The response to the Orlando massacre on June 12 has stirred some in the U.S. Senate to hold a filibuster and some in the U.S. House to have a sit-in to force action on gun legislation. Bills to address background checks and terrorism from the left and the right have failed, and now we wait for compromise bills in the House and Senate, addressing the narrow range of restrictions on suspected terrorists to acquire guns.
The problem the U.S. faces in regard to guns is multifaceted. Terrorists caused very few of the more than 33,000 gun deaths in recent years. Few of these deaths even occurred in the context of mass murders. Easy access to guns and ammunition, differing state laws regarding guns and permits to acquire and carry, and a lax attitude toward gun safety measures, all contribute to the accumulation of gun deaths and injuries every year. The killing of African Americans by police in Baton Rouge and outside St. Paul, followed by the attack on police in Dallas, exemplify the problem of easy access to guns and the fear that leads to mortal mistakes and greater desire for revenge.
On July 16, Iowans for Gun Safety will be showing a documentary that portrays five kinds of gun deaths in this country. They follow situations including domestic violence, accidental child deaths, homicides in Chicago, a suicide of a young adult, and the mass murder at the Aurora, Colorado theater. The film is “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA.” It will be shown from 1:30 to 4:30 in Beems A at the downtown Cedar Rapids library, with time following the showing for discussion. There is no charge, but a freewill offering will be sought. This is a film for adults who are concerned with gun violence in any form.
The domestic violence example portrays a woman who meets a man online, is swept up by him, becomes pregnant, marries him, and then discovers that he has a violent side and on ongoing interest in other women. Her family tries to protect her but suffers also.
The accidental child death scenario involves teenagers finding and playing with a gun that had been stored forgotten under a bed. Easy accessibility is at home as well as on the internet or at gun shows.
Homicides in Chicago continue to happen at alarming rates, despite the strong gun laws of Illinois. Weak laws in many surrounding and even distant states, such as Indiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin, worsen the local problems in the city. Iowa is one of the 15 states with the highest number of guns used in crime in Chicago. Additionally, some gun stores in the vicinity of Chicago are “bad apples” that sell guns to straw purchasers and people who should not be buying them.
Two thirds of the gun deaths each year are suicides, done by people from adolescence to old age. Among younger people, the decision to take one’s own life is often impulsive. The presence of the gun allows the self-inflicted shot to occur within minutes of the impulse.
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Mass murders such as that in Aurora are possible because of the availability of high-powered assault weapons and the ammunition for them, combined with a person who may be suicidal.
The sale of guns and ammunition profits gun companies with millions of dollars, which they can use to influence politicians’ decisions. “Follow the money” certainly applies in the case of America’s gun deaths and injuries. Come see the whole documentary. Saturday, July 16, from 1:30-4:30 p.m., at the Cedar Rapids Library, Beems A, and sign up with Iowans for Gun Safety to help with measures to reduce gun violence in Iowa and the USA.
• Jeremy Brigham is executive director of Iowans for Gun Safety. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org