, Salem, MA


February 4, 2013

Watson: Gun lobby distorts gun law facts and proposals

The good news is that the current gun control debate is large and prominent, and may be able to be sustained. Ample numbers of newspapers, politicians and citizens show every sign of desiring real change to the present status of the many factors involved behind mass shootings and other types of gun violence.

Whether we are discussing gun laws, the mental health system, the dynamics of media, video games, and the Internet, family dysfunction, the high school dropout rate, urban street violence, suicide or the sheer psychopathology of an individual shooter, there seems to be a growing appreciation that we can do better in adjusting the many and varied elements that make up the kaleidoscopic context in which gun violence occurs.

Last week, I wrote about improvements that we can make in our mental health system to better see and treat the mentally ill. This column will focus on the evolving debate about improving our gun laws.

In the United States, there are about 31,000 deaths — deliberate and accidental — per year at the end of the barrel of a gun. Almost two-thirds of those are suicides. There are roughly 330 million privately owned guns in the country, held by about 75 million owners. We have plenty of guns.

So, again, the good news is that a relatively wide public seems open to learning more about firearms and the American gun culture, and the laws, statistics, and organizational players that define the debate.

So what’s the bad news? The bad news is that a relatively small percentage of Americans refuse to even consider any further tightening of existing gun regulations; and furthermore, this minority, which is disproportionately loud, and empowered by its partnership with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its disproportionate (again) lobbying clout, engages in arguments that distort the rationale, goals, and content of the various, new proposals under consideration.

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