Guns in Our Communities

Phil Anderson

THERE ARE NOW MORE GUNS IN OUR COUNTRY THAN PEOPLE.  Although the actual number of guns is unknown, reliable estimates are that the US has about 357 million guns. That means for every 100 Americans there are about 116 guns. America leads the world in gun ownership per capita. We are are number one once again! Doesn’t it make you proud?

These figures do not mean that everyone has a gun. The number of households with guns is actually declining. Most guns are owned by about 1/3 of the population. Gun ownership varies significantly from state to state and from urban to rural areas. Rural areas and southern and western states tend to have more guns. This is not just about places where hunting is a “tradition” like Minnesota and Wisconsin. Hunting is also declining. Only about 15% of the adult population hunts.

Gun ownership is not about protecting home and family. Crime rates are down across the country. The actual threat of being a victim of a crime is low. The Bureau of Justice Statistics says an estimated 0.5% (1.2 million persons) experienced at least one serious violent victimization in 2014. Only 8% of households were the victims of property crimes. The truth is MOST OF US LIVE IN PRETTY SAFE COMMUNITIES.

BUT THE DAMAGE DONE BY GUNS IS REAL. According the the Centers for Disease Control, guns kill about 33,000 people a year and injure about 73,000. Of those killed in 2013, over 11,000 were homicides. A little known fact is suicides using guns kill more people than homicides. Children are also victims of guns and gun violence. The Wisconsin Council on Children and Families says a child under 18 dies from guns about once every two weeks in Wisconsin. Suicides make up 45% of these deaths. Even in peaceful Minnesota, more than 3,600 people died from gun-related homicides, suicides and accidents between 2000 and 2010.  In Minnesota suicides, at an average of 256 per year, outnumbered all other causes of gun-related deaths
 
Putting these numbers into perspective, we kill around 44,000 people on the roads every year in the U.S. THE TRAGEDY IS, LIKE AUTO ACCIDENTS, GUN DEATHS AND INJURIES ARE LARGELY PREVENTABLE. We could have sensible gun control. We could make it harder to access a gun. Suicides, for example, are much easier done with guns. Because suicides are often done on impulse, not having easy access to a gun could make the difference. Child suicide could be greatly reduced if parents did not have a gun or had it locked up and unloaded. In Wisconsin reports say 61% of guns in homes are not stored safely and children have access to them.  

Guns are widely and easily available in our communities. You can pick up any Northland Shopper and find guns for sale. You can buy them online. I found two Minnesota web sites dedicated to gun sales with a simple Google search. PRIVATE GUN SALES THROUGH NEWSPAPERS, THE INTERNET, OR GUN SHOWS ARE NOT REGULATED IN ANY WAY. THIS IS 40% OF ALL GUNS SALES.  No questions asked. No background checks. No registration of the gun or the sale.

Polls indicate 92% of Americans favor background checks for all gun sales. Banning assault type rifles is favored by 57% of people. People support limitations on high capacity clips or buying high volumes of ammunition. But Congress is not in interested in the will of the people. Common sense measures to reduce gun deaths go nowhere in our political process. Common sense is not what we do in America. Certainly not when there is money to be made.

GUN MANUFACTURERS ARE HAVING BOOM TIMES. Gun sales have doubled in recent years. Mass shootings and talk of changing gun laws has ramped up the fear and paranoia which have increased gun sales. Many observers are calling this the “Obama effect.” Even though there has been no legislation or effort to restrict access to guns, the minority of people who own guns are buying more of them. The NRA, which is financially supported by the gun industry, has stoked this fear and paranoia.
Gun violence is a complicated issue and will not be solved by gun control alone. We must also deal with our pervasive culture of violence. BUT WE SHOULD NOT ALLOW THE DIFFICULTY OF THE TASK TO PREVENT TAKING SENSIBLE ACTION. This must include regulation of gun sales and ownership. We can not allow the gun lobby to continue to dictate public policy on these issues. Reasonable actions that have the support of most people and would not violate any 2nd Amendment “rights” are possible.

REQUIRE BACKGOUND CHECKS FOR ALL GUN SALES.  
STORE GUNS SAFELY. Every gun owner can do this. Unload them and lock them up.

OUTLAW ASSAULT STYLE WEAPONS, HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINES, AND LARGE AMMUNITION PURCHASES. I am a gun owner and hunter. No one needs these for hunting or any other purpose.

REGISTRATION OF ALL GUNS. Every gun should have a title and no gun should be sold anywhere without transfer of that title.

The documentary film, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA, is being shown in Duluth. Produced by Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, the film tells stories of how gun violence - and the billions of dollars made from gun sales - affects the lives of Americans every day.

The showing is Tuesday September 20th, at 7:00 pm at  Peace United Church of Christ, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E. Come learn about the issues and what you can do to end the profit driven crisis of guns in America.