Occasional mass shootings inevitably spark debate to do “something” about gun violence. But we haven’t as a nation done well with curtailing illegal drugs, opioids, auto deaths, gun suicides and inner city gun deaths — 6,000 plus annually. Second, even if the NRA, gun manufacturers, dealers and importers all vanish tomorrow we’d still have over 300 million guns in circulation. And even if we passed a batch of new laws we’d still have 300 million. That’s more than the entire western world combined. So the sheer numbers of guns are one part of the problem.
Second is that Americans like guns and they’re widely held across the nation for all sorts of reasons. Including for self protection in a society addicted to violent films and TV. Guns subdued the American natives opening up a continent and defeated the British in the Revolution. Virtually every able bodied man in the South participated in the Civil War with its million casualties as did many millions in the North. And tens of millions of Americans participated in WWI, II and subsequently.
It’s oft said Americans have a “gun culture.” Many enjoy guns as a hobby, practice target shooting. Millions hunt animals with guns. And in a violent society guns afford personal protection. Criminals invariably own guns. Citizens follow suit.
So what to do ? Virtually every serious student of America’s horrific gun violence begins with the sheer numbers of guns in circulation. And that’s where the discussion usually ends. Passing new laws may makes us feel better. But the guns are still there are easily obtained in any downtown. There’s not much enthusiasm for serious proposals such as a national registry of guns, really serious requirements for ownership such as psychological exams, etc.
As Pogo once said “we have met the enemy and he is us.” Some problems have no easy solutions. And the real discussion about curbing endemic American gun violence has scarcely begun. But that doesn’t stop the politicians and marchers from making noise. We don’t as a nation take care of our wounded veterans very well. So why expect better with gun violence?
Peter I. Berman of Norwalk held positions at Bank of America, various Wall Street firms and the Chamber of Gold Mines in South Africa. He’s a published author who has made numerous presentations before municipal and state governments, the U.S. Congress. Upon retirement he taught graduate finance at the University of New Haven for several decades.