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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Thoughts and prayers can't stop bullets

February 19, 2018 - 12:00 PM



If ever you doubt the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) stranglehold on American politicians, consider why nothing ever changes after mass killings in America. It is one of a very few nations on earth to largely ignore the problem of citizens killing each other with guns.

Sure, there are more dangerous countries…if you count Syria, Afghanistan or other nations ravaged by ongoing wars…or Central and South American countries known for gang violence like Honduras, Venezuela and El Salvador. Otherwise, when you're in America you have a greater chance of being shot dead than most developed countries.

I often warn my Canadian friends visiting the U.S. to avoid angry encounters. If someone cuts you off in traffic…don't even think about it…just smile because the driver has about a one in three chance of being armed…and maybe a hair-trigger temper.

Handguns… Americans own more than 146 million of them. Assault weapons…the American public has more AR-15 style weapons than most armies worldwide have assault rifles…law enforcement estimates at least 5 million, but concedes there might be twice that number.

I can take you to almost anyplace in America…small town or big city…even where I don't know a soul…and within an hour I’ll likely hook you up with someone willing to sell you an assault weapon. Remember, there are 323 million Americans…and about 372 million guns.

Few questions. No background checks. If you have cash…you can buy more guns than you can carry…usually from the same guy. Handgun, why bother? You can get an assault weapon easier. In Florida, you have to wait three days if buying a handgun from a legal gun shop. But you can walk out the door with an assault weapon as soon as your credit card flashes “approved.” Ammunition…military-style clips abound…slide the seller a couple Ben Franklins and you can get the deadliest bullets made.

But back to the topic of the best politicians money can buy. American Representatives and Senators are afraid of the Second Amendment - ironically - the deadliest weapon in the NRA’s arsenal. You see, if the NRA says you're against the Second Amendment, you might as well forget running for re-election.

The NRA “grades” politicians…and sends those grades to every media outlet and in letters to every voter…mostly Republicans…every three months. Say even one bad word against the Second Amendment or whisper gun control or support any legislation that infringes on the right to bear arms...and forgive the pun…you're a dead man. Oh, well, there are 27 women Republicans among the 535 national politicians…but they toe the line, as well.

The most recent slaughter occurred at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day. Fourteen teenagers and three adults murdered in a matter of a couple minutes. Yes, there were the usual condolences…our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families…blah, blah, blah.

We hear lots of words…but you don't hear a single word about the most obvious topic from Republicans…sensible gun control. There is such a thing…despite the NRA’s and Republicans’ subterfuge. The NRA has ridiculously positioned the life-and-death matter of guns in America as a vast conspiracy to take everyone’s hunting rifles and handguns. This, of course, is simply not the case.

There are facts…truths beyond those mentioned above. For example, America owns nearly half - 48 per cent - of all the civilian-owned guns in the world (Source: Congressional Research Service, 2012).

There are more mass shootings in American than anywhere in the world. The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population, but 31 percent of the world’s mass shooters (Source: Langford, University of Alabama, 2016).

You are more than seven times more likely to be killed by someone with a gun in America than in Canada (Source: OECD, WHO, American Journal of Medicine, Grinshsteyn and Hemenway, 2010).

And, there is fiction…lies that the NRA and Republicans foist on a largely ignorant public. For example, they call out Chicago as the place with the toughest gun laws but with the highest gun crimes. Neither is true. Illinois has America’s ninth strongest gun laws…but its neighbours…Indiana and Wisconsin…have among the weakest laws. So, of Chicago’s 4,000-plus shootings - admittedly among the nation’s highest - 61 percent were with guns from Indiana and Wisconsin. By the way, Baltimore has the highest gun homicide rate in America.

Americans need to start talking about the problem of its people dying from guns. It’s not about mental illness…leave it to politicians to try and hang gun deaths on an already persecuted group. There are a few steps that will make gun deaths less likely…90 percent of Americans say they want consistent and comprehensive background checks. The NRA needs to stop buying off politicians…90 percent of them Republicans. Background checks should be run on Internet sales, gun show sales - about 2,500 a year - as well as private sales.

The right to bear arms is trumping all other rights in America…Do civilian Americans need more assault weapons than armies have assault rifles? The difference between the two is that assault rifles fire continuously when the trigger is pulled versus once per trigger pull for assault weapons.

Why do politicians and the NRA try to link sensible gun control efforts with improving mental health…it’s not an either or question…you can do both at the same time?

It remains to be seen, but I believe the survivors of the recent high school shooting in Parkland are not going to let their fellow students and teachers deaths pass without a fight that could change things. They are inspiring young people nationwide - many who can’t yet vote - to act. If they continue to ask smart questions and push for a dialogue…America might find a workable solution to gun violence. Wouldn’t that be ironic…children who act more like adults than the adults.

– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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