The number of Americans killed each year by guns and assault weapons is overwhelming. I have written previously about the pall gun violence casts on Chicago. Did you know that more Americans have died by guns since 1933, 1.4 million, than all the soldiers killed in action in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined?
Until people treat guns and assault weapons in the same manner that we treat other public health hazards nothing will change. The Centers for Disease Control wants to consider guns a public health hazard but politics prevents that from being the case (read: NRA’s “heavy hitter” status). Guns are a health hazard because every year we can expect tens of thousands of Americans to die due to guns. Some of those deaths will be accidental (554), many more will be by homicide (11,493) and even more will be by suicide (18,735).
The difference between assault weapons and drinking and driving, for instance, is the Second Amendment. Driving a car is not a constitutionally protected right. Absolutists insist that the Framers of the Constitution wanted all Americans to be able to keep and bear arms (meaning carry their weapon in public). It is true that firearm ownership was common in the days of the American Revolution, but most able-bodied men served in a militia. Times were different then. For one thing, assault weapons did not exist.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court ruled, first in D.C. v. Heller and then in McDonald v. Chicago favored a literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and ruled that cities and states cannot outright ban the ownership of guns. That is a settled issue. Well, it is a settled issue until the composition of the Supreme Court changes. Those were 5-4 decisions and perhaps the carnage inflicted upon the world by Adam Lanza (Newtown, CT), Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (Columbine), George Jo Hennard (Kileen, TX), Robert Hawkins (Omaha)…and the list goes on and on, will convince Americans that now is the time to stand up to the NRA.
One good idea is Joe Nocera’s plea for a M.A.D.D. equivalent on gun issues. Politicians might fear the NRA, but pissed off mothers might be even more potent a lobbying force.
The sad reality is that what assault weapons advocates have on their side is that most Americans quickly forget the names of the perpetrators of mass violence. Were it not for the hyperlinks I doubt most Americans would recognize the names of the men (notice how it’s always men) just mentioned. We forget. We are inured to violence and unless it happens to people we know we just move on…and forget.