This post has been updated since first posted.
2013 began with a resolve to pass new gun laws after the Sandy Hook school shooting massacre of 20 first graders. The country expressed strong support for passing at the least, a bill to expand Brady background checks to all commercial gun sales. No such bill passed in large part because of the strong resistance of the corporate gun lobby and the nonsensical and deceptive rhetoric about the bill leading to gun registration and other paranoia.
At the state level, New York was the first out of the shoot to get stronger gun laws passed in 2013. Governor Cuomo, long a supporter of common sense gun laws, acted quickly and the legislature followed. There was the usual challenge to the laws by the corporate gun lobby. They don't like strong gun laws that would actually make the public safer from gun violence. Challenging gun laws in court raises money for the already overflowing coffers of the gun lobbies and manufacturers and gets more people to buy guns, thereby supporting the gun industry. Interestingly, however, the courts side with stronger gun laws over and over. The wealthy and mythically powerful gun lobby helps to keep the gun industry in business making huge profits. And Americans continue to die from gunshot injuries at a large rate every year. Sad, but true.
Thank goodness for the courts. On the last day of 2013, a judge supported the New York gun laws for the most part. That is because when cases are sent to court or to the public, in the majority of cases, the gun lobby does not win. From the linked article:
Ah yes, public safety. That's what this is all about. Some states saw it that way, others did not in 2013. Some states passed strong gun laws. Some states passed laws to weaken current gun laws. As a result of a stronger gun law, Connecticut owners of assault rifles have gotten in lines to register their guns to comply with the new law. Gun laws matter. And let's watch to see if the state government confiscates those guns now that they are registered ( a scenario the gun lobby would love us to believe). Or not.The ruling offered a victory to gun control advocates at the end of a year in which efforts to pass new legislation on the federal level suffered a high-profile defeat in Congress, although some new restrictions were approved in state capitals.The judge, William M. Skretny of Federal District Court in Buffalo, said expanded bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were legally sound because they served to “further the state’s important interest in public safety.”
Young people are most often ahead of the curve when it comes to the issues of the day. This West Virginia college student wrote about what happened to "gun control" in 2013:
There is hope when our young people are thinking this way about the issue. Recently I was at my local grocery store and used a cloth bag for bagging my groceries with the logo of the Brady Campaign on it. The young boy who checked me out looked at the bag and said: " Nice bag. We just can't get gun control bills passed in this country." He's right, of course. He is our hope for the future of the issue. The college student who wrote the piece above is our hope for the future.From my observation as a college student in West Virginia, nothing sparks a passionate classroom debate like the issue of gun control. There is something about guns that strikes a chord in people. I think President Obama's frowned-upon comment about people "clinging to their guns and religion" was true. People cling to their guns religiously, and Appalachian culture especially exemplifies the President’s comment. Earlier this year, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin introduced a mild gun control bill that would have established universal background checks. Applauded for his "bravery," Manchin fought for his bill to pass congress, but it failed. After the bill died the first time, congressional Democrats believed bringing the bill to a vote a second time was wasted effort, while house Republicans were voting to repeal ObamaCare for the fortieth-something time.A sizable majority of the country supports universal background checks, bans on assault weapons, and limiting magazine size. But the whole political system is taken hostage by the loud voices of the minority, who value their "right" to own 30-round magazines and military-style assault weapons more than trying to save lives. Gun advocates are right about one thing: criminals will still find ways to obtain weapons. That's true. But with stricter laws, fewer criminals can obtain weapons. It will be harder for criminals to obtain weapons. People who consider themselves the "good guys" should realize that trying our hardest to keep guns out of the hands of murders is not a sacrifice or a restriction on liberty—it's "common sense," as President Obama would say.
But I digressed. Let's check some 2013 "facts" about guns and gun reform. Politifact has put this together some of the claims on both sides for us. And this is their conclusion:
Since PolitiFact has fact-checked guns extensively, perhaps it’s surprising that our most important lesson doesn’t come from the facts that we proved right or wrong. Rather, the most salient point from 2013 is that there are many facts we don’t have enough data to rule on.
Right now, due to a lack of research, we can’t concretely say how many guns are in civilian hands, a statistic Washington, nonvoting congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton tried to get at after the Navy Yard shooting. We rated her claim Half True. (...)
One of the most interesting examples is that Vice President Joe Biden said that since Newtown, more people died by gunshot than have died in the entirety of the war in Afghanistan. We rated his claim True after finding that at least twice as many people were killed by guns as in the 12 years of war.
Following Newtown, President Barack Obama released a plan to reduce gun violence through methods like strengthening background checks, getting more dangerous weapons off the streets and securing schools. Also of note is that the White House called to "end the freeze on gun violence research."Sigh. We research virtually everything else. But gun violence? Not really. The effects of easy access to guns for children and teens? Not so much. The effect of stronger gun laws? Not so much although the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Brady Campaign released a report recently about state gun laws that might help. Also check out this report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns about states with strong gun laws and the resulting lower rates of gun deaths of women in domestic shootings.
I am grateful for organizations like those above who continue their work in the area of gun violence prevention and provide some research that shows us why we need to pass stronger gun laws. They are and will make a difference to the conversation about gun violence in 2014. Look for more studies, more support for and more noise from other groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Violence Policy Center, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, and state groups, victims' support groups, bloggers and social media sites. Again I refer you to some of my favorite blogs- Kid Shootings, Ohh Shoot and Walmart Shootings as well as New Trajectory. In addition, the Center to Prevent Youth Violence is working to get parents to ask if there are guns where their children and teens play and hang out. And the GunFreeKids site has worked hard and succeeded in keeping the gun lobby from getting guns onto our college campuses. There are many of us out there. In 2014 we will continue our work and be a force in the conversation about gun violence prevention.
And finally I can't end without a report of the inevitable New Year's shootings. Let's check them out:
A Connecticut hotel New Year's party turned ugly and raucous and a young man was shot and critically injured.
A Detroit, Michigan man "accidentally" shot his wife while showing friends how to clean a gun. She in serious condition.And of course, one of my favorite blogs, The Gun Report, by New York Times writer Joe Nocera, is back after a holiday break. He has listed the shootings which he could find in media reports over the holiday period. Since we know that 80 Americans, on average, die from gunshot injuries in suicides, homicides and "accidental" shootings, his report doesn't cover all of them. But for the holiday period he reported on 39 gun deaths and 51 gun injuries taking place in 39 of 50 states.
Senseless and avoidable. Once again, most of these were the result of "law abiding" gun owners. There will be many more of these, unfortunately, in 2014. Surely we are better than this as a country. It's time to get to work for change. What we have now is not working. Please join me in working for the change we want and deserve to keep our communities safe from the gun violence that will continue to devastate families and communities all over America. You can take action and donate to any of the places listed above and make a difference.