The Gun Debate Through The Eyes Of Former Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords
(MintPress) – In an effort to offset the political power of the National Rifle Association (NRA), former Arizona Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords and her husband are launching an organization aimed not at taking Americans’ guns away, but on reforming gun control in America.
Their actions are spurred by the 11 mass shootings in the U.S. since the time of the attack on Giffords, yet both she and her husband, Mark Kelly, say the Sandy Hook shootings that left 20 children dead was the last straw. The two proud gun owners say now is the time to issue reform, in some way, shape or form that would limit access to the criminal and mentally ill.
“In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary — nothing at all,” Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, wrote in a story published by USA Today.
The NRA’s lobby power in the gun arena is unprecedented. No other organization has the political sway the NRA holds. It’s for that reason Giffords is launching her organization, in an attempt to provide a balance.
Gifford’s organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions is open for contributions. Not even a week after the launch, the organization’s website had nearly 30,000 followers. While many in America are on board with the organization’s causes, it differs from the NRA in the sense that it does not represent a business — it represents solely an ideology and cause.
“Special interests purporting to represent gun owners but really advancing the interests of an ideological fringe have used big money and influence to cow Congress into submission,” Giffords and Kelly wrote in a USA Today. “Rather than working to find the balance between our rights and the regulation of a dangerous product, these groups have cast simple protections for our communities as existential threats to individual liberties.”
Guns in America: A look at the statistics
This gun debate in America is arguably one of the most polarizing issues of today, with two very different mentalities and viewpoints on the issue. The nation is literally split in the middle on the matter, with 52 percent favoring gun restrictions, according to a recent CNN poll.
Some see guns as a method of protection — a means to prevent violence against themselves and loved ones. Others see rampant gun use as a threat — one that can only be diminished through the elimination of ‘killing machine’ guns and the implementation of laws that inhibit the ability of those with a propensity to violence from obtaining such weapons.
So, who is right? Perhaps no one, but the task of the president now is to create change in the wake of a nationwide consensus that there is a problem — rooted in something.
While statistics are debated on both sides of the issue, America is undeniably the leader in terms of gun ownership. The U.S. leads the world in ownership, with 88 guns for every 100 Americans. Yemen comes in second with 54 guns for every 100 citizens. By the same comparison, for every 100 people in Saudi Arabia, there are 35 guns.
Sixty percent of homicides in the U.S. are the result of gun violence, accounting for 9,146, according to U.N. data. By all accounts, this data suggests there is an issue relating to gun violence — and gun homicide — in America. Yet it’s not the highest in the world. Brazil, for example, had 34,678 homicides by firearms in 2011 — only eight guns exist for every 100 citizens.
There’s also debate over the rate of overall crime in the U.S., compared to other countries. The United Kingdom, which is home to 6.2 guns per every 100 citizens does have a higher crime rate than the U.S., with nearly 1.16 million violent crimes — or 2,034 offenses per 100,000 people, according to statistics compiled by the Daily Mail. The U.S., on the other hand, has 466 crimes per 100,000 people.
And while the crime rate might be lower in the U.S., the likelihood of death by firearms is far higher. While more than 9,000 gun-related homicides in the U.S. during 2011, the U.K. only experienced 41.
The debate right now has included a statistical firestorm, using the figures to prove that guns either curb violence — or increase firearm murder rates.
And while the statistics are beneficial to policy makers and advocates on both sides of the aisle, the simple fact remains that there is a problem in America regarding gun violence and mental health disorders.
Sixty-two mass shootings have taken place in America since 1982, 25 of which have taken place in the last six years. Seven mass shootings occurred in 2012 alone. There is a problem — and it’s not going away.
The most recent mass shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut brought the issue to a head. Children were shot in a classroom, and the issue became too large to ignore.
Eyes on Biden, Obama
In response to the Connecticut school shooting — and the 11 mass shootings that have taken place in the two years since the attack on Giffords — President Barack Obama has been vocal in the need for gun control reform.
“He is mindful of the need to act,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said at a press conference Tuesday.
While entertaining the idea of an assault weapons ban, he has never acknowledged a plan to take away all of Americas’ guns.
As part of a plan for a balanced approach to the gun debate, Vice President Joe Biden met this week with the NRA, along with victims’ organizations and representatives with the entertainment and video games industry. While holding a press conference Thursday to report on the White House’s gun violence task force, the nation learned that yet another school shooting had taken place — this time at a high school in California.
Biden acknowledged the issue to be multi-faceted, referring to it as one that lacked a single answer. Having said that, the issue of gun control is part of the White House’s equation in its attempt to curb gun violence. The plan, he said, would include a “strong” background check system.
Federal regulations still do not mandate background checks for guns sold at gun shows — this is a loophole that has long been called on for closure. It would, of course, hurt gun sales. The NRA, which represents the gun manufacturers, opposes such a move.
According to a CNN interview conducted after the Connecticut shootings, 43 percent of Americans said the elementary incident made them more likely to favor gun control laws — that was a 15 percent increase from January 2011.
Talk of any limitations on gun purchases at all have resulted in good business for those very gun manufacturers. Gun shops throughout the country are reporting record sales, claiming customers are fearful their rights to purchase weapons legally is coming to a halt. The same thing happened in the wake of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ controversy that stemmed from the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
A city council in Utah unanimously passed an ordinance recommending that each household in the town of Spring City have a firearm on hand. This was after a proposal that required such an ordinance — the council didn’t feel it appropriate to require it, but at least encourage it. It also set aside funding to offer concealed firearms training to teachers at the local elementary school.
Meanwhile, city council members in Burlington, Vt. are attempting to ban semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines, representing the divide in America today — and the need for Giffords’ new organization to serve as a counter voice to the NRA. Its supporters are there. The question now is whether one side will ‘win,’ or if effective communication will lead to a decision both sides of the aisle can agree on.
It’s not likely, but for Giffords, it’s worth an attempt.
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