I have been following the gun debate since 1963 when Senator Dodd introduced a bill that eventually became the law known as GCA68. The reason I got interested in gun law was because my great-Uncle Ben was manufacturing a crummy, little 22-caliber revolver that broke after the 2nd or 3rd shot. It was a classic Saturday Night Special and Dodd wanted to get rid of those guns to help maintain the market for real Connecticut gun makers like Winchester, Ruger and Colt. So what I say now is based on following the argument about guns for more than fifty years.
For at least twenty of those fifty years, perhaps thirty, the NRA and its pro-gun allies have been telling us that guns aren’t a problem as long as they don’t get into the wrong hands. And if they do fall into the wrong hands, we can count on all the good guys with guns to set matters straight. Mad Dog Lott, one of the chief propagandists for the NRA, said it last night like this: “Guns can do bad things, but they can also do good things.” He then went on to claim, without a shred of evidence, that he knew of “dozens” of mass shootings that were prevented by good guys with guns.
I don’t really care about whether John Lott can distinguish between what is true and what is false. What concerns me is the idea that an event as horrific as yesterday’s shooting could be discussed or even thought about in terms of ‘good’ versus ‘bad.’ It has nothing to do with good or bad, right or wrong. It has to do with a moral imperative: Thou Shalt Not Kill. And despite the attempts by the NRA and sycophantic jack-offs like John Lott to reduce such awful events to a tit-for-tat analysis, we need to stop allowing the pro-gun community to set the terms of the debate.
A good friend who happens to be one our most important public health researchers on gun violence said to me last night, “You know Mike, the problem is that if we are going to claim the high moral ground on this issue, we need to make sure that everything we say can be indisputably supported by the facts.” With all due respect, that’s really besides the point. When you stick a gun in someone’s face and pull the trigger, you’re committing an act of gun violence. And it doesn’t matter if you pull the trigger because you’re trying to protect yourself or protect anyone else. You’ve committed a violent act because you used a gun. And the truthfulness of that last sentence doesn’t require any research at all.
My problem is that whenever there’s an act of gun violence someone from the pro-gun gang ends up on radio or television spinning the ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ argument again and again. The NRA is relentless in this respect, their self-appointed minions like Mad Dog Lott endlessly promote the armed citizen nonsense without regard for the facts, and sooner or later they gain the upper hand because the other side of the argument doesn’t yet match their tenacity or resolve. If the White House is painted red in 2017, I guarantee we will have a national, concealed-carry law that will make the armed citizen as American as apple pie.
I think that groups fighting to reduce gun violence need to come together and develop some kind of ongoing media effort to proactively engage America in a serious debate about gun violence, rather than a debate based on the necessity of preserving 2nd-Amendment rights. If Hillary wants to lead a discussion that “balances” the 2nd Amendment with “preventive measures,” that’s her business. What I want is to turn on my television or radio and hear someone talk about the fact that more guns equals more gun violence. It’s as simple as that and it needs to be said again and again.