Colson: It’s the gun culture, not just the guns
OK, how many dead will it take to decide that we have had enough?
How many dead kids, moms, shoppers, teachers, and a host of other character types will it take before we admit that the United States, as a nation, has a problem with guns?
How many episodes, such as the one last week in Roseburg, Oregon, where a sexually frustrated
maniac killed nine, will it take?
Studies show that at numerous points in time over the past 25 years or so, more Americans have supported the idea of stricter gun laws than have favored either keeping things as they are or further loosening the nation’s gun laws.
According to a recent Pew poll, the support for stricter laws on gun sales actually has slipped in the two years since the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, although it still appears we are fairly evenly split between those who feel some greater restrictions are needed, and those who feel the other way.
A Gallup historical survey of polling results indicates that, in the 1990s, as many as 78 percent of respondents were in favor of some additional restrictions on gun ownership. But by last year (one year after Sandy Hook) that number had dropped to 58 percent of respondents favoring stricter gun laws.
And as of this year, the number was 47 percent, according to Gallup, and so it goes.
OK, enough about polls, which as everyone knows can be manipulated to the point of meaninglessness. Let’s move on to the arena of facts, also a slippery slope in many cases but a little bit firmer footing than national polling results.
The most obvious fact is that our national and state legislators have failed to do much in the way of gun control, out of fear of being shot out of the saddle by the gun lobby.
And another plain fact is that, since the generally accepted number of guns on hand in the U.S. is about 300 million, anytime some skinhead, sex-starved megalomaniac or other troubled soul wants to grab a pistol or a rifle and start shooting people, it’s not very hard to find one.
Looking abroad at another relatively young country, Australia, I note that nearly a decade ago that country responded to a mass shooting incident by banning the sales of semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns, as well as instituting a “buy-back” program of those same banned weapons that produced about 3,500 weapons per 100,000 people.
Given the Australian population of 23 million or so, that means the government collected roughly 800,000 guns.
The application of that program, according to recent studies, led to a reduction in gun-related suicides (by around 65 percent) and homicides (35-50 percent), although the statistics for homicides are viewed skeptically since the Australians reportedly had a low number of annual shooting homicides.
Still, it appears that the reduction in the number of guns owned by Australians did cut down on the number of deaths by guns.
Now, according to the Washington Post article that cited these numbers, the fact that there are about 300 million guns in circulation in the U.S., and the fact of the political maelstrom surrounding the much-ballyhooed Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, such a program is not likely to get much traction in this country anytime soon.
But my question is, should we just give up in the face of what is sure to be staunch resistance to any such gun-restricting legislation and buy-back program?
And my answer, as the reader might have guessed, is an unqualified “NO!”
In the wake of the Umpqua Community College killings of nine people, I read of one researcher’s examination of 1,300 mass shootings since 1900, although the majority have happened since the 1960s.
That’s a lot of mass shootings for one country to have, and accepting that number means accepting that we don’t have a problem with guns, per se, but a problem with our gun culture in general.
Statistics seem to show that the majority of those who commit mass shootings are not mentally deranged in a clinical way, just as figures show that most mentally-disturbed people are not violent.
Instead, many mass shootings have to do with such things as hate-based perceptions of people of color; outrage over feeling ignored by sexy women; political frustration against the status quo; and other such issues.
And our gun culture says that, if something pisses you off, you shoot it dead.
There are other aspects of our gun-happy society that I don’t have time to go into here, but it seems an inescapable conclusion, to me, that this cannot be allowed to continue as it has.
Otherwise, instead of one mass killing every two weeks or so (the current frequency), we’ll be escalating to one a week, two a week, one a day and worse.
This is not hyperbole or fantasy.
It’s the way it’s been going so far, and the way it will continue, unless we do something.
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