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Forum editorial: U.S. gun violence is a plague

The plague of gun violence in America is far more complicated than calls for more “gun controls” on the one side, or calls for “more guns in more hands” on the other side. Both extremes are, when analyzed coolly and intelligently, non-starters in a debate that has become ridiculously polarized.

That being said, the escalating incidence of gun violence indeed is a plague that reasonably can be characterized as a legitimate public health issue. If that definition were to be accepted, the nation might be able to begin a sane process of developing remedies. By realizing that death and injury by firearms have obvious public health implications, maybe Americans of goodwill can find ways to manage guns in ways that do not erode Second Amendment rights, yet embrace more common-sense ways to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

The record shows that current laws and attitudes about gun ownership have not made the nation safer. The nonsensical and counterintuitive mantra of the gun nuts (a term that often is appropriate) is that more guns will make us safer from gun violence. The facts prove otherwise. There are more guns than ever out there. Yet, the proliferation of death and injury from firearms is at epidemic levels. As it stands now, almost anyone, anywhere, anytime and for any reason can get a gun – legally.

Blame the NRA and organizations like the Gun Owners of America. The NRA and its allies have made the nation more dangerous and more violent while filling their coffers with money from gullible members and very savvy gun manufacturers and marketers. It’s about money, not the Second Amendment. When the NRA preaches the nation doesn’t need more guns laws, that existing laws are fine if they were enforced, the dark side of that phony argument is that the NRA and its allies have worked overtime to prevent full implementation of existing laws. A direct correlation can be made between the NRA’s success bullying Congress into submission and the escalation of gun violence in unlikely places, like Sandy Hook, Conn., Charleston, S.C., and most recently San Bernardino, Calif.

The mental health factor further complicates the issue. There is little doubt that some people who take up a gun and kill are disturbed. There is little doubt that the nation has fallen far short of allocating resources to address that aspect of gun violence. But not every angry person who picks up an assault weapon and murders innocents in a school or church or place of work is crazy. Lawmakers who wrap themselves up in the mental health blanket as an excuse to do nothing about gun violence are, in effect, doing the gun lobby’s bidding.

Every poll confirms that a majority of Americans, including conservatives and gun owners, support better background checks and closing gun sales loopholes. Congress stalls. The president tries to accomplish something useful with executive orders, and Congress spins the argument to executive overreach. Enough with the spin.

The victims of an ever-lengthening saga of gun violence say “no more.” Our leaders, however, are not listening.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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