John Cassidy points out that we don't know much about guns, but we sure have opinions. In that regard, advantage: gun lovers.
... The entire subject is plagued by misinformation and ignorance. It isn’t just a matter of gun nuts denying the obvious: countries with lots of guns, such as the U.S., have lots of gun violence. It goes well beyond that. To the enormous benefit of gun lobbyists and armaments manufacturers, and to the great detriment of the public interest, many basic facts about the proliferation of firearms, and its effects on American society, remain obscured or unavailable.
How many guns are there in the United States? Nobody knows for sure. (Estimates vary from two hundred and fifty million to more than three hundred million.) Who owns all these weapons? Nobody can say. Unlike in many other advanced countries, there is no national registry of gun owners. ...John Cassidy, New Yorker
In fact, pressure from the NRA made it impossible for the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to computerize data about gun ownership. The data has to be kept in long hand in file drawers. A good, comprehensive source for more of this kind of disheartening info can be found in the Washington Post's series on "The Hidden Life of Guns."
There is no national database and little that can be gleaned from the states. That makes the move by Obama (excoriated by gun owners and lobbyists) to lift the freeze on research into gun violence very unpopular. If we don't make sure we get some decent majorities in Congress, that change will be erased, I betcha.
Cassidy looks at today's Washington and writes:
Since the late nineteen-sixties, when policy makers started getting serious about preventing road deaths, the annual number of motor-vehicle fatalities relative to the total population has been cut in half. With better data and better policy, there is no reason why we shouldn’t see a similar reduction in gun fatalities, which are currently running at about thirty thousand a year. (About a third are homicides; most of the rest are suicides.)
That’s assuming, of course, that Obama’s proposals are put into effect, which isn’t a sure thing because they require Congressional funding. The sums involved are small—an extra ten million dollars for the C.D.C.’s research budget, and twenty million dollars to pay for the national database. Taken together, the additional spending would be equivalent to about a tenth of the N.R.A.’s annual budget.
Who could be against expending such a modest sum on gathering information that could well end up saving thousands of lives every year? We all know the answer to that question. In this instance, they mustn’t be allowed to prevail. ...John Cassidy, New Yorker
One horror we're going to have to do something about is the linkage, made by gun-nuts, of guns with "freedom."
"Freedom" for themselves is what they mean, of course, though they cloak in their god-given (sometimes claimed) and Constitution-given"rights" (claimed to a point of madness). The right to be free of gun-filled neighborhoods would be a blessing for a lot of us. The ability to send our kids to school or a into movie theater without fearing for their lives would be kinda nice, too, for the average citizen. In other words, freedom should work both ways but favor the responsible, the peaceful.
Keeping in mind Stalin's use of mental health issues to imprison thousands of dissidents, let's also be very careful before we let the "mentally ill" theme crowd out the venality and corporate power-grabbing on the part of the NRA and the willful stupidity on the part of many of its members and admirers -- like the mother who let her kid have access to very dangerous weaponry.
Letter to the editor of the New York Times from former Creedmoor psychologist:
Given the problems with requiring mental health professionals to report certain patients to law enforcement, I propose an alternative. Many commercial companies and government agencies screen job applicants for sensitive positions using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test.
Gun permit applicants should be required to take this test and achieve passing scores on the schizophrenia and psychopathic deviation scales.
The proven ability of this test to identify fake responses would eliminate a flaw in the background check process — falsifying or fudging background information. ...NYT
For some insight (or a reminder) into how guns (whatever else they do) often make the owner believe him or herself to be not just powerful but "on the right side," go back and watch the film "Lacombe Lucien."