You may believe that the reason the NRA is so powerful is because of all the money they spread around Congress to block any sensible gun reforms. But that’s actually putting the cart before the horse, because what really makes them effective is the fact that a majority of shootings are classified as crimes, and Gun Nation has been very successful convincing everyone that they need to be concerned about crime and not about guns.
It’s a hard argument to refute when the numbers are on their side. In 2013, the last year for numbers in every gun violence category, there were 117,613 killed or wounded with guns. Of this total, just short of 80,000 were homicides or aggravated assaults, another 21,000 were suicides and the remainder, roughly 17,000, were accidents of whom more than 97% lived. The bottom line is that when we talk about gun violence, like it or not, we are talking about crime.
And the NRA never misses an opportunity to remind us that guns aren’t the problem, it’s the bad guys, the criminals who are the problem. And since everybody knows that criminals by definition don’t obey laws, why pass more gun laws, particularly when all you end up doing is making it more difficult for all those law-abiding gun owners to enjoy playing around with their guns?
Ever since Gun Nation discovered that hunting was on the wane, some new rationale had to be advanced to promote the ownership of guns. And what better use for a gun than to keep it around just in case one of those bad guys comes crashing through a window or the back door? And if you then produce studies which shows that law-abiding Americans use guns several million times each year to protect themselves from all those bad guys, how can you go wrong?
You can go wrong if what you are saying has little, if anything, to do with the truth. And in that regard the National Bureau of Economic Research has just published a study on teen-age criminality that should be required reading for everyone concerned about GVP. The NBER is an independent economic think-tank that, among other things, is mandated by Congress to tell us when recessions begin and when they end. NBER also looks at a wide variety of issues that affect American society, and one of the issues that obviously impacts our society is the issue of crime. This particular study examined the various factors which lead teen-age boys to form what the authors refer to as criminal ‘partnerships’ which result in the commission of crimes. These partnerships or networks appear to develop around age 14, and they result in much higher levels of criminal activity than what is committed by kids acting on their own.
Couple this information with studies on adolescent gun access and a very interesting picture begins to emerge. Alan Lizotte found that boys start carrying guns around age 14 and “the amount of serious violent crime the boys committed during periods of active gun carrying was more than five times the amount they committed when they did not carry guns.” And where do these two groups – gun carriers and crime partnerships – intersect? Not so much in the neighborhood, not so much in the street corner, but in school. The NBER found that of all the factors involving personal contact which then leads to crime, it is the degree to which these adolescent boys first connect with one another in the same classrooms to which they are assigned.
The NRA promotes gun safety education in schools so maybe we should take them at their word. But instead of telling kids how to behave safely with guns, how about the NRA saying that they shouldn’t own a gun at all? If school-age kids don’t start carrying around guns, they can’t turn into bad guys and without all those bad guys, the rest of us wouldn’t need guns. Simple, isn’t it?