indianapolis/index.html ).
So, what can we do to lower gun deaths that is within the constitution? A whole lot more than appears to be in the weak compromise legislation being proposed by Senators Cornyn and Murphy…which is still better than nothing.
We must ban military assault weapons like AR-15s. The US should outlaw extended magazines. Children should not be able to buy rifles when they can’t buy a beer; raise the age to purchase all weapons. Identify mentally ill people who own guns and confiscate them before they can shoot our children. And provide better mental health services to our children and adults.
Expand background checks to cover everyone and take enough time to do them right. Stop unregulated gun show sales (to felons and the mentally ill, among others). Halt all private sales except to direct family members.
Prohibit selling arms through the mail and shipping them from one state to another. Restrict open carry. Lastly, the total cost of firearm code enforcement must be quantified. Then, Congress must raise taxes on gun and ammunition manufacturers to offset these costs.
There is only one way that the above will be accomplished. We must be “single issue” voters and only vote for those politicians who endorse comprehensive gun control. If we do not, the death count will continue to rise and it will be our own fault.
Jack Bernard is the former Director of Health Planning for Georgia. He has served 4 terms on two Georgia Boards of Health.