The prevalence of – and virtually open access to – firearms as a lethal item of public commerce has fostered a public health crisis in American society. A few of the most salient features of our crisis are:
According to the Congressional Research Service, from 2001 to 2011 there were more than 208,000 mass firearm deaths in the U.S. This is a reflection of the fact that as a society we’re swimming in guns. We’re the most heavily armed society in the world. There are almost enough guns for every American. Perhaps we should not be surprised that our firearm murder rate is the also the highest in the civilized world.
We lack effective public policy responses or even agreement on what should be done. Efforts to engage in a meaningful discussion of gun violence or effective public policies to address the gun carnage are vigorously opposed by the National Rifle Association to ensure the strong growth in revenues, markets and profits of the highly concentrated, $17 billion gun and ammunition manufacturing industry. The ”industry” includes the $3.1 billion gun and ammunition retail outlets, the financial health of which is directly tied to the continued growth of commercial sales. Ironically, the national gun control debate has stimulated sales, raising profits at an annual rate of 4.5%, particularly for the three largest manufacturers, attracting Wall Street hedge fund interest, one of which recently purchased Remington Outdoors, one of the largest manufacturers.
The NRA has been engaged in a cynical carnival barker’s sleight of hand to distract public attention away from the industry’s increasingly lucrative profits. The NRA is running a scam, using the Second Amendment and the Constitution to cover for its pecuniary relationship little more than a public relations ploy to provide ideological cover for the multi-billions in revenues and healthy profits enjoyed by the gun manufacturers. In a demonstration of moral vacuity, NRA gun manufacturers bestow an award, grandly named “The Golden Ring of Freedom,” on the NRA member company that donates $1 million to the NRA.
What can we do to address this public health crisis? Perhaps a starting point would be to expose the NRA’s cynical fraud on the American public regarding the issues of gun violence. We will be trapped in the dilatory schemes of the NRA as long we accept the validity of its cynical rationalizations for inaction as the death rates climb to new heights.
We can consult research currently being conducted by such institutions as the Centers for Disease Control and the Rand Corporation on such topics as the effectiveness of restrictions on ownership, assault weapons buy-backs, excise and other taxes (or bans) on high-capacity magazines and fire-enhancing devices (e.g., bump-stocks, storage requirements for assault rifles).
I’ll leave the last word on the meaning of the Second Amendment to the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the court, that included this definitive passage: “We recognize an important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms … It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner for whatever purpose. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”