Gun Laws, Research, Politics, and Public Opinion

Gun Laws, Research, Politics, and Public Opinion

First of all, lets clear up a few things. Just because a particular law would not have prevented a particular murder or mass shooting, that should not be used to negate their effects across all of the vast number of homicides and suicides.  Also, the false dodge over whether people or guns kill people, isn’t even correct.  Bullets kill and injure people, and limiting them to smaller caliber and magazine sizes, as well as lower muzzle velocity,  saves lives.  Injuries are many times the number of deaths, and can be severe, debilitating, and life-long.  So it takes both people, guns, and bullets to kill and injure.

The New York Times has been running a sequence of articles on guns, deaths, and injuries, with multiple links.  We will cite bits of this data.  In 1996, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment that eliminated most federal funding for gun safety research.  That was during Bill Clinton’s first term, but the Congress gets to set the budget.  That included the CDC and the NIH.  The House has passed a bill to provide $50 million to fund such research, split between the two agencies.  Compared to other sources of death with about the same numbers, gun deaths only get 1.6% of the research that would be expected.

The NY Times stated that over 600,000 people have been shot by guns in the 23 years since the amendment was passed.  That sounds more like the number who have died from guns, and those injured must be several times that.  About 60% of deaths from guns are from suicides.

Then, there is politics.  Thirty three of the 50 states have Republican legislatures and governorships.  They are usually highly gerrymandered, with 2/3 of the legislatures and Representatives Republican, even though statewide Governorships and Presidential races are somewhat close.  So far, I have only heard of two Republican state legislators, and Senator Lindsay Graham, interested in passing a universal background check, even though it is backed by 94% of the public.  A Quinnipiac poll in March, showed 93% of all Americans, 89% of Republicans, and 87% of gun owners backed the Universal Background Checks.   But Senator Graham will not pass a National Bill, just financial aid to States which want to pass their own such law.  Seventeen states have done so.  Yet, the public is fickle, and in the 2016 general election, public support was only like 37%.  Republicans (rural) own a lot more guns than Democrats (urban) do.  While the Governor of Texas and President Trump say they will look into mental health, the NRA dodge, the Texas governor signed six NRA backed bills, and has an A+ rating.  Donald Trump canceled mental health data in background checks in his first month in office. 

A new poll by Morning Consult/Politico from August 5-7 asked the question:  “Do you support or oppose an assault weapon ban?”  The “Support” answer was 70% of all registered voters, 85% of Democrats, and 54% of Republicans.  The “Oppose” answer was 24% of all, 11% of Democrats, and 38% of Republicans. 

While Trump sounds like he will do something about guns, and that Mitch McConnell and maybe the NRA will go along, forgetting about Republican Senators, it may all be a ruse, to delay, and put the blame on them when nothing gets passed.  Trump is always looking for a deal, and has said that he may declare the antifa as terrorist organizations.  With a Republican 53 to 47 Senate, Trump would need 3 Republican Senators to back him if all Democrats do, and then Pence to break the tie vote.  But if someone filibusters, it takes 60 votes to end it, requiring 13 agreeable Republicans to go with Trump.  That is 25% of Republican Senators.  Even when healthcare was the issue, it was hard to find 3 Republicans to go with the liberal view.

The gun death rate in 2013 was about 10 per hundred thousand.  Of those, about 6 per hundred thousand were from suicide, and 4 per hundred thousand were homicides.

On the news, I heard that there are about 400 million guns in America.  The number of assault type weapons was estimated at about 10 million.

The three mass murders in the last week have brought gun control into the current election, not just for preventing such attacks, but on the larger massive gun deaths, compared to other countries.


About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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