The reactions on both sides are entirely predictable following incidents of gun violence. As a National Rifle Association member, I always expect an immediate request for donations to fight proposed new restrictions. Similarly, gun-control advocates raise money by making certain that guns – not terrorism – will be blamed for the tragic deaths.
On the anti-gun side it was indeed troubling to recently see members of the House of Representatives conducting a 1960s-style sit-in, and fundraising drive, in our Capitol building. It was an insult to that worldwide symbol of democracy.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, led that demonstration and is rightfully labeled a civil rights icon who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But let us ignore political correctness – he certainly knows America’s biggest gun problem is black kids killing other black kids in our drug- and gang-infested inner cities. The 6,095 black homicide victims, 90 percent killed by other black citizens, far outnumbered the 5,397 white victims, according to the 2014 FBI Uniform Crime Report.
Anti-gun advocates could save 5,000 lives a year if they could magically reduce the relative homicide rates for black citizens to the same level suffered by the rest of the population. Disarming law-abiding white suburbanites won’t solve that problem. But facts don’t matter. Political correctness doesn’t permit our politicians to have an open debate.
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At age 75, perhaps I am becoming too cynical. Does either side really want a real conversation? Or, does the never-ending battle over gun control simply serve as a lucrative means to raise donations? Too many people profit as long as the debate continues – including the 24-hour cable TV networks that are fanning the flames of outrage just like an arsonist fireman.
In reality, you are far more likely to be killed by a texting teen driver than a madman with a gun. According to the 2014 FBI Report, 40 California residents were killed by rifles of all styles – including the infamous AR-15. By comparison, there were 650 cellphone-related fatalities according to the California Highway Patrol.
In life we weigh the risks to our personal safety every day. Travel on the risky Labor Day weekend? Put on that life vest? Drive home after a couple of drinks? So where do guns rank as a cause of death? The FBI report says 248 Americans were killed by rifles of all types, another 5,562 from handguns and 2,288 were killed by a shotgun or an unidentified firearm. Stabbings or beatings killed 2,662 people. The majority of victims were black.
By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control says 21,175 people used a gun to commit suicide; 39,000 died from accidental poisoning; vehicle accidents killed 34,000 – including 10,000 that involved alcohol – and accidental falls killed 30,000 of us. And after another deadly weekend on the Valley’s lakes and rivers, we should not be surprised that 3,391 Americans drowned in 2014.
There are some people who would like the U.S. to have the same highly restrictive laws as Mexico, where there is only one legal gun store in the entire country. Unfortunately, their disarmed citizens are being overrun by well-equipped drug cartels. More than 15,600 people were killed in their gun-free society last year. That is the equivalent of more than 41,000 deaths in the much larger U.S.
It does seem to make sense to ban the 109,000 people on the no-fly list or “TSA selectee list,” from buying guns – but an anonymous bureaucrat determines who gets that designation. The approximately 2,700 U.S. citizens on the lists deserve their constitutional right of due process before losing their Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, some senators blocked a compromise proposal that would simply delay their purchase for three days until the government could make their case before a judge.
As mobs demonize our police, we may have to face a future where too many good men and women leave the profession. Today’s protesting single mom raising her kids in the inner city will rue the day when her neighborhood becomes a police-free zone. The rest of us are left to contemplate how to protect our own families if the mobs breach the thin blue line that preserves law and order.
Jerrold H. Jensen is a resident of Visalia. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.