Monday, January 14, 2008

America's gun culture - fading slowly? Bernd Debusmann | Reuters

America's gun culture - fading slowly?

One of my favorite leisure time activities is Fisking Reuters. In case you are an American and you are not familiar with Reuters, be advised that they are Not From Around These Parts. In fact, they may be reliably considered to be antagonistic to American values.

In case you are dubious about my last statement, let's take a look at what this fellow with the excess of consonants in his name has to say about the state of firearms ownership in America ... a continent with which he doesn't appear to have a personal familiarity:

Is America, land of shooting massacres in schools and public places, slowly falling out of love with guns?

The answer is yes, and it runs counter to popular perceptions of the United States as a country where most citizens are armed to the teeth and believe it is every American's inalienable right to buy an AK 47-style assault rifle with the minimum of bureaucratic paperwork.

But in fact, gun ownership in the United States has been declining steadily over more than three decades, relegating gun owners to minority status.

At the same time, support for stricter gun controls has been growing steadily and those in favor make up a majority.

You will note that no source for these opinions are ever cited in this article. It is characteristic of Reuters that 'Opinion Pieces' are never identified as such; rather, they are comfortable with presenting the rankest assertions without citing sources for their conclusions. The article mentions "...University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which has been tracking gun ownership and attitudes on firearms since 1972, the longest-running survey on the subject in the United States ...", but we are given no link to any definable study. In fact, searching that title we find no project which addresses the subject at all.

The number of households with guns dropped from a high of 54 percent in 1977 to 34.5 percent in 2006, according to NORC, and the percentage of Americans who reported personally owning a gun has shrunk to just under 22 percent.

So, by the rules of democratic play, one might assume that the majority would have major influence on legislation. But that's not how it works, thanks to the enormous influence of the gun lobby.

The long-term decline monitored by the Chicago survey has buoyed proponents of tighter gun controls. "America's gun culture is fading," says Josh Sugarmann, who heads the Washington-based Violence Policy Center.

Not only do the cited statistics not render themselves immediately obvious, but the cited cross-reference ... the Violence Police Center ... is notorious for its agenda-driven anti-gun policy.

Note the difference in the way the two opposing organizations are referenced:

  • Gun Rights organizations = "The Gun Lobby"
  • Anti-Gun Rights Organizations = "Proponents of Tighter Gun Controls"
Lobbyists vs organizations. No 'yellow journalism' here, folks.

According to Sugarmann, those keeping the culture alive and those most vocal in resisting tighter regulations are white, middle-aged men whose enthusiasm for firearms, hunting and shooting is not shared by younger Americans.


To what extent gun ownership will continue to shrink depends, at least in part, on a decision by the U.S. Supreme court expected this summer. The court will rule on one of the most acrimonious disputes in the United States: do Americans have the constitutional right to own and bear arms?

Here, the attempt to demonize firearms ownership is reinforced by an oblique attack on the two most obvious groups in American society today: "Baby Boomers" and "WASPs" ("white, middle-aged men"). If this article targets, for example, "young black men" or "Aged Asian Men" or "middle-aged Muslim Men", the outcry would be enormous. But to target "... white, middle-aged men whose enthusiasm for firearms, hunting and shooting is not shared by younger Americans ..." is societally acceptable. At least, acceptable by the people who read Reuters. (Note that the sub-division of "... men whose enthusiasm for firearms, hunting and shooting is not shared by younger Americans ..." apparently makes this bias definition acceptable, even if it is not supported by any source reference.).

Virginia Tech was the worst school shooting in U.S. history and rekindled the debate over the easy availability of guns in America. There are more private firearms in the United States than anywhere else in the world -- at least 200 million.

While that arsenal has been growing every year, the proportion of U.S. households where guns are held has been shrinking. In other words: Fewer people have more guns.

One estimate, by the National Police Foundation, says that 10 percent of the country's adults own roughly three quarters of all firearms.

It may be significant that an Internet Search on the phrase "National Police Foundation" returned only references to "Islamabad" and "Pakistan".

It's not clear what American organization may exist by this name. Perhaps Reuters does not intend to mislead the reader.


That is the hard core, which counts on the gun lobby, chief of all the National Rifle Association (NRA), to throttle attempts to impose restrictions on the sale of firearms.

The NRA, a group that claims some 3 million members, calls itself "America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights" and backs candidates for political office on their stand on one issue -- gun ownership -- regardless of party affiliation.

This is not to be compared to, for example, NEA (the National Education Association), which backs candidates according to their stand on one issue -- higher wages for teachers.

Or AARP ... The American Association of Retired Persons ... which backs candidates according to ther stand on one issue -- support for special governmental considerations for retired people.

Or NARAL ("National Abortion Rights Action League", which on its website is so shy about what it actually stands for that on all of its websites only identifies itself as (for example) "Pro-Choice America".
(Apparently, NARAL is too embarrassed by their societal stance to actually SAY what they stand for. How many articles, we wonder, have we read this year in Reuters about killing unborn children? Google it yourself.)

While Reuters obviously feels confident in demonizing the NRA for it's "one-issue" agenda, one wonders whether they intend to similarly attack other "one-issue" organizations.

Politicians tend to pander to the NRA, some more shamelessly than others. One of the Republican candidates for the 2008 presidential race, Mitt Romney, went so far as to falsely claim that he was a lifelong hunter and had received an official NRA endorsement in 2002.

Politician lie ... and it's the fault of the NRA.

Small wonder, then, that the debates following every shooting massacre tend to focus not on the easy availability of guns but on preventive security measures.

The "easy availability of guns" is a given. Criminals will have them, law-abiding citizens may or may not have them, but will be less likely to carry them. This tends to put law-abiding citizens into a category which we may call "TARGETS" or "VICTIMS", and criminals find them more easy to predate "TARGETS" or "VICTIMS" than to attack armed citizens. In fact, if more law-abiding citizens were legally authorized to arm themselves in the areas where "shooting massacres" occurred, fewer law-abiding citizens may find themselves to be "TARGETS" or "VICTIMS".

Just a thought. I could be wrong. However, 99.9% of perpetrators of 'shooting massacres' seem to find it obvious that the best place to find "TARGETS" or "VICTIMS" is a public place where the public is not allowed to carry a weapon. I'm sure that Reuters finds this to be a non-sequitor. But just to carry the thought process to its logical conclusion, when was the last time you read about a predator who successfully shot up a shooting range, a gun store, or a police station (outside of "The Terminator" movie)?

Reuters does, however, find one or two American innovations encouraging:

Metal detectors at the entrances of shopping malls, for example. Or bullet-proof backpacks. They were developed in the wake of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, where two teenagers killed 12 students and teachers and then themselves.

The Columbine-inspired backpacks went on sale in August and have sold briskly. "Sales picked up considerably in the Christmas period," said Mike Pelonzi, one of the two men -- both fathers -- who designed and market them. "Our market is expanding."

Great. As long as you are running away, and the predator is a good enough shot to hit you in your backpack, and you are wearing a bullet-proof backpack ... chances are that you may live through the experience.

Or, you could just shoot the bastard and stop him from shooting the poor schmucks whose parents can't afford to buy you a bullet-proof backpack.

Here's the fall-out from another of author BBernd Debusmann's articles.

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