Does The High Rate of Gun Violence in America Reflect Our Values?
How do we understand the prevalence of gun violence in America?
The estimated rate of private gun ownership (both licit and illicit) in the United States is 101.05 firearms per 100 people. (http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states)
60 percent of U.S. homicides occur using a firearm, which is the 26th-highest rate in the world. In other gun-permeated countries, such as Finland (45.3 guns per 100 people), only about 19 percent of homicides involve a firearm.
30,000 people in the United States die every year from gun violence. Education is key in debunking the myth that you are safer with a gun in your home. You may feel safer, but statistics show you are much more likely to be a victim of gun violence when in possession of a firearm. The rates of homicide and suicide are higher when there is a gun at home.
In 1993, in the wake of a San Francisco mass shooting, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence was formed. Each year this organization provides a state “report card”, grading individual states on the strength of their gun laws. Last year, twenty-eight states received an F. Our guest on our last podcast was Mike McLively, a staff attorney for The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. We discussed the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment, how that has impacted our gun laws, and how that affects our safety. “… 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”. (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html)
Attorney McLively stated that there is substantial evidence that the founding fathers enacted the Second Amendment out of fear of a centralized national military, which would tyrannize the individual states. The Second Amendment was originally intended to counter-balance a central military force, and protect a collective right to bear arms. This remained true up until the 1970s, when the National Rifle Association (NRA) argued that it was the right of the individual. The interpretation of the Second Amendment really changed in the 2008 though, with Supreme Court case, The District of Columbia vs. Heller. This monumental case set a precedent that it was, in fact, the right of an individual. (Vote of 5 to 4)
After this court case, the lines of preexisting gun laws became blurred. What does the right protect? What does it mean? Can government not do anything to regulate firearms? Can they do a little? McLively says that these are all questions that were asked following the case, and continue to be asked today.
Mike McLively urges the importance of understanding that gun control is about gun safety. It’s about making sure that those exercising their right to bear arms are doing so in the most responsible and safe way. We need to shift the framework of the debate, because currently gun control advocates are seen as wanting to disarm the population, and that’s simply not true. In fact, 2008 Supreme Court decision re: interpretation of the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.
McLively states that not only proper education and legislation impact our safety when it comes to guns, but so do cultural norms. Wearing a seat belt used to be unheard of. The first seat belt legislation was enacted in 1968. After three decades, fastening a seat belt is the first thing we do when getting in a car. As a consequence, today deaths from gun violence have risen above deaths as a result of car accidents. Even small changes in cultural norms, like locking up and storing our firearms can make all the difference, just like fastening seat belts did.
If you’d like to learn more about The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, you can visit their website. You can discover more about laws and policies, statistics, and how to take action.