(bought to you by FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com*)
America's flags are at half-staff. The country mourns the victims of six more handgun deaths. Those among them receiving the most media attention are the very popular Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, federal judge John M. Roll, and a nine-year-old girl, Christina Green, who played on the boys' baseball team, had just been elected to her student council, and came out to meet her member of Congress for the first time. E.g., Marc Lacey, "Federal Charges Cite Assassination Plan," New York Times, January 10, 2011, p. A1.
Meanwhile, the munitions makers, gun manufacturers, handgun retail outlets and shows, and their very generous campaign contributor and powerful lobbying arm, the National Rifle Association, like to disassociate themselves from America's handgun homicides.
One of their favorite lines is, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." To which one of the popular rejoinders of sanity has been, "Yeah, and toasters don't toast toast, people toast toast."
They are hoping that the fallout from Saturday's events will soon blow over and handgun sales will not only return to normal, but may actually increase.
Sadly, although the memories of Saturday will gradually fade, the nation's deaths from handguns will not. Over 30,000 Americans will die from guns. Of the 18,000 homicide deaths, 68% will involve guns. Few if any Japanese will die from gunshot wounds; their rates of gun deaths are a minuscule fraction of ours.
According to the CDC's latest statistics, of 18,361 homicides 12,632 were death by handgun. "FastStats: Homicide," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of course, homicide is not the only cause of firearm deaths. The total death toll is closer to 31,000.
Firearm—In 2006, 30,896 persons died from firearm injuries in the United States (Tables 18–20), accounting for 17.3 percent of all injury deaths that year. Firearm suicide and homicide, the two major component causes, accounted for 54.6 and 41.4 percent, respectively, of all firearm injury deaths in 2006. In 2006, the age-adjusted death rate for firearm suicide decreased significantly from 2005 by 3.5 percent, from 5.7 deaths per 100,000 U.S. standard population to 5.5. However, the age-adjusted rate for all firearm injuries was the same in 2006 as in 2005—10.2 deaths per 100,000 U.S. standard population (Tables 18–20).CDC, National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 57, No. 14, April 17, 2009, p. 11.
And for every firearm death there are twice as many firearm injuries.
Firearm injury in the United States has averaged 32,300 deaths annually between 1980 and 2006 (See Figure 1).2,3 It is the second leading cause of death from injury after motor vehicle crashes.4 An estimated two nonfatal injuries occur for every firearm death.5,6 The 2006 age adjusted death rate from firearm injury is 10.2/100,000 with an estimated nonfatal injury rate of 23.6.7 Firearms are involved in 68% of homicides, 52% of suicides, 43% of robberies, and 21% of aggravated assaults.8,7 Deaths peaked in 1993 at 40,000 in the early 1990s and fell below 30,000 in 1999. Yet even at these lower levels, firearm injury represents a significant public health impact, accounting for 6.6% of premature death in this country (Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) prior to age 65).9 The fatality rate of firearm violence is more than twice the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Healthy People” goal for the year 2010.Firearm & Injury Center at Penn, Firearm Injury in the U.S., Final Resource Book Updated 2009.
And so how has the Iowa Legislature responded to this carnage? Why by giving the NRA what it wants in exchange for its campaign contributions and members' votes -- an increase in gun sales as a result of a new law creating an ability for virtually all Iowans to carry concealed handguns, notwithstanding the judgment of their local sheriff that it's dangerous to give them a permit to carry. Tom Alex, "Iowans flock to sheriffs to apply for gun permits," Des Moines Register, January 5, 2011 ("Several Iowa sheriffs' offices reported receiving 10 to 20 times as many weapons permit applications on Monday as they do most days. Monday was the first day government offices were open since Saturday, when a law took effect that requires sheriffs under most circumstances to issue permits to carry concealed weapons. Sheriffs previously had greater discretion to deny or restrict such permits.").
Even in the lawless, wild west of old, Iowans had the sense to forbid six-shooters in bars and taverns. Iowa's legislators, yearning for the past, missed that nuance, and have provided that even those who can't walk and chew gum at the same time can legally drink and carry a gun at the same time.
Of course, it doesn't help when politicians say "don't retreat, reload," or put gun sights over opponents congressional districts (as Sarah Palin did with Congresswoman Giffords' district), or talk show hosts speak of "Second Amendment solutions," or say that when ballots don't work there are always bullets. If America's largest corporations think what they say in their multi-billion-dollar advertising on radio and TV is powerful enough to manipulate human behavior, it's hard to believe that illusions to assassination are totally harmless. See, e.g., Paul Krugman, "Climate of Hate," New York Times, January 10, 2011, p. A21; Froma Harrop, "Despite gunman's mental state, it was still a political attack," Dallas Morning News, January 11, 2011.
House Speaker John Boehner['s] . . . contention that this was "an attack on all who serve" wasn't quite right. Jared Lee Loughner['s] . . . attack was not against "all who serve." It was on a Democrat who had been vilified by a gun-waving right wing that Boehner's party tolerates and feeds with self-pitying visions of oppression. Democrats have no Palin-like figure putting political opponents in the cross hairs of gun sights . . .. There is no Democratic version of Giffords' recent Republican opponent . . . "Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." . . . Jeff McQueen, a tea party "leader" . . . told NPR: "We have a choice of four boxes if we want to make political change in this country. We can go to the soap box, we can go to the ballot box, or we can go to the jury box, and hopefully, we won't have to go to the bullet box." . . . Tom Ashbrook responded: "Bullet box! Are you talking about armed revolution?" McQueen answered . . ., "Have you seen ammunition sales in the last 12 months?" . . . [T]he Republican senatorial candidate in Nevada, Sharron Angle . . . added, "I hope we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies."But however much debate there may be regarding the impact of speech, there should be very little debate regarding the impact of guns. The numbers are overwhelming.
Of course the real problem is all the frustration building up in those Americans who are still convinced they don't need a toaster to toast toast.
Related: Nicholas Johnson, "Branstad and Public Transparency," Iowa City Press-Citizen, January 5, 2011, p. A7, embedded in "Governor Branstad's 'Transparency,'" January 5, 2011 (urging more media stories that "associate those appropriations [of taxpayers' money to for-profit corporations] with the legislators who voted for them, and how much those legislators received in campaign contributions and lobbying expenses from the recipient of the appropriation.").
Nicholas Johnson, "Police Accidental Shootings -- Of Themselves; Additional Risks from Armed (Campus and Other) Police: Accidental Self-Inflicted Wounds," May 9, 2008.
Nicholas Johnson, "A Public Health Response to Handgun Injuries: Prescription -- Communication and Education," American Journal of Preventive Medicine (May/June 1993) ("So long as we are unwilling to adopt effective, fail-safe solutions--actually removing these instruments of carnage from our midst--the price exacted for this "freedom" will continue to be thousands of lives of children and adults.").
* Why do I put this blog ID at the top of the entry, when you know full well what blog you're reading? Because there are a number of Internet sites that, for whatever reason, simply take the blog entries of others and reproduce them as their own without crediting the source. I don't mind the flattering attention, but would appreciate acknowledgment as the source -- even if I have to embed it myself.
-- Nicholas Johnson