Last week the Supreme Court overturned a Washington D.C. ban on handguns, effectively removing most of the District’s gun restrictions. This ruling, unfortunately, leaves the door wide open for the National Rifle Association to challenge similar laws around the country. They’ve already sued to overturn handgun bans in other cities, such as Chicago, based on the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The National Rifle Association has such a fanatical obsession with demolishing handgun bans, I’m curious to know more about their connection to the issue. Maybe their membership could shed some light on the subject, like, for example what is the race, gender , and age of their card-carrying members? Or if it’s easier to compile, non-white men under forty? The NRA conveniently doesn’t collect demographic information on their membership. If they did we might be able to compare the NRA’s demographics to that of the people who are actual victims of handguns.
After all, in 2005 African-Americans were 49% of our country’s murder victims, yet they made up only 13% of the population. A majority of them were 17-29 years of age, and 93% of them were killed by other African-Americans (a similar percentage of white murder victims were killed by other whites in case you’re wondering).
Let’s go out on a limb and assume very few of the NRA’s members are African-American and between the ages of 17-29. So if they aren’t going to jail for gun violence and they aren’t on the receiving end of gun violence, shouldn’t they be the least vocal group on handgun restrictions? And yet the NRA is one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying groups in favor of handguns, and more troubling, their leadership has a long history of racist statements, read more about that here.
A few years ago I had a heated argument over handgun restrictions with a friend that ruined a dinner party. As our companions looked on in dismay, we loaded all our moral, constitutional, and logical ammunition either in favor or against handgun bans and shot them across the table. Luckily for all the suffering bystanders, my friend made a fatal mistake by citing a section of the popular book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dunbar that describes how backyard swimming pools kill far more children in the U.S. than firearms. It’s a common statistical gem that gun advocates like to use. It states that 550 children under the age of 10 drown in swimming pools each year and 175 children under 10 die from gunshots. Swimming pools are obviously a greater danger to children, but the book fails to mention that children under 10-yrs-old are not the at-risk population when it comes to handguns, it’s actually suicidal individuals over the age of 13.
I told my friend I would wholeheartedly support laws to regulate swimming pools, but first I would appreciate him citing ALL the information on handguns from his source, specifically the section (pp. 118-122) that says handguns undoubtedly contribute to our countries high homicide rates (2/3 of which are committed with handguns), and laws permitting citizens to carry firearms in self-defense are ineffective crime-stoppers.
As much as I love the idea of little old ladies defending themselves with pistols under their pillows the truth is in 1997 only 2.3% of handgun homicides were considered justifiable or 193 out of 8,503.
Despite the ruined dinner party, I left with the smug satisfaction that I had won the argument, but in retrospect neither my friend nor I were saying the right things. He should have argued that bans on handguns aren’t effective because the black-market for firearms is so strong we now have over 200 million guns in the United States, and you can ban all you like but those 200 million have a long shelf life.
And I should have responded that we can debate statistics all we like, but highlighting racist factors or morbid death rates won’t save lives, and handgun bans probably won’t either, but at least they’re a step in the right direction.
Regardless of all the talk about constitutional rights and civil liberties, the simple truth is that guns are designed, manufactured, sold, and used to efficiently kill people, nothing else. The gun industry is just another big business that benefits from the death and destruction of American lives, and anyone who helps the gun industry or gives in to the NRA is just plain unAmerican in my book.