It’s Time to End the Gun Culture Insanity
America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?
— Al Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn, 2011 (Note: the fully automatic part is not true, but semiautomatics are available)
Now we have the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Forty-nine are dead and 53 more are injured in Orlando because of the acts of a man who called 911 to proclaim his allegiance to ISIS.
It’s so tempting to call for more guns and to picture ourselves in a state of war against an enemy that is among us yet unseen.
The bigger picture is that we have to end the gun culture of this country that makes weapons available so easily both to would-be mass murderers and to those who decide, because there happens to be one around, that it’s time to commit suicide.
As Vox reports, our country makes up about 4.4 percent of the world’s population but possesses 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. As research by Harvard shows, where more guns are available, more homicides occur.
The 2016 presidential election has tapped into a vein of anger among the American population about income inequality. Yet no candidate was courageous enough to tap into the other vein of anger — our failure to achieve any progress whatsoever in gun control. Even Al Qaeda and ISIS know that.
Our gun culture is collective insanity. It has to end. It is no different than slavery in the 1800s. It is no different than the racial segregation that carried on into the 1960s in the South. It is no different than laws that treated homosexuality as a crime.
Society moves on. Things that once seemed sensible are now looked upon in horror and disgust. Someday, the gun culture of today will be viewed in that prism. It has to. This can’t go on.
Our nation was founded at a time when militias had to be raised to fight wars, when there were Indian tribes on our borders who conducted raids. Our forefathers never envisioned a nation that lives in relative peace and security yet being armed to the teeth anyway.
There have been 998 mass shootings since 20 innocent children died in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with shooters killing at least 1,105 people and wounding 3,929 more. Assault-style rifles were used in Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino, and now Orlando. Yet they are still legal. We can’t even muster something as widely supported as universal background checks because of the militant opposition of the National Rifle Association.
Yet we know tighter gun laws help. Australia has had no mass killings since a 1996 massacre. As the New York Times reported last year, Australia “prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles and pump shotguns in all but unusual cases. It tightened licensing rules, established a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases, created a national gun registry and instituted a temporary buyback program that removed more than 20 percent of firearms from public circulation.” Suicides dropped dramatically as well due to lack of readily available weapons.
There is no ready-made solution that will prevent every Newtown or Orlando. But we have to try. Not to try is unconscionable. Having more guns than any developed nation in the world has been proven an abject, deadly failure.
Larry Hanover is a former reporter who is an adjunct professor of journalism at Temple University.
Follow me on Twitter: @larryhanover.