Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How the Firearms Industry is Responsible for America´s Gun Violence Epidemic

America is a violent place by any standard. The national firearm-related death rate has held steady at 10.5 per 100,000 people since 1999, well above the global average. Some of its cities exhibit epidemic rates of gun death on par with crime-affected urban centers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Hard as it might be to believe, levels of lethal violence are actually at historic lows.
Declines occurred after the passage of specific legislation designed to prevent gun-related deaths. Gun homicides dropped after the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993), the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act or so-called Assault Weapons Ban (1994), and the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (1998). In the absence of significant federal legislation over the past, further reductions in gun violence have stalled.
It is worth putting the United States’ exceptional gun violence problem into perspective. The country´s firearm homicide rate is over six times higher than neighboring Canada’s, and 45 times as high as England’s. With the highest rates of gun homicide, suicide and accidental death in the industrialized world, it is not surprising that Americans also feel afraid.
The percentage of Americans who fear walking alone at night has increased since 2001 to nearly 4 in 10 in 2011. And yet national authorities have consistently refused introducing measures to curb gun violence. Strangely, Congress has opted instead to undermine gun control legislation, curb gun safety awareness, and abandon violence prevention programs, including some that registered positive results.
Meanwhile, in many states, laws intended to promote the responsible use of guns are being repealed. Instead, legislation that reproduces irresponsible firearms use – including so-called “stand your ground” laws – are being pursued. So what explains America’s reversal on gun control?
Concerted efforts to roll back progressive gun regulation began by stealth. They started with quiet lobbying campaigns to reduce American citizens` capacity to diagnose firearm-related violence and thus fully apprehend the magnitude of the problem. In 1996 under considerable pressure from the pro-gun lobby, Congress de-funded firearms-related public health research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by 96 percent. To put this in perspective, resources devoted to firearms research constituted just 0.0018 percent of the CDC´s 2013 budget. Given that firearm deaths constitute around 1.3 percent of total national mortality, it could be reasonably argued that the CDC’s gun-related research program should have been roughly 722 times larger.
Meanwhile, the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has been prohibited since 1978 from compiling meaningful data on firearms sales. Moreover, its field offices in states bordering Mexico where illegal arms trafficking is rife are underfunded and understaffed.
More recently, a 2013 Congressional rider stripped the ATF of the authority to compile data on the very gun stores it licenses – data that the authors have made use of to estimate US-Mexico arms trafficking. Making matters worse, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is prohibited since 2003 from gathering data for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that it is mandated by law to administer on behalf of gun stores.
Without such detailed data, it is easy to misdiagnose the causes and consequences of gun violence, and therefore mis-prescribe the interventions needed to prevent it. Indeed, many lawmakers have expressed reluctance to pass gun legislation, arguing that they are (purportedly) ineffective. For instance, some pundits have argued that the massive stockpile of firearms in Americans hands renders firearms sales legislation impotent.
The gun-rights fanatics have some tricky ways to deny these obvious facts.  One thing they love to do is disparage any talk of "gun deaths" because they include suicides. It's convenient for them to pretend that people who commit suicide are simply making a choice that is their right.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  Most suicides are attempted out of mental illness, often temporary and passing conditions.

The other way they disparage inconvenient statistics is by claiming that overall murder rates are not conducive to the gun control argument and that's why we only look at gun-violence.  Well, in this case I think they work pretty well either way.  According to this article, firearm homicides are "over six times higher than neighboring Canada’s, and 45 times as high as England’s." When you consult the list of OVERALL murder rates by country you still see a huge difference between the US and Canada and the US and England.

As far as blocking research and data-keeping as a way of preventing useful diagnosis of the problem, well they just deny that outright. That's always they're fall-back position.


  1. "Meanwhile, the Bureau for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has been prohibited since 1978 from compiling meaningful data on firearms sales. Moreover, its field offices in states bordering Mexico where illegal arms trafficking is rife are underfunded and understaffed."

    For the most part, restrictions place on the ATF have been as a result of their own misbehavior. In fact, there are so many scandals that Wiki has to separate them by decades to keep them straight.

    In the 80's,

    "A Senate Subcommittee report stated that "Based upon these hearings it is apparent that ATF enforcement tactics made possible by current federal firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible."

    This resulted in the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986 to curb these abuses.

    In the 90's,

    Ruby Ridge and Waco. One was determined to be caused by entrapment, the other was just stupid people being allowed to make decisions.

    In the 2,000's,
    Was a slow time for them, they only misplaced 76 firearms and harassed female gun buyers in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

    Oops, almost forgot Operation Wide Receiver.

    In the 2010's,

    Fast and Furious.

    And they still haven't managed to fix the problem with misplacing firearms.


    And they still seem to be making some bad decisions in their operations. It definitely not the good idea fairy hitting people on the head there.


  2. Do you know what else dropped since the passage of the Brady Bill? Non-gun related homicide. And the USA supply of nuclear weapons. That was a hell of a bill, that Brady Bill.

    Mike, this article made no mention of overall murder rates. They started with "gun deaths" when they wanted to show stagnation, then moved to "gun homicides" when the wanted to attribute a larger drop to the Brady Bill. If they stayed on "gun homicides" the whole time they would have showed us that it's still declining- and that's not manipulative enough.

    1. Exactly. This article shifts gears without a clutch so often that this lemon won't drive.

    2. TS, aren't gun deaths and gun homicides the same? Don't they both include suicides? "Deaths" would also include accidents, I suppose, which would work AGAINST you latest accusation of purposeful manipulation.

    3. No. Homicide and suicide are different. Homicide means killing someone else, including justifiably and negligently, of which neither are murder.

    4. Yeah, that was pretty dumb of me. Gun deaths include suicides but gun homicides don't.

  3. You brought in overall murder rates when you wanted to compare us to one of our neighbors (not the one with five times our murder rate- but the other one).

    1. The reason Mexico is excluded from the discussion, if you want to be fair about it, is the same reason South Sudan is. Third world shit holes don't count, unless you want to grind your ax.

    2. So Mexico has no influence in this country?

      If you so desperately need to exclude "shit holes" because of reasons other than guns, maybe we should consider those reasons as being the real cause. Have you ever considered that maybe we have "shit holes" in this country too? Maybe 1/5th the "shit holes" Mexico has?

    3. Mexico's influence has nothing to do with it. Excluding 3rd world countries makes the comparison between the US and countries like Canada and the UK more valid. You want to include places like The Ivory Coast and Venezuela, it's easy to see why. It obscures the huge differences.

    4. Why does Mexico, the Ivory Coast, and Venezuela have so much worse violence than us? Can you answer that?

      And what rational do you have for excluding Russia? They're not third world.

    5. Nor is South Africa a third-world nation, but with strict gun control, that country also has a much higher homicide rate than ours.

    6. TS, Russia is not on any list of 1st World Countries that I've seen.

      I don't know why other countries have so much violence, but I'll bet you do. Why don't you tell us what your point is.

    7. Russia is considered "second world". The term comes from Cold War era where the communist block nations were the "second world" but it didn't have anything to do with the strength of their economy.

      As for my point, see my comment under your "first world nations" post.