Who put the NRA in charge of our national security?Marian Wright Edelman / December 11, 2015
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With the echo of gunshots from the San Bernardino massacre ricocheting across the country, and another American community reeling with new broken hearts, it’s time for change. Since 1968 more than 164,000 children have died from gun violence in America—three times more than all the American soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam War and every external conflict since.
Mass shootings have become the new normal. Since the beginning of this year we’ve had on average more than one a day. Broken families and communities struggle to pick up the pieces. With too few exceptions nothing gets done and nothing seems to change.
Violence romps through our children’s playgrounds, terrifies them in their schools and child care centers, follows them down the street, and shoots through their bedroom windows. This should be the chief public health issue in America. Why in God’s name are we so reticent to stand up to the pro-gun lobby? Are we so spiritually dead that the killing of children has become routine and unimportant? Where is the faith community?
While mass shootings grab fleeting public and policymaker attention we too often ignore the relentless everyday trauma of gun violence.
Research efforts led to the creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a revolution in vehicle safety. Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president and CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, and many other public health professionals, believe the same approach can help end today’s epidemic of gun violence.
Polling consistently shows a vast majority of Americans, including a large majority of gun owners, support expanding background checks to cover all gun sales—yet Congress has not yet demonstrated its capacity to act on such a simple, life-saving measure. As a result, guns can be purchased without background checks from unlicensed private sellers and over the internet with no checks at all.
Some say that background checks alone will not prevent every gun tragedy and they won’t, but they are a critically important step forward. We need more research on laws, other policies, and technologies that might save more lives. Proposals to require background checks for ammunition sales, impose a tax on ammunition, require liability insurance for guns, and smart gun technologies all merit immediate attention. Sadly, the National Rifle Association, other members of the gun lobby, and their cowardly allies in Congress and in many state legislatures have barred the CDC from conducting research due to fears that research might show concrete ways to reduce its deadly impacts.
Why is the NRA afraid of the truth? Is it because they fear the research may show concrete ways to reduce the impact of guns which sapped 33,169 lives in America in 2013 and injured 83,075 yet remain the only unregulated consumer product? It makes no sense to regulate toy guns and not real guns. We should protect human beings rather than guns. Might not the truth make us all safer? We should retire the NRA as the director of our public health research.
If we truly want to end the cycle of death and violence from guns that pervades our daily lives, we must stop being numb and doing nothing in the face of tragedy. All of us—Democrats, Republicans, and independents, gun owners and non-gun owners—must stand up and demand every day that our leaders treat gun violence in America as the public health epidemic.
Polling consistently shows that the gun lobby does not speak for America, American gun owners, or even a majority of NRA members. Until we shake off our sense of hopelessness and apathy in the face of persistent tragedy and bullying by the pro-gun lobby in our communities, Congress and state legislatures will continue to do their bidding, putting their political lives ahead of the lives of our children and families and citizens who they are sworn to represent.
It’s way past time for the American people to retire the NRA as our head of national security and public health and assure the safety of our children and families everywhere in America.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information, go to www.childrensdefense.org.