When all is really said and done, there’s one basic point of disagreement between Gun-sense Nation on the one hand, and Gun-nut Nation on the other. And the difference goes like this: Gun-sense Nation believes that 120,000+ or more gun deaths and gun injuries each year is a public health crisis which needs to be addressed the way we deal with all threats to public health, namely, through a combination of research, education, and enforced legislation. Gun-nut Nation, on the other hand, does not believe that guns cause any kind of threat to public health; to the contrary, legal gun ownership protects the public from threats to its welfare both from within the country and without.
I think that the gun violence prevention (GVP) community needs to stop worrying about what the other side says or what the other side thinks. To be honest, I’m not sure that anyone who truly believes that the 2nd Amendment keeps us ‘free’ or protects us from an invasion by ISIS has actually thought about the issue at all. And let’s not forget that we now have a real bully in the bully pulpit who appears to share Gun-nut Nation’s point of view. Nevertheless, the folks who want to do something about gun violence still need to figure out what to do.
Or more specifically, what to say. Because the argument between the two sides resembles a similar argument that made a brief appearance during the 2016 Republican primary campaign, when Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon, made a remarkable statement during the 2nd debate when he said there were many vaccines that aren’t really necessary, a claim that medical science has long ago decided is simply not true.
Carson was responding to a slimy attempt by Trump-o to thrill his supporters with yet another conspiracy theory, in this case the idea that childhood vaccines lead to autism, a loony and completely disproven idea that’s been floating around on the fringes of the mentally-challenged population for years. Unfortunately, what’s scientific fact to one person may be fiction to someone else, and if you don’t believe me, just spend some time perusing websites which claim that global warming is a complete and total hoax.
In essence, the GVP community faces the same issue every time they talk about gun violence as a public health problem, because they run smack up against a response from Gun-nut Nation which has nothing to do with science, or research, or facts at all. How many peer-reviewed articles have appeared in scientific/medical journals over the last 50 years which provide substantive data showing that access to guns increases the risk of getting shot or shooting yourself with a gun? Probably somewhere around 1,000 articles, give or take a few. How many articles have appeared in scientific/medical journals over the same time period which provide data supporting the idea that access to guns protects us from harm? None. That’s another way of saying ‘zero,’ in case you didn’t know.
So when it comes to figuring out whether guns are a good thing or a bad thing, or what I call the ‘social utility’ of guns, the scientific evidence goes in only one direction, the research uniformly says one thing: i.e., the social costs of free access to firearms outweighs the social benefits – period, done
There’s only one little problem. The people who promote free access to guns, who want everyone to walk around with a gun could care less about what the scientific evidence shows. And didn’t they just help elect a President who could also care less about the difference between fiction and fact? So Gun-sense Nation better figure out some messaging which can respond to how Gun-nut Nation feels about their guns. Because talking about gun violence by citing this or that scientific study works fine when you’re talking to someone who believes in science and facts. But what happens when you find yourself in a discussion about gun violence with someone who believes that Martins really did land in Area 51?