This is not rocket science. Stronger gun laws will save lives. There is actually proof that weak laws contribute to more gun deaths and injuries and the proliferation of firearms in America have not saved lives. Americans have been duped by the corporate gun lobby. Slight of hand tactics and slogans have confused the reality and managed to win support from elected leaders and some of the public. As a result, gun deaths have continued unabated and in some places now contribute to more deaths than auto accidents.
And all for profits and power.
This week-end, my husband and I went to see Merchants of Doubt at a local theater. It was very well done and powerful. Most people do understand that the big corporations and businesses are all about profit and keeping their political power in order to make more profits. Anything goes for some of them. The movie is about climate change and those who deny its’ existence but in order to get to that talking point, examples were given of the tobacco industry and energy companies tactics to deny the facts. From this review of the movie:
His phrasing—scientific, precise, and bloodless—perfectly illustrates Merchants Of Doubt’s central thesis. As science historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book the film is based on, says, “If this is not a scientific debate, what kind of debate is it?” The answer, of course, is a political debate. And political debates are won by rhetoric and tribalism. The most illuminating passages in Merchants Of Doubt are those which illuminate the role of tribal identity in not only the global warming debate but also the rise of the Tea Party. As Skeptic magazine editor and lifelong libertarian Michael Shermer discovered when, after long doubting that global warming was real, his opinion was changed by a close examination of the overwhelming scientific evidence. When documentarians follow him to a libertarian convention where he debates a climate change skeptic, audience members attack him as with phrases like “That’s what YOUR TEAM wants us to think!” (…) The problem with this kind of issue documentary is that it seems like preaching to the choir. No one who views their identity as a conservative in good standing is going to voluntarily watch this film, and if they’re exposed to it, they’ll just call it more lies. Indeed, the documentarians’ methodology of following the money and questioning the neutrality of so-called impartial observers naturally leads to the question, “Who’s paying for this?” Just because I agree with it—and I do, wholeheartedly—doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask hard questions of it. Merchants Of Doubt’s thesis is that slick communicators willing to use any tactics available, regardless of morality, are the ones who can win political debates. The slickness and clarity of the production means the filmmakers have taken that lesson to heart.
The movie was not about gun violence prevention or the debate about gun rights but it could have been. Some of the scientists and writers who were interviewed for the movie talked of the backlash, the harsh criticisms, the threatening comments, e-mails and phone calls they received from those on the other “team” who absolutely would not listen to anything but their own echo chamber. Even when presented with facts, if the opposition team is noisy and clever enough and has enough money to employ stealth tactics to deceive the public, big issues of our times don’t get addressed and solved; or they are solved too late for too many.
The thing is, lives depend on our getting this right. Lives depend on believing the facts and the evidence even if it means lower profits and less power for corporations and the wealthy. Lives have been saved because the truth about the risks of smoking and second hand smoke finally won out over the powerful tobacco companies. Law suits helped. The same is true for safety measures on cars and drunk driving laws. It took years of fighting against a powerful and well funded industry and some law suits.
Thus we are now at a pivotal moment for climate change. The evidence shows that if we don’t change what we are doing with energy, with water conservation, with greenhouse gases, with fuel and electrical usage, with our daily living habits, the earth will not be the same for our children and grandchildren. But the voices of denial inexplicably win the battles. They won’t win the war but it might not matter. And why does this happen? Ideology. Fear. Anger. Ignorance. Hatred for the other “team.” Loss of profits and power.
All of this can be applied to the battle over gun rights and gun safety reform. For it is a battle. It is fierce and it gets down to which team you are on. And we are at a pivotal point as gun death rates stay the same or rise. Does it matter that lives are being lost every day to firearms injuries many of which could be saved? Just like with the auto and tobacco industries, denial and outright deception too often win. Solutions are right in front of us and make so much common sense but politics stop us from saving lives.
It doesn’t work this way, at least about guns and gun rights, in other countries. Why? Common sense. Morality. Interest in public health and safety. Concern for the common good. No second amendment. No gun rights extremists. Fewer gun owners. No NRA or corporate gun lobby.
Speaking of the corporate gun lobby, the NRA convention held this past week-end in Nashville, is over. It was the usual fare only some of the rhetoric was more strident than ever. Hatred of President Obama is now turning to hatred of the now declared Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If we think the evil and repugnant rhetoric and hatred towards President Obama was over the top, wait until the women hating, Clinton hating folks get started. It should be interesting. And the NRA will be right in the midst of the battle as evidenced by their own Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the convention.
After warning once again that Obama is going to turn America into a country that “you and I won’t recognize” (*yawn*), LaPierre switched gears towards attacking Hillary Clinton. When LaPierre suggests Clinton may be elected president, the crowd loudly boos and one person screams “Never!” LaPierre grimaces at the thought:
“I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”
“Demographically symbolic”? LaPierre just stood before tens of thousands of people and accused the president of being a token black guy. Following this logic, Hillary would be the token woman. LaPierre makes it obvious that what he wants is a return to less diverse times. The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male crowd seems to agree, interrupting LaPierre’s speech with enthusiastic cheers.
LaPierre’s remarks are the latest bold attempt by the conservative movement to reject Obama and Clinton based solely on the fact that they are members of minority groups (in Clinton’s case, not in number of women, but in their disenfranchisement) and therefore don’t constitute a true representation of what right-wingers believes a president looks like: white, male, and donning an American flag on their lapel.
Just read this over-the-top rhetoric from gun rights extremists at the NRA convention if you don’t believe me. Sounds like the world is about to come to an end. From the linked article:
“They think that they’re better and smarter than we are, as if they’re more sophisticated and intellectually evolved than we are,” Porter said.
“When it comes to those elitists, looking down their noses and telling us how to live, it’s time they got the message loud and clear,” he said. “You elitists live however your want, but when it comes to us, get your hands off our freedom and leave us the hell alone.”
Uff da. Sounds like fighting words. Either that or total nonsense. I’ll go with the latter. Can these folks be serious? Elitists? Who are elitists? I suppose we don’t need to remind them of the huge salaries of the top executives of NRA leaders. And don’t get me started about the “intellectually evolved” statement. Do these folks really believe their own words?
Disturbing to say the least.
Some reporters got in to the convention and have written about what they saw and heard. This one is a pretty good summary.
The thing is, facts matter. The claims made by the corporate gun lobby, many of the candidates for the Republican nomination who spoke at the NRA convention and the gun rights extremists who believe what they are told without checking for accuracy, are false. There is a truth out there in the real world. In the real world people in the U.S. are dying at a high rate- at an epidemic rate in fact. This article from the Washington Post fact checked the claims that America has a higher gun death rate than most other “civilized” countries. From the article:
Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher concluded, “The U.S. gun murder rate isabout 20 times the average for all other countries on this chart. That means that Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than is someone from another developed country.”
A related fact-check from PolitiFact examined a 2011 study by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health and UCLA School of Public Health. Their findings, while based on data for 23 high-income, populous countries from the World Health Organization now almost a decade old (2003), mirror more recent trends.
The United States, they found, has more firearms per capita, the most permissive gun control laws and a disproportionate amount of firearm-related deaths from homicides, suicides and accidents.
“The United States had a homicide rate 6.9 times higher than those in the other high-income countries, driven by a ﬁrearm homicide rate that was 19.5 times higher than those in the other high-income countries,” the report says. “For 15 year olds to 24 year olds, the ﬁrearm homicide rate in the United States was 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”
This is stunning. Of course, it’s been stunning for many years now but we continue along this path without taking action to change it. If we want to know why, we can refer back to what has just happened at the NRA convention in Nashville. There they continued with the push for more guns for everyone everywhere because, of course, more guns make us all safer. The article I have linked is based on studies and collections of data that show the exact opposite. What’s the problem here?
Profits. The gun industry is a large industry and needs to profit, like other industries. So back to where I started. One team wants to save lives and prevent gun violence that is so devastating to so many all over America. The other team wants what they think they have always had and deserve and facts don’t matter. If they had not been duped, they would realize that a simple thing like background checks on all gun sales would actually strengthen the second amendment. If that wasn’t the case, why did the leaders and organizers of the NRA convention insist that any firearms purchased on the convention floor be sent to the closest licensed dealer so the buyer could go through a background check?
To avoid reality and the facts about gun deaths, the gun lobby has their slick talking points that don’t get questioned as often as they should. If they were, we would find that they are not based on facts. Does it matter? When you are playing for the gun rights team, slick talking points replace a serious conversation based on facts. Here are just a few of those talking points:
- Just enforce the laws already on the books-meant to distract from the fact that gun laws have actually been weakened and it’s difficult to enforce trafficking laws when one state makes it easy for felons and domestic abusers to bring guns into a state where it’s harder. The number 20,000 existing gun laws is thrown around. If we check with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence which researches gun laws, we can see that that really can’t be true. I also was directed recently to a fact check article about this number, 20,000, that is used by gun extremists. Check it out for yourself and you will see that the number cannot be verified. So don’t be duped.
- More guns make mean less crime. This is a much used phrase that is not based on fact. An old discredited study by gun rights activist John Lott has been used to get conceal carry laws passed all over America. Don’t be duped.
- Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. This, of course, is simply not true and can’t be proved but it’s out there as some sort of “fact” that needs to be challenged. It’s a myth. Check it out from the link. Don’t be duped.
- If we pass reasonable gun laws, only criminals will get guns and law abiding citizens will be punished. This one begs credulity because requiring background checks on all gun sales, for example, will stop the “bad guys” from getting guns without stopping any law abiding citizen from getting a gun. If this were true, why did those who ordered a gun from one of the displays at the NRA convention have to get a background check at the nearest licensed dealer to their home? Because they were following state and federal laws. Hmmmm. If only the laws required this for every gun sale.
- Universal background checks will lead to gun registration. No, not true. In the 20 years of the Brady law’s existence, this has not happened and it won’t.
- Guns make us safer. Another myth. If guns stopped gun violence and made us safer, why do we continue to have the highest rate of gun deaths per capita in the civilized world?
There are more but I think my point has been made.
America, we’ve been duped. Let’s stop the game playing. There should be only one team here because there is only one right answer- preventing death and saving lives through common sense laws and gun safety reform. Gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.