Commentary

Reducing gun violence is possible & would be popular. Why isn’t Congress doing anything?

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Sports fans who have ever attended a live home game know of and most likely own a humongous foam hand glove with one finger raise high as they chant in unison that “We’re Number One,” “We’re Number One,” whether this is actually true.

Well, fans of firearms of large military-style semi-automatic rifles to small pistols have taken aim on and have long held the number one ranking in the world in carrying the most civilian-owned firearms per capita of any other nation with 120.5 per 100 people.

Related: Reports of sexual & gun violence are now as common as the daily weather forecast

Collectively as a nation, we are number one in accumulating the most firearms of any place on Earth. With only an estimated 4.43% of the world’s population, a United Nations study showed that ownership in the U.S. equals approximately 40% of the world’s civilian-owned firearms population.

Of an estimated total of 857 million guns owned by civilians in the world, residents of the United States own 393 million.

Yes, indeed, we are number one! But this is not a record we should cheer. No trophies must be given in this home game that so very often results in death, sudden or not. The United States far exceeds all our peer nations in the highest rate of homicides per year with 29.7 per million residents.

During the covid lockdown in 2020, one could reasonably assume that gun-related deaths might have declined. This assumption, however, is wrong. Gun violence took the lives of approximately 20,000 Americans, which surpassed any other year in the past two decades. An additional 24,000 people terminated their lives in gun-related suicides.

While campaigning and after taking office, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have committed to pass gun safety reforms like, for example, universal background check for all firearms sales public and private and the banning of assault-style weapons.

Though polling results show that background checks are nearly universally supported – 97%, including 97% of gun owners – and 67% of those polled support a ban on the sale of assault rifles, with the continuing and entrenched resistance within the Republican Party, the chances for common sense gun safety regulations remains slim.

Following the deadly insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, all Senators and House Representatives and their staffs should truly understand on the intellectual and emotional levels what their constituents experience daily across this nation.

Republicans, though, spew the constant claims of the gun lobbyists and most ardently obsessed firearms fans that the parameters of the Second Amendment are vast, and that Congress must not place any limits on their purported God-given rights and freedoms to carry.

But what about the people’s rights to go to school, to work, to shop, to see a movie or live theater, to attend an open-air concert, and to take a walk without fearing they will be killed by someone with a gun? What about our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of our happiness?

June has been designated “Gun Violence Awareness Month,” with June 1st as “Gun Violence Awareness Day.” The first day and throughout the month are intended to raise awareness of the estimated 96 people killed every day and the many more injured across the United States.

We wear orange to symbolize the epidemic of gun violence ravaging the country. Throughout the month, organizations plan educational efforts, voter registration drives, and mobilization activities.

We currently live within a neoliberal political climate in which national, state, and local governments are increasingly dismantling regulations for the benefit of the corporate sector’s bottom line rather than to better ensure the safety and health of the people.

While no single or a combination of measures will eliminate firearms deaths and injuries, several policy proposals that challenge the deregulatory trend can substantially diminish the plague of violence:

  • Ban and criminalize the sale and possession of semi-automatic and so-called “assault” weapons
  • Pass universal background checks to close loopholes in the current system
  • Ban the purchase of firearms from those on the federal “no-fly” list, anyone convicted of domestic violence, and anyone who has a restraining order against them
  • Repeal the Dickey Amendment (passed by Congress in 1996 mandating that “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”)
  • Increase funding for research investigating the causes and solutions of firearms violence
  • Strengthen the ban on the purchase of firearms and ammunition on the internet
  • Permanently ban so-called “Bump Stocks” and other technologies that increase the speed or force of semi-automatic weapons
  • Initiate background checks each time an individual purchases ammunition
  • Limit the number of firearms any individual can own
  • Limit the number of bullets any firearm magazine can hold
  • Limit the purchase of any firearm to the age of 21 (preferably 25) and above
  • Ban and criminalize the purchase and possession of “armor piercing” bullets, and hollow-tip bullets
  • Ban so-called “ghost guns,” which are kits that include gun parts the owner assembles into a completed firearm
  • Initiate an anonymous reporting system for persons wanting to report suspicious behaviors of those who possess firearms
  • Investigate and initiate effective anti-bullying policies in schools and workplaces
  • Assess all incidents and continually update training procedures of law enforcement agencies on the national and local levels to better ensure equitable and bias-free policing in the community in which they are meant to serve
  • Substantially increase federal and local funding of mental health services and drug treatment
  • Require all firearms owners to take and pass a course in the proper use, safety, and storage of their weapons
  • Require firearms to contain a safety device designed to prevent the discharge of the weapon by accident or by unauthorized users
  • Rethink the “logic” of permitting concealed weapons, especially in places like houses of worship, colleges, bars, restaurants, and political rallies
  • Interface all databases monitoring firearms ownership to assess and monitor the firearm-owning population more accurately and effectively
  • Institute ongoing gun buyback programs in towns and cities across the country
  • Pass “Red Flag Laws” allowing judges to issue an extreme risk protection order, which temporarily bans a person from owning a firearm if family or others near to the person can show they are a danger to themselves or others
  • Institute implicit bias trainings in schools, workplaces, and to reduce the incidents of the disproportionate violence toward people of color
  • Provide free or affordable anger management trainings for people who need these programs
  • Run for office and vote for candidates committed to passing gun safety regulations
  • Support measures to reduce the rates of poverty and hunger, and reform the tax system eliminating loopholes for the rich to avoid paying their fair share
  • Hold gun shop owners liable when selling firearms and ammunition to anyone who is not legally eligible to own, such as minors, felons, or people with a history of serious mental illness

And I pose a critical question: should gun manufacturers remain exempt from liability? In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shielding manufacturers and sellers from claims in civil courts brought by victims of gun violence.

As we all know, though, the chances for comprehensive common-sense gun reform in the United States is only a pipe dream as long as the gun lobby remains strong, even with the downturn of fortunes of the once mighty National Rifle Association.

Nevertheless, this utter stupidity in our system of firearms laws must end. Enough is enough is enough is enough already! Actually, it is far past that time.

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