Expect the gun control debate in America to really get hot over the next 12 months as Beto O’Rourke runs for governor of Texas. O’Rourke said, when running for president in 2019, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47!”
And it’s entirely time for this debate. America has just a bit more than 4 percent of the world’s population, but, with more guns than people in our country, we have more than 40 percent of all the guns in civilian hands in the world.
Specifically, as a Swiss-based research group found, there are “approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms in the world’s 230 countries and territories” and, as ABC News points out, in America there are “over 393 million firearms in civilian possession” as of 2017. About ten million more have been sold in the US since then: we are the only nation in the world with more guns than people.
When asked recently if Beto O’Rourke stands by his position that, at the very least, we should get weapons of war off our streets like every other developed country in the world has already done, his answer was straightforward.
“Look,” he said, “we are a state that has a long, proud tradition of responsible gun ownership. And most of us here in Texas do not want to see our friends, our family members, our neighbors shot up with these weapons of war. So, yes, I still hold this view.”
Expect millions to be spent by the gun manufacturers and Beto’s Republican opponents on TV ads depicting “jackbooted government thugs” breaking down doors to confiscate guns. (Beto suggested a gun buy-back program like Australia and Canada have done, but since the Supreme Court legalized both political bribery and unaccountable money in elections, all bets are off when it comes to truth in political advertising.)
For every 100 people in America, there are 120 guns. Among developed nations, next highest on the list is Canada, at 34 per 100 people, and all other developed countries are lower down the list than that: South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, for example, all clock in at less than one gun per 100 people.
America not only leads the world in gun ownership but, predictably, we also lead the world in gun deaths. As an exhaustive study of gun deaths in the world’s 23 wealthiest countries published in The American Journal of Medicine found:
“U.S. homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher. For 15- to 24-year-olds, the gun homicide rate in the United States was 49.0 times higher. Firearm-related suicide rates were 8.0 times higher in the United States… Unintentional firearm deaths were 6.2 times higher in the United States. The overall firearm death rate in the United States from all causes was 10.0 times higher.”
Astonishingly, they added, ninety percent of all women killed by firearms in these 23 countries are in the United States, as well as 91 percent of all children killed by firearms. Fully 82 percent of all the human beings living in the world’s wealthy countries killed by firearms lived in the USA.
Only ten percent of the wealthy world’s firearms deaths occurred in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland combined.
Other countries have gotten their gun violence under control by simply reducing the number of guns in circulation and requiring gun owners to do two of the three things we do across America for car owners: be licensed and register your weapon. I’d add that we should include mandatory liability insurance, like we do for cars: the insurance companies would then sniff out the “high risk” gun owners and refuse to insure them, thus preventing them from owning a gun.
But Beto, at least in this case, is merely asking that we take weapons of war off the streets and out of our homes. We’ve already banned fully-automatic weapons, shoulder-fired missiles, sawed-off shotguns and a variety of other things typically only used to kill other human beings: it’s not a stretch to join the rest of the developed world and ban Rittenhouse’s AR15 and Russian AK47s.
Gallup found last year that 57 percent of Americans, and 85 percent of Democrats, want stricter gun laws in America. On the other hand, Republican politicians are moving in the opposite direction: Madison Cawthorn said after the Rittenhouse verdict that Republicans should “be armed and dangerous,” while Marjorie Traitor Greene said, “[G]un rights are the only thing holding back the Communist Revolution the Democrats are waging.”
Because neofascists like these in the Republican Party continue to try to push America toward armed civil war, gun control appears to be an issue that animates Republicans — enthusiastic about seeing Democrats and people of color die at the hands of vigilantes — far more than Democrats.
That recent Gallup poll found “a drop in support [for gun control] among Republicans, from 36% in 2019 to 22% in 2020.”
This may complicate things for Beto O’Rourke and other Democrats who are running on the entirely rational position of taking weapons of war off our streets to save American lives.
It used to be that Republicans opposed gun control because of the NRA’s money, but the NRA is now a shell of its former self. Today, it appears they’re opposing rational gun control measures because so many of them are openly promoting gun-based rightwing terrorism on America’s streets.
Republicans’ newfound enthusiasm for the murder of Democrats and people of color, as seen splashed across conservative media after the Rittenhouse verdict, could cause an increase in GOP voter turnout when primed with a gun-control debate without a similar increase on the Democratic side.
And that — unless Democrats begin to engage with the gun control debate in a big way — could make both Beto’s job of creating a less deadly Texas far more difficult. Can Beto and other Democrats trying to save American lives through even the most minimal gun control succeed in turning this debate around? Time will tell…
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as The GOP’s Obsession with Power-At-All-Costs Will End Badly for Us All (Including Them)
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