Sunday, October 4, 2015

Getting a Handle on Gun Control

There have been so many mass shootings:  Aurora, Sandy Hook, Vicksburg, Charleston, Fort Hood, and, sadly, many more.  Last week, after another senseless massacre by a deranged gunman in Oregon, President Obama called on news outlets to compare the number of American deaths due to terrorism vs, the number of deaths due to gun violence.  This chart reveals the shocking differences:


According to a podcast called On the Media, the American death toll due to acts of terrorism including 9/11 is just over 3,000.  The death toll due to handgun violence is approximately 200,000.  If you include accidental death and suicide, that number is almost half a million.   Shocking figures and hugely bigger numbers than any other comparable (read:  large, wealthy) nation:


Doesn't it make sense to enact stronger gun laws -- minimally requiring mandatory background checks on the previous convictions and mental state of gun owners and potential owners?  Gun lobbyists resist any restriction on gun control, often pointing to the 2nd Amendment "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." But what does "well regulated" mean to you?  Seems to me the Founding Fathers foresaw limits. Further, as many people (recently Garry Wills and Adam Gopnik) have pointed out, the phrases "keep arms" and "bear arms" are terms specifically used by the military. In other words, the Amendment may not apply to personal possession of guns at all.  The Supreme Court was deeply split on this issue when it last came before the court, narrowly (5-4) siding in favor of guns.  Like our Silding Doors poems, it's tempting to think of what might have changed if the court held a slightly different balance.  It's not clear when the issue will again be decided by the Court or by legislators.  Will the upccoming (current?  it's just 13 short months away!) presidential race will give politicians and ordinary citizens a new chance to voice their opinions on gun control.