A recent study in Preventive Medicine found that the gun homicide rate in the United States is 25 times that of other high-income countries. We don’t have higher rates of mental illness, and we don’t play more violent video games. What we do have more of in this country — a lot more of — is guns.
In 2017 there were 120.5 guns per 100 hundred people, or more guns than people in the United States. The country that comes closest is war-torn Yemen, with 52.8 guns per 100 residents. Contrary to the idea that more guns make us safer, rates of gun-related homicide are higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership.
We didn’t get into this situation by accident, but because the National Rifle Association started, years ago, to instill fear in gun owners. By defining gun violence as a political issue, the NRA created two “sides” pitted against each other. Then they persuaded gun owners not to trust the “other” side, because “they” want to take away all the guns.
But gun violence is no more “political” than cancer or addiction. Imagine wanting to restrict opioid prescriptions after a wave of overdoses and being shamed because “this is a time for grieving, not political posturing.” Gun violence is a public health crisis that kills just as effectively whatever your political affiliation.
What about the slippery slope argument that if you let “them” impose any regulations or ban any type of weapon, the inevitable result is that “they” will take all the guns away? Slippery slopes are fallacies because they aren’t supported by evidence — only unfounded fear. There is no reason to ban handguns or rifles that are purchased legally, stored safely and used responsibly. But there are good reasons to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines: Their only purpose is killing large numbers of people. No civilian needs an assault weapon.
And don’t we all want to keep guns out of the hands of people who are likely to kill someone? Proposals such as universal background checks and fingerprint IDs so guns can only be fired by their owners are designed to keep all of us safe — gun owners and their families included.
It’s time to stop the NRA from pitting Americans against each other. Gun violence deprives us all of the freedom to live our lives without fear. It’s time we took that freedom back.