NRA should take hit for deathsOh, another week, another school shooting. Once again, America yawns. This one took place on Sunday, when another mentally ill person secured use of a handgun and killed students at a private Christian university in East Oakland, Calif. At the time of this writing, seven were dead and three wounded.
By: Bonnie Erbe, The Dickinson Press
Oh, another week, another school shooting. Once again, America yawns. This one took place on Sunday, when another mentally ill person secured use of a handgun and killed students at a private Christian university in East Oakland, Calif. At the time of this writing, seven were dead and three wounded.
How have we become so inured to mass violence that could easily be controlled if fewer people had access to firearms? It’s not a matter of rocket science to divine that countries with stricter gun control laws witness fewer shootings and killings. We in gun-happy America seem to have forgotten this fact. Why?
One reason could be that Americans are witnessing an overall statistical decline in the number of elementary and secondary school deaths by violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 57 violent deaths at U.S. schools in the 1992-93 school year. That dropped to 33 in 2009-2010. Most of those deaths (84 percent) were by gunshot.
So individual student deaths are dropping, but at the same time the average number of mass killings at schools is going way up. The CDC also reports so-called school-associated violent events with multiple victims increased from one event per school year in 1992 to five events per year six years later. Between 1992 and 2001, shooting was the leading cause of violent deaths in schools.
In Gallup’s last annual crime poll, conducted in October, 47 percent of American adults reported “that they have a gun in their home or elsewhere on their property” — the highest percentage since 1993, when 54 percent made that claim.
The National Rifle Association has approximately 4 million members, according to its public affairs office. That means that of 313 million residents of this country, 309 million don’t belong to that organization.
If NRA membership is approximately one in 78 Americans and at least half of U.S. households do not keep a weapon at home, why is the tyranny of the minority inflicted on the rest of us? The answer has nothing to do with reason and everything to do with what has been called the most powerful lobbying group in America: the NRA.
The NRA is a primary example of what I’m beginning to believe is the un-governability of the United States. If the majority of non-gun owners have to be subjected to the extreme rule of a minority of citizens, how can we proceed as a united nation? The NRA is so extreme in its views, it succeeded in rolling back the federal assault weapons ban. Do hunters or people trying to protect themselves against criminals need assault weapons? No, only terrorists and mass murderers need assault weapons.
So one of the most powerful lobbying groups in America lobbies for laws that assist terrorists and, as we saw this week in California, mentally unstable people, to acquire weapons. I know the NRA will say I’m wrong. The typical response is: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Or, try this one: Criminals only get their hands on weapons illegally. So if the laws were better enforced, there would be no firearms in the hands of murderers.
We’ve heard it all. But in an era of repeat mass school and other shootings, we need a reality check. Criminals would not have access to so many weapons if there were not so many in circulation to begin with.
The next time you see a news report about a mass killing with lots of innocent people dead, think NRA — no matter what the NRA tells you.
Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service.