A recent PBS Frontline episode, “Gunned Down,” examines the disturbing political power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) – which has increasingly accommodated
its extreme elements in recent decades. This documentary would have benefited from more attention to problems of urban
gun violence in addition to school shootings and such atrocities as the attack on Gabrielle Giffords et al. in Arizona.
Also, it’s disappointing that the film doesn’t more explicitly treat the extent to which the NRA is supported
by gun manufacturers, not only by zealous gun owners (though the Frontline website does address this in
a separate segment with filmmaker Michael Kirk).
Still, the program is useful in exposing the scope of the NRA’s clout
in defeating even the most modest of safety measures: expanded background checks for gun purchasers. “Gunned Down”
implies what an effective counter to the NRA will demand: a mass mobilization of voters who favor the right not to get shot,
over the supposed “right” for virtually anyone to bear highly lethal weapons with the potential to kill many more
innocents – through accidents and intent – than they will protect.
just before the new year, a mother in Idaho was accidentally shot to death at a store by her two-year-old son when he unzipped
a purse that contained her (legal) concealed handgun. A Washington Post account quoted a friend of the deceased, whose comments seemed inadvertently to capture a kind of warped sensibility by which guns
are so normalized that they are taken for granted – even when there’s no real need for them, and they create more
hazards than they cure.
“In Idaho, we don’t have to worry about a lot of crime and things
like that…. To see someone with a gun isn’t bizarre. [The victim] wasn’t carrying a gun because she felt
unsafe. She was carrying a gun because she was raised around guns. This was just a horrible accident.”
to a fact sheet from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research,
“Compared to homes without guns, the presence of guns in the home is associated with a 3-fold
increased homicide risk within the home. The risk connected to gun ownership increases to 8-fold when the offender is an intimate
partner or relative of the victim and is 20 times higher when previous domestic violence exists.”
A February 2014 (February 8) post to this blog mentioned an article in Pediatrics on “Hospitalizations Due
to Firearm Injuries in Children and Adolescents,” as well as an American Psychological Association report, “Gun
Violence: Prevention, Prediction, and Policy.”
A January 2013 op-ed discussed “guns and security” from the perspective of a parent (me) whose own grandfather was an avid hunter
who owned many guns and gave him (me) a .22 caliber rifle for his (my) 11th birthday.
On the history of the Second Amendment, there is Saul Cornell’s book A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America.