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It is high time we confront basic and overriding realities -- realities that the $12-billion-a-year gun industry, operating through its principal lobbyist, the National Rifle Association (NRA), tirelessly strives to obfuscate and conceal.

friendly fire

It's the Guns, Stupid!—Ernest Canning

The scourge of gun-related mass murder in this country cannot be resolved by either counterterrorism or by the expansion of gun ownership. To the contrary, there is, according to a 2007 Harvard study, a direct correlation between increases in firearm ownership and the number of gun-related deaths.


Statistically, we would do well to learn from Australia.

In 1996, a 28-year old man, armed with a semi-automatic Colt AR-15, killed 35 people and wounded 23 more in what became known as the Port Arthur Massacre. A then conservative-led Australian government promptly passed the National Firearms Agreement (NFA). With narrow exceptions, the NFA banned the sale of shotguns and all automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons, imposed a 28-day waiting period for all gun purchases, created a national gun registry and arranged for a massive government buy-back of existing firearms.

Over the past twenty (20) years Australia, which has experienced a significant drop in gun-related deaths, has not suffered so much as a single case of mass murder. By contrast, in just one year, 2015, there were more than 350 cases of mass murder by firearms in the U.S.

Numerous triggers

There are a wide array of triggering mechanisms for mass murder. These include, but are not limited to, disgruntled employees, the breakup of a romantic relationship and a response to school bullying.

Donald Trump and other NRA-supported Congressional Republicans isolate events like San Bernardino and Orlando. They focus on immigration and what they describe as "radical Islam." This ignores the fact that many of the worst cases of mass murder in the U.S. can be appropriately attributed to U.S.-born white men and what could equally be described as "radical Christianity."

Whether the trigger is political, religious or apolitical, however, it is the gun that is the common facilitator.

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Fear + guns = disaster

Anecdotal as well as statistical evidence belies the NRA fantasy that more guns make us safe.

Those of us who have served in combat understand all too well the dangers posed by "friendly fire" -- a danger that is especially acute by the risk that innocents could be caught in a cross-fire between a heavily armed assailant and a well-intentioned but inadequately trained "good guy" with a gun.

Indeed, the danger of friendly fire exists even where the "good guys" have received extensive training in firearms safety. That much was demonstrated on the morning of February 7, 2013 when, without warning, a group of police officers opened fire on a Toyota pickup truck that was driven by a 71 year-old Hispanic woman and her 46 year-old daughter.

The two women were slowly proceeding up a residential street as they delivered copies of the L.A. Times. The officers, who LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck said were operating under "incredible tension," mistook their blue Toyota for the gray Nissan Titan that was owned by former LAPD officer-turned-cop-killer Christopher Dorner, a 33 year-old, 6'2" African-American. An embarrassed City of Los Angeles ultimately agreed to pay $4.2 million to these two innocent friendly fire victims for the injuries they sustained.

Political Response to Erroneous 2nd Amendment Ruling

At present, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) represents the principal legal obstacle to sane legislation designed to place the interests of public safety over gun industry profits.

Writing on behalf of a narrow 5-4 right-wing majority, the late Justice Antonin Scalia opined that D.C.'s ban on handguns violated an individual's Second Amendment right to bear arms.

In an erudite dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens forcefully argued that the majority's conclusion that the Second Amendment secures an individual's right to bear arms unconnected to the maintenance of a well-regulated militia was at odds with text, history and precedent. That precise issue had arisen in U.S. v. Miller (1939), where the Supreme Court upheld a conviction under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because there was no evidence that would demonstrate that the use of a sawed-off shotgun bore a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficacy of a well regulated militia."

The GOP's NRA-supported decision to block President Barack Obama' nomination of D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland has turned the legal issue of whether Heller should be overruled into a political issue. With the 2016 election looming, the question as to whether the right of governments to elevate the safety and lives of its citizenry above gun industry profits is in the hands of the electorate.


Ernest Canning