Sunday, January 27, 2013

Top Ten Myths about Guns



Myth #1: Automatic weapons are already illegal in the US. 
"Federal law does not prohibit the ownership of any weapon, said Ginger Colbrun, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman in Washington. In order to buy or own certain firearms, including automatic weapons, machine guns and bazookas, people do have to apply for permission from the federal government. But as long as the application for a restricted firearm is approved, and there is no state law barring ownership of that type of gun, it's legal." (From the Associated Press)
Myth #2:  The shooter in Newtown did not use a Bushmaster assault weapon; he left it in the trunk of his car.
"Lt. J. Paul Vance, the face of an ongoing Connecticut State Police investigation into the worst grade-school shooting in U.S. history, Thursday debunked media and Internet reports that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza killed his victims with handguns and not the Bushmaster XM-15 E2S rifle that is now the focus of a proposed federal assault-weapons ban. All 26 of Lanza's victims were shot with the .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle, said Vance, who bristled at claims to the contrary during an interview with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers."
"It's all these conspiracy theorists that are trying to muck up the waters," said Vance, the longtime state police spokesman. (From The Greenwich Times)
Myth #3:  We don't need more gun laws.  We just need enforcement of the ones we already have.
"The hypocrisy of the N.R.A.’s argument that the problem is weak enforcement is exposed by its efforts over the years to undercut what enforcement there is. It has tried mightily to ensure that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks the leadership, resources and legal authority to do its job properly. Restrictions enacted at the gun lobby’s behest make it exceedingly hard to identify dealers who falsify sales records, for example, and bar the bureau from putting gun-sale records into a central database for speedy tracing of weapons used in crimes.'
"... the N.R.A. campaigned (for) the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, a misnamed law that has made it difficult to investigate and prosecute gun trafficking to this day. For example, it protects unscrupulous gun dealers by prohibiting A.T.F. agents from making more than one unannounced inspection a year. It also makes it hard to revoke their licenses.
Keeping guns out of the wrong hands has never been a gun lobby priority. Its priority has been weak enforcement of weak laws." (New York Times)
Myth #4: There's no such thing as a "military style" assault weapon. The weapons targeted in the proposed assault weapons ban are no different than hunting rifles.  
If these weapons are not military style, why are they advertised as combat rifles?




















Myth #5: The gun industry is being unfairly targeted.  What about cars, knives and hammers?  
Cars, most knives and hammers have a function that goes beyond killing.  Guns can be used for target practice and hunting, but some guns are designed specifically for killing (humans). The gun industry is unique in having virtually NO regulations on manufacturing or safety.  Cars are heavily regulated.  (See If Guns Were Treated Like Cars)  Unlike the gun industry, those manufacturing and selling hammers, knives and everything else you can buy are subject to strict regulations as well as being subject to lawsuits from citizens for unsafe products.  The gun industry has been immune from lawsuits since 2005.
 Myth #6: There are already 200 million guns in the US. It's too late for gun control laws.
Unfortunately, we have no reliable count either of the numbers of guns nor the numbers of gun owners. But several have proposed regulations on ammunition, including registration of purchases, limiting magazine sizes and using serial numbers for tracking.  (See Reuters) There have also been some highly successful buy-back programs in several high crime cities.
  Myth #7: The NRA represents gun owners.
The NRA self-reports about four million members, or a little over 1% of the population (4% of the estimated gun owners). Membership benefits include an NRA cap and a newsletter.  They do not include a voice in the NRA's political activities.  Membership dues constitute less than half of the revenue received by the NRA; the bulk provided by gun manufacturers. Positions taken by the board are not necessarily supported by members.  As an example, 74% of members support criminal background checks for gun owners, a position opposed by the NRA.  The NRA's board is almost entirely made up of industry representatives, who sponsor legislation that protects the industry, not gun owners.  It would be rather like the beef industry claiming to represent the rights of meat eaters, then pushing for deregulation that puts meat eaters at risk of a defective product.  The NRA is a corporate lobbying group masquerading as a membership organization. (Huffington Post)
Myth #8: Gun owners must be registered and submit to background checks.
True of only 60% of gun purchasers, those who buy from licensed dealers.  The other 40% purchase weapons online, at gun shows and from individual sellers who are not required to follow the Brady Law.  At armslist.com, I found UZIs and AK-47s among the offerings available for purchase in my community -- without any registration requirements.
Myth #9: Having a gun in your home makes you safer.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a study in 1993 showing that a gun owner was more than four times more likely to be shot than to use his gun in self-defense. An enraged NRA responded by pushing through Congress a law barring the CDC from further research on gun violence.
"In 1998, for every time a woman used a handgun to kill in self-defense, 101 women were murdered with a handgun. Despite the promises of gun-industry advertising, a woman is far more likely to be the victim of a handgun homicide than to use a handgun in a justifiable homicide. In 1998, handguns were used to murder 1,209 women. That same year, 12 women used handguns to kill in self-defense.  When a woman did use a handgun to kill in self-defense, it was usually against someone she knew, not against a stranger. Of the 12 handgun self-defense killings by women reported to the FBI in 1998, eight involved attackers known to the woman, while only four involved strangers."
But good luck following up on these studies. As reported in the New York Times, the CDC goes so far as to “ask researchers it finances to give it a heads-up anytime they are publishing studies that have anything to do with firearms. The agency, in turn, relays this information to the NRA as a courtesy.” (From Salon and The Violence Policy Center)
Myth #10: The problem is mental illness.  People with mental illnesses should not be allowed to buy guns.
The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that during our lifetimes, 46.4% (almost half) of us will suffer from at least one form of mental illness.  The vast majority will be undiagnosed. Banning everyone labelled mentally ill, regardless of diagnosis and even though very few represent any sort of threat, is a diversion.  Perhaps instead we should look to the psychiatric manual -- the DSM-IV -- and identify those mental illnesses whose symptoms include a fascination with weapons.  Then how exactly would the NRA suggest we proceed with those evidencing this symptom? (NIMH)

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