It’s only been a day since the latest gun tragedy, and I’m already hearing the right-wing talking points about how we shouldn’t be talking about gun control now and how if we only focused on mental health treatment we wouldn’t have these shootings. This talk is outrageous, and a slap in the face to all victims, past and future.
We know that mental illness doesn’t necessarily cause violence. In fact, most people who are severely mentally ill aren’t violent at all. And many of the shootings that happen in this country have nothing to do with mental illness. Although it’s the mass shootings that get all of the media attention, and many of the mass shooters happen to have mental health issues, it’s a simple correlation. Yes, we have a problem with mental health care in this country, just as we have a problem with all health care, but these shootings are absolutely a gun issue. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous. All of the research–every shred of evidence–shows that our gun culture and easy access is the main contributing factor to the inordinate number of shootings every single day in this country. We know, factually, that anywhere there are more guns and more availability of guns, there is more gun violence. We know, factually, that where there are more gun control and safety laws, there are fewer shootings. And by now, we know that the US is quite unique in its disproportionate gun violence thanks to that easy access and lack of regulation.
The idea that we would put consumer and public safety above profit and politics when it comes to cars, bikes, air travel, and just about every single other thing except guns is outrageous. Think about how everything changed after 9/11, from policies to safety rules to our very culture. Can you imagine if we had a lobby group convincing the American people that protecting the public from terrorism violated a vaguely worded amendment of the constitution? Of course not! We react to deaths from car accidents with vehicle safety policies. We react to deaths from hijackings with airplane safety policies. We react to deaths from preventable diseases with policies on immunizations. Yet with more than 30,000 gun-related deaths every year in this country, our policy makers continue to throw their hands up and convince the masses that there’s nothing they can do, even though 85 percent of the bipartisan public supports stricter gun control and safety laws such as expanded background checks. Why? It’s pretty simple: our Congress is scared straight by a powerful lobby that essentially works to keep gun manufacturers making record profits. They would prefer to blanket the airwaves with propaganda and talking points to divert from the real issue, which the mindless masses then swallow whole.
The fact remains that we average one mass shooting per day in this country. There is an average of 30 gun-related murders, 162 gun-related wounds, and 53 gun-related suicides EVERY SINGLE DAY in this country. Umpquo Community College is at least the 142nd school shooting since Sandy Hook, the 45th school shooting in 2015, and about the 250th mass shooting this year. The vast majority of shootings aren’t even talked about by the media. And the vast majority are with legally obtained guns by perfectly mentally healthy individuals. In fact, a very large percentage of gun deaths in this country are domestic violence victims; 55 percent of all women killed by guns in the US are murdered in the context of intimate partner violence. A recent analysis found that even 57 percent of the mass shootings were related to domestic violence, and for any domestic violence incident, the availability of a gun increases the chances of the woman being killed by a gun twelve-fold. And directly because of our easy access to guns, American women are 11 times more likely to be shot and killed than women in other developed countries. The right-wing talking points would have people ask, “Why don’t women just get their own guns?” After all, “a good guy or gal with a gun can stop a bad guy or gal with a gun,” right? Not so, according to the data. In one study, a very small percentage—about 7 percent—of women have been successful using a gun for self-defense, while more than two-thirds of the women had a household gun used against them. And RAND found that “more than twice as many women are killed with a gun used by their husbands or intimate acquaintances than are murdered by strangers using guns, knives, or any other means.”
Another large percentage of gun deaths are children who accidentally shoot themselves or who are accidentally shot with a legal gun in the house (more than 100 a year). According to another study, firearms injuries remain a leading cause of death in the U.S., particularly among youth. Yet the NRA has successfully pushed legislation is at least two states prohibiting pediatricians from asking about guns in the home.
Because we have such little gun control or safety laws, almost anyone can obtain a gun legally. THAT is the reason for our inordinate and disproportionate amount of gun violence we have in this country. And the research shows that more laws DO change that. The idea that this is solely a mental health issue is a right-wing scapegoat talking point and is utter nonsense. Yet the masses continue to buy in to these talking points, creating a growing support for unfettered gun rights and a panic to stock up on guns, thus keeping the cycle of violence and the country’s crazy gun culture going strong. And the result of that is terrifying. Because let’s face it: if a school full of 5-year-olds getting gunned down couldn’t change anything, nothing will. Which means that we will continue to have these kinds of mass shootings and school shootings on an almost daily basis in this country. There is no telling whether or when one of those schools will be where my child or my nieces or nephews attend. Make no mistake: I put the blame for these needless deaths squarely on the shoulders of anyone parroting the NRA talking points and fighting against common-sense regulations and reforms that all other developed countries have been able to attain.
 See, for example, www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/ and http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/research/ and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150921133637.htm.