Episode 17 – Are we Incapable of Tackling Gun Violence?

Welcome to the Seventeenth episode of my podcast, Liberalizer. I want to help show you why liberalizing your life will lead to a more fulfilling life, a life that celebrates our differences and our similarities, and accepts that we are part of the great web of life.

In this episode, I ask the question, “Are we incapable of Tackling Gun Violence?” I will talk about how gun violence affects our society. I will present one solution that is unethical, and another that is ineffective. Then, I present a challenge to everyone regarding our solutions.

Once more the nation is faced with a gun massacre. Twenty-six people lost their lives in a Texas church. The responses from various sectors appear baked in to our national discourse. I can predict with almost total certainty who will say what about this tragedy. It is a sad indictment of our society that no one is willing to give an inch. There is no discussion, no debate. People on either side posture and roll out their lame platitudes, as expected.

People on either side insult each other, and imply that everyone else is utterly depraved. No-one has the courage to actually tackle the problem with real, commonsense solutions. The solutions to one side are alien to the other. It is as though each person were locked in a soundproof box, complete with earplugs and blinders. Nothing is done to resolve the problem.

I have been guilty of intransigence on this issue. Yet, I don’t want to be stubborn. I believe that we can solve this problem, but it is going to take debate, discussion, compromise and cooperation from everyone. Instead of indulging in trench warfare and lobbing verbal artillery shells at one another, the entire nation should get together and solve this once and for all.

I am going to present my case as best I can, but it is not up to me. It is up to the American people. We have to show that we can solve problems. We have become a nation vaguely reminiscent of troops of gorillas. I don’t use this to insult; gorillas are some of my favorite people. When two troops meet, they make a great deal of noise thumping their chests, hurling branches at the ground and hooting loudly. Then they mostly sit around and eat bushes. Our politics are rather similar; nothing much gets done about really important issues. Like tackling gun violence.

In the first instance, as much as it may appear otherwise to some people, I am not opposed to the ownership of firearms. I do think that we would be better off without them, but compromise is the order of the day. I believe that there are ways that people can retain their firearms, and put reasonable restrictions in place.

Society has a right to be safe from people who wish to do harm to others. Allowing a personal right, even when that right is detrimental to society is clearly a conflict of interest. We can demand security for our families and ourselves; we do have that right. It should not be dependent on the ownership of firearms, or of anything else. If I choose, for whatever reason, not to have a firearm, I should not have to worry that someone who does own one will walk into a shopping mall, a supermarket, a school or any other public place and start randomly shooting people. It is irrelevant whether the person has a mental illness or not. I should also not be concerned that a simple altercation will escalate to the taking of a life. The lives of the people should be our primary concern.

After the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which twenty children and six teachers were massacred, I spent a number of years collecting articles, studies, and booklets about gun violence and how to resolve it. I now have close to seven thousand references. I cannot claim to have read more than a small percentage of these works and opinions. However, almost without exception, these works came to a single conclusion; all else being equal, more guns and looser regulations result in a higher death rate.

Producing statistics in support of an argument is almost always fruitless. Once a person has become entrenched in a position, it is almost a badge of honor to stay with that position in the face of the greatest odds. Producing evidence makes people harden their stance. This is a real shame.

Science gives us the opportunity to examine our most cherished beliefs, whatever they are. Even scientists can be hardheaded about their position. In the face of compelling evidence, even scientists have no choice but to accept the science. Most of the general population is under no such restriction. A great many people believe that everything is open to opinion, and that one opinion is just as good as another. Science just does not work that way.

Some studies promote the idea that more guns make for a safer society. The most notable was a random telephone study by Gary Kleck in 1995. Five thousand people were asked a single question, “Have you used a firearm in self-defense in the last year.” There was no follow-up, and no other questions. Based on the small number of positive responses, they determined that there were 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually in the U.S.

There were a number of issues with this study. It was never properly peer-reviewed. It was never determined whether the defensive uses were legal. They did not attempt to show that the respondents were truthful. They did not ask the circumstances under which the gun was used. They never determined whether the respondents’ life was in actual, not just perceived, danger. They also never determined what the respondents meant by self-defense use. David Hemenway, a noted Harvard professor of Health Policy, thoroughly refuted the methodology used. Yet, the gun lobby routinely uses this study to advance their agenda.

The gun lobby also successfully lobbied Congress to pass laws prohibiting any government agency from doing any research into the causes or solutions to gun violence. This is particularly dishonest, given that many of those agencies are tasked with keeping the public safe. Research into any preventable death is essential to the smooth functioning of society, whether it is a disease, accidental deaths like vehicle accidents, or drug overdoses. Refusing to allow study destroys any credibility the gun lobby may have.

Scientists from Harvard, the University of Chicago and UC Davis in California have done extensive studies into the causes of gun violence, and they all agree, as unequivocally as scientists can, that more guns cause more deaths. Studies comparing the U.S. with other developed nations show the same result.

We refuse to look at the evidence from other countries. This evidence shows without doubt that the U.S. is the outlier in terms of gun ownership and death. People in the U.S. say that they are not interested in what other countries experience. This is a dishonest approach. There is no such thing as American science. It is arrogant to dismiss what happens in other countries. We constitute only four percent of the world’s population. The world has a tremendous amount to teach us, especially that too many firearms lead to too many deaths.

Compromise on the issue of gun deaths is nonexistent, but only on the pro-gun side. People on the other side have tried dozens of different approaches, and none have worked. Background checks are rejected, bans on certain types of firearm are rejected, bans on magazine sizes, type of ammunition, silencers, bump stocks, and waiting periods have all been rejected. The gun lobby knows that if it waits long enough after a massacre, people forget, they move on to other things. People continue to die, day by day. Gun massacres continue unabated.

The gun control side concentrates all its efforts on banning certain aspects of firearms, or on mental health screenings. The former will never get anywhere in the face of intransigence from the gun lobby. The lobby is too politically powerful. But, we do have a problem. We can stick our heads in the sand, but the problem still exists. It will be there tomorrow, and the day after, because we have not dealt with it. It will not go away on its own. We cannot push more guns on society, loosen gun laws even more and expect the problem to resolve itself. It will not unless we do something.

The question is, without banning guns, how do we deal with the deaths and injuries. Who pays for those deaths? Do victims and their families have to shoulder the burden of this ceaseless problem? Why should I have to pay for something that happens through no fault of my own? How do I defend my family and myself without a firearm? I refuse to be forced to buy a firearm because society is incapable of maintaining security for people who have no desire to own a firearm. What happened to the rights of victims? Are we as a society to accede to the demands of the gun lobby? Time and again I hear gun proponents say that these massacres are the price we pay to own firearms. Well, that price is too high. We need action, and we need it now.

So, what is my solution? I do have one that I will discuss at a later stage. There is a radical, and unethical experiment that we could use to show that the possession of firearms and lax laws are at the root of our gun violence problem. We could divide all the states into groups. We could start with the North East and ban all firearms in public. Firearms would be restricted to gun ranges. Ammunition would be sold only on those ranges and could not be removed from the premises. For people who currently own firearms, they must be kept without ammunition, in a safe place away from children or anyone with mental illness. The western states could have firearms in the home without any of those safeguards. Ammunition would be for sale anywhere, but concealed carry permits would be strictly controlled. The South and Midwest would have open carry and no laws prohibiting the carrying of firearms or the possession of any most weapons.

We could then study the results and determine what our course of action could be. We could make the data as publicly available as possible. Researchers from anywhere could study the results and come up with conclusions. Completely open and transparent. However, this would be an extremely unethical experiment because people would lose their lives.

Another solution is to lobby your Congressperson, Senator and anyone that will listen. Never stop asking them what they are doing to solve gun violence. Put pressure on them to take action for the victims. If we keep talking about the victims and demanding their rights, things will eventually change. Forget targeting the guns. Think about the victims. They lose their lives because people want guns and will bear no restriction or responsibility whatsoever on ownership.

The gun lobby must start to propose solutions to gun violence, to the homicides, suicides, the intimidation, and the harassment of control proponents. We do have a problem. If they steadfastly refuse to compromise in any way, they must propose workable solutions. There is no reason that we should continue to be victimized by people who own firearms.

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