‘We share the stage’: white suburban liberals and minority activists fight together for gun reform

For decades minority communities have pushed for regulation of the gun industry but white liberal allies have rarely shown up to fight with them. The Parkland students have made a concerted effort to close the ‘empathy gap’

Source: ‘We share the stage’: white suburban liberals and minority activists fight together for gun reform | US news | The Guardian

A New Way to Tackle Gun Deaths

October 3, 2015 By

Students of Umpqua Community College attended a vigil after the shooting in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday. Credit Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

Students of Umpqua Community College attended a vigil after the shooting in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday. Credit Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

We’ve mourned too often, seen too many schools and colleges devastated by shootings, watched too many students get an education in grief. It’s time for a new approach to gun violence.

We’re angry, but we also need to be smart. And frankly, liberal efforts, such as the assault weapons ban, were poorly designed and saved few lives, while brazen talk about banning guns just sparked a backlash that empowered the National Rifle Association.

What we need is an evidence-based public health approach — the same model we use to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them.

First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.When I reported a similar figure in the past, gun lobbyists insisted that it couldn’t possibly be true. But the numbers are unarguable: fewer than 1.4 million war deaths since 1775, more than half in the Civil War, versus about 1.45 million gun deaths since 1970 (including suicides, murders and accidents).

If that doesn’t make you flinch, consider this: In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.

In Great Britain, people used to kill themselves by putting their heads in the oven and asphyxiating themselves with coal gas. This accounted for almost half of British suicides in the late 1950s, but Britain then began switching from coal gas to natural gas, which is much less lethal. Sticking one’s head in the oven was no longer a reliable way to kill oneself — and there was surprisingly little substitution of other methods. Suicide rates dropped, and they stayed at a lower level.

The British didn’t ban ovens, but they made them safer. We need to do the same with guns.

When I tweeted about the need to address gun violence after college shooting in the Roseburg, Ore., a man named Bob pushed back. “Check out car accident deaths,” he tweeted sarcastically. “Guess we should ban cars.”

Actually, cars exemplify the public health approach we need to apply to guns. We don’t ban cars, but we do require driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.

One problem is that the gun lobby has largely blocked research on making guns safer. Between 1973 and 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded 89 grants for the study of rabies and 212 for cholera — and only three for firearms injuries.

Daniel Webster, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, notes that in 1999, the government listed the gun stores that had sold the most weapons later linked to crimes. The gun store at the top of the list was so embarrassed that it voluntarily took measures to reduce its use by criminals — and the rate at which new guns from the store were diverted to crime dropped 77 percent.

But in 2003, Congress barred the government from publishing such information.

Why is Congress enabling pipelines of guns to criminals?

Public health experts cite many ways we could live more safely with guns, and many of them have broad popular support.

A poll this year found that majorities even of gun-owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.

We should also be investing in “smart gun” technology, such as weapons that fire only with a PIN or fingerprint. We should adopt microstamping that allows a bullet casing to be traced back to a particular gun. We can require liability insurance for guns, as we do for cars.

It’s not clear that these steps would have prevented the Oregon shooting. But Professor Webster argues that smarter gun policies could reduce murder rates by up to 50 percent — and that’s thousands of lives a year. Right now, the passivity of politicians is simply enabling shooters.

The gun lobby argues that the problem isn’t firearms; it’s crazy people. Yes, America’s mental health system is a disgrace. But to me, it seems that we’re all crazy if we as a country can’t take modest steps to reduce the carnage that leaves America resembling a battlefield.

Three ways to increase gun safety in the home

DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF/FILE A 25-state national bus tour stopped in Boston in August 2013 for a rally against gun violence.

A 25-state national bus tour stopped in Boston in August 2013 for a rally against gun violence.

By Michael A. Cohen DECEMBER 09 , 2 014
It’s the kind of story that seemingly could only happen in America — only days before
Thanksgiving a 3yearold
boy in Tulsa finds a loaded gun in his home. He points it at
his mother who is changing her daughter’s diaper. He pulls the trigger and kills her.
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But what is perhaps most surreal and unimaginable about this tragedy is that it
happened again – two weeks later, again in Oklahoma, another 3year
old boy. This
time the victim was a 23yearold
man who was shot as family members handled a
loaded rifle. The child grabbed at the gun, and it went off. Two lives ended; countless
others shattered.
These deaths were described as accidents, but of course they are anything but. They are
the direct result of America’s toxic gun culture and of a nation inured to the point of
inaction in ending the steady drumbeat of senseless death.
Just a few months ago, the president appointed an Ebola czar in the wake of three
Americans being diagnosed with the disease. Before that, he sent American warplanes
and military trainers to Iraq to rollback ISIS even though the group posed no direct
threat to the United States. There was broad popular support for his actions
Yet, since then more Americans have been killed on US soil by 3yearolds
with guns
than have died from Ebola or ISIS. Every day there resides among Americans a clear
and present danger — millions of guns, many purchased for home protection that are
having the exact opposite effect.
We know that having a gun in one’s home doesn’t actually make that home safer.
Instead it increases, significantly, the possibility that someone who resides there will die
as the result of a firearm. So here’s a suggestion: Rather than spend billions more on
combating terrorists that pose less of a threat to Americans than falling TVs, how about
invest the money and attention to gun safety?
No, that doesn’t mean taking away people’s guns. But here are three ideas. First,
increase the criminal penalties to a felony for allowing a child to get access to a firearm.
Leaving a loaded gun where a child can put their hands on it is not an accident — it’s the
result of negligence. Make it a serious crime. There is good evidence that these child
access prevention laws can reduce unintentional deaths.
Second, require gun safes in all homes where a child under age 18 is present. Have the
federal government subsidize such safe purchases, if necessary. Doesn’t matter how it
gets done, just that it happens.
Third, begin a nationwide public education campaign about the dangers of keeping a
loaded gun at home where children are present. We’re all familiar with the powerful TV
ads that depict the medical consequences of smoking — ones that ran last year are
estimated to have persuaded 100,000 smokers to give up the habit. If you buy a pack of
cigarettes, it says on the box how dangerous it is to smoke. Why should guns be any
different? How about a public health warning any time someone buys a gun that its
presence in one’s home dramatically increases the risk of a child (or adult) being killed?
How about public service announcements that make clear the importance of securing
weapons where children are present?
Reminding Americans that guns and curious children make for a potentially deadly mix
isn’t infringing on people’s freedom or their right to bear arms. Indeed, there is no good
reason for the NRA to oppose any of these measures — unless it wants to try to convince
us that the only thing between a bad 3yearold
with a gun is a good 3yearold
with a
Michael A. Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation. His column appears regularly
in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.


Why Aren’t We Doing More to Keep Women Safe From Gun Violence?

Why Aren't We Doing More to Keep Women Safe From Gun Violence?

Shannon Watts Become a fan
Founder, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
Updated: 06/02/2014 5:59 pm EDT

The tragic shooting in Santa Barbara last week sparked an important conversation: why aren’t we doing more to keep women safe?

For too long, women have been left out of the discussion about gun violence. We’re 54 percent of the electorate, but only 19 percent of Congress. We account for only 24 percent of all state legislators nationwide. Clearly, the laws allowing our country’s culture of gun violence are not being made by the mothers who lose eight children and teens every day to a gunshot.

And yet, ironically, our weak federal and state gun laws disproportionately affect women. American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. On average, 46 women are shot to death by a current or former husband or boyfriend every month. And those mass shootings that that occur in America with startling regularity? Fifty-seven percent of them involve domestic violence.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The data we’ve collected proves that stronger gun laws actually save women’s lives. In the 16 states that have done what Congress refuses to do — close the background checks on unlicensed gun sales — 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners.

So why for decades has the NRA’s leaders and lobbyists actually fought against women’s best interests by working to keep guns in the hands of domestic abusers? They’ve led the opposition to proposals that would require that those subject to court-issued restraining orders relinquish their firearms. They claim nothing short of a felony conviction should restrict someone’s right to gun ownership — not even “mere issuance of court orders,” as one NRA lobbyist put it.

But in 2014, American women fought back against the NRA, and we are winning the fight to strengthen the laws on our states’ books.

Two conservative, pro-NRA governors — Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal — both signed bills into law this year that will keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers — legislation the NRA previously opposed but remained silent on this year. Wisconsin’s new law will ensure that domestic abusers comply with the law that prohibits them from possessing guns. Louisiana’s law will prohibit domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms, and, in turn, protect more women and families in a state that regularly leads the nation in domestic homicides per capita. Washington State, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Vermont also all passed similar bipartisan legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

Putting these laws on the books — in states with strong traditions of gun ownership — is a turning point for American women. The group I founded, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is only 18 months old, but we are making substantial progress. As women and mothers collectively keep the pressure on Congress to act, our wins at the state level will keep adding up.

But the momentum isn’t confined to state capitols. Senator Klobuchar has written a sensible bill that would add domestic abusers and stalkers to the list of individuals prohibited from purchasing a gun. Strengthening the protections women have from convicted stalkers is critical because 9 in 10 attempted murders of women involve at least one incident of stalking in the year before the attempted murder.

As legislative sessions in states as different as Wisconsin, Louisiana, Washington, New Hampshire, and Minnesota have made clear, the future for the NRA’s brand of obstruction at any cost — including the lives of mothers and daughters — looks grim. Good gun laws make for good politics, too — and legislators and candidates for elected office, no matter their political parties, would do well to take note, because women and moms are paying attention.

In an election year – and perhaps, recognizing that trying to sell more guns to women while advocating on behalf of domestic abusers wasn’t a sound strategy – the NRA backed down from such an extreme and irresponsible position. But it took a movement of angry, fed-up Americans to tear down their resistance.

We’ve long had public opinion on our side (as a recent POLITICO poll confirmed). And now we’ve racked up real wins in states across the country. It’s time to take that political capital to the bank: It’s time for women and mothers to ask their elected leaders “Who do you side with, me or the NRA?”

Follow Shannon Watts on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@shannonrwatts