I find it fascinating that in just one week’s time, I have become one of the targets of those that oppose any regulation on guns, gun safety, and gun ownership in America. I am actually ok with all that — the statement I drafted that was signed by over 300 other college and university presidents is hardly a radical manifesto. In short, all we are asking for is that before private citizens can acquire a gun, that they go through some reasonable background check, that some rational limits be placed on what kinds of guns can be acquired, and that we be allowed to keep these deadly weapons off our campuses. I think we all find it hard to believe that people could take major issue with any of this, but we certainly know that’s the case. The NRA response, though, is just mind-boggling to me. In the 62 mass murder cases over 30 years examined by Mother Jones magazine, not one was stopped by an armed civilian. There was a sheriff’s deputy at Columbine who fired (and missed) four shots while 11 of the 13 victims were still alive. In August, NYC police officers opened fire on a gunman outside the Empire State Building and wounded nine bystanders. Then we have our self-anointed guardians in Florida who shoot unarmed youth because they felt “threatened”. And by the way, when was the last time you saw an armed security guard in your branch bank, as LaPierre claimed in his speech on Friday?
The simple truth, as expressed by columnist Charles Blow this morning in the New York Times, is that more guns equals more deaths. States with low gun ownership rates and reasonable regulations have lower deaths from guns. That, of course, is also true of nations. And from 2009 to 2012, states led by many of the same folks now pushing the more gun solution have cut public mental health services by over four billion dollars. I suppose they will now argue those funds out to be restored and re-directed to the NRA-backed “cop in every school” program. Brilliant.
Before last week, one could certainly have counted me on the pro-regulation side of the gun debate, but this issue of public policy was probably not among the ones on which I felt most passionate. It still probably isn’t, although it certainly has ascended. Most of what I have written about before addresses less glitzy things like the millions of American children living in poverty today, or the millions of young men locked up in prison for drug-related offenses at great cost to all of us, or the millions of students enrolled in failed schools. There is no outrage there. None at all. I just hope that the outrage almost of us feel right now on the gun safety issue ends up mattering.
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