I have been a member of the National Rifle Association since 1955 when I started shooting every week with a kids’ rifle team sponsored by the NRA. Incidentally, just to give you a little perspective, the team met each week in the rifle range of my brother’s junior high school, McFarland Junior High, which was located in the Petworth neighborhood of – ready? – Washington, D.C.

              Back in those days, the NRA spent little time or money advocating 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ because nobody was challenging the 2nd Amendment or even thinking about what the words actually meant.

              It wasn’t until after Kennedy was shot and a bill was introduced in Congress to create a big government regulatory infrastructure that the gun ‘issue’ reared its ugly head, and the eventual result was the passage of GCA68 which created an end-to-end gun-control system administered by the ATF.

              There wouldn’t have been a need for GCA68, nor would there have been what has since then become an endless and continuous gun debate, had the first federal gun-control law promulgated in 1934 contained one important provision requested by then Attorney General Homer Cummings, which was to define handguns as being as dangerous as fully automatic weapons and placing such guns on a restricted, heavily controlled list.

              A rigorous licensing process for owning handguns was actually implemented by every other country which has enacted gun-control laws, which is why no other advanced country has the degree of gun violence which has become endemic to the United States over the past fifty years.

              What has also become endemic to American society alongside an endless cycle of gun violence is the existence and activity of national, gun-control advocacy organizations which compete for attention both in federal and state governments with the NRA.

              The most active group, Everytown, started up in 2013, and got a big boost when it combined forces with another group, Moms Demand Action, founded by a great lady, Shannon Watts, shortly after the horrific slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School at the end of 2012.

              The Brady Campaign started up in 1989, using the mail list of another gun-control organizations, Handgun Control, Inc., which had been more or less moribund from when it was founded in 1980. There’s also the group started and run by Gabby Giffords, which basically piggybacks on other organizations in lobbying the feds and the states for more gun-control laws.

              Now we have a new group, Research Society for the Prevention of Firearm-Related Harms, which appears to be an amalgam of various academic research efforts funded by the usual, philanthropic gun-control suspects like the Joyce and Arnold Foundations along with input from the government via CDC and NIJ

              This group held what they refer to as an ‘historic’ conference last year and are planning another conference in November of this year. The 2022 conference evidently generated 600 registration requests (although I can’t find an actual attendance number) and the conference showcased at least 100 different presentations developed by academic specialists from colleges and universities in every region, if not just about every state in the United States. 

              I am very impressed by the breadth and depth of the program, and if this conference reflects how the gun violence research field has grown in the brief of time since the government once again renewed financial support for such efforts, there is no question that gun violence has now taken its deserved space as an issue of significance in terms of academic research.

              Unfortunately, what this conference and the formation of this new gun-control organization also reflects is the degree to which the study of gun violence and the actual commission of gun violence exist in totally disconnected and completely unrelated spheres.

In 2001, the national gun homicide rate (per 100,000 American population) was 3.93.  In 2021, the last year for which we have CDC injury data, the rate was 6.62 – almost double the 2001 rate. One might suppose that the 2021 number needs to be seen in a different context because that was the first, big Covid-19 year.

So, let’s go back to 2019, which was when the virus had not yet invaded the United States. That year, the gun-violence rate was 4.57, only an increase of slightly less than 20% above the 2001 rate. From 2001 through 2021, there were only 4 years where the gun homicide rate was less than what occurred in 2001.

And by the way, it should be noted that the CDC has given up even trying to figure out the rate for non-fatal, violent gun injuries, but the only difference between fatal and non-fatal shootings is that in the latter category, the shooter didn’t shoot straight. How anyone can use the current CDC data on shootings to discuss gun violence is beyond me.

Now let’s look at some other data, namely, what Americans think and believe about guns. Back in the 1960’s, a majority of Americans (60% as polled by Gallup) believed that privately-owned handguns should be banned. The last time this poll was conducted in 2020, the pro-ban percentage was down to 25%, the lowest it has ever been.

So, here we have an academic meeting bringing together gun researchers from throughout the United States who spend several days talking about the risks and dangers of guns. Meanwhile, not one presentation discussed the fact that what these experts are saying to one another is totally and completely rejected by American society at large.

The truth is that the community of gun-violence researchers in this country exists to talk to themselves. Which wouldn’t be such a problem if we didn’t have gun violence numbers placing us up there with such ‘advanced’ countries as Paraguay, Guyana and the Dominican Republic.

Any chance that the upcoming conference will spend a bit of time trying to figure out how to get the results of their research into the heads of an American public which doesn’t see any risk from the ownership of guns?