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Geoffrey R. Stone

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"Guns Don't Kill"

Posted: 07/20/2012 10:37 pm

After learning of the horrific shooting of 71 people in Aurora, Colorado, I decided to check the National Rifle Association's website to see what the NRA had to say about this national tragedy.

To my surprise, I found... nothing. Although the NRA's site was overflowing with celebratory "news stories" about such matters as the joys of carrying concealed weapons, there was not a word -- not a word -- about the Aurora massacre. There was not a word about the 12 people who were killed or the 59 others who were shot; not a word about the array of weapons used by the killer; not a word about the ease with which anyone in Colorado can obtain automatic weapons; not even a word of sympathy for the families of the victims.

But, of course, why should the NRA have anything to say about this tragedy? As we all know, guns don't kill people, people kill people. This tells us something striking about Americans, by the way, because the average American is 40 times more likely to be killed by gunfire than the average Englishman or Canadian. According to the NRA, this has nothing to do with the fact that guns proliferate in America and are scarce in England and Canada. We just have to face the facts: Americans, unlike Englishmen and Canadians, are murderous by nature. The ready availability of assault weapons has nothing to do with it.

If the United States had the same gun murder rate as England or Canada, approximately 8,500 American men, women and children who were slaughtered by gunfire in 2011 might still be alive today. If the United States had the same gun murder rate as England since 2000, 100,000 murdered American men, women and children might still be alive today.

Of course, it is not only the NRA and its supporters who are accountable for this sorrowful state of affairs. It is also our elected representatives in Congress who have persistently lacked the common sense and courage to renew the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. This is, by any reasonable measure, a grievous failure of responsible governance.

In the face of this national tragedy, President Obama says this is not the time for politics but for prayer. But this is the time for politics, before we do what we always do after such massacres -- shed some tears, express our grief, say a few prayers, and then quickly go on to do what the NRA wants us to do -- change the subject.

 
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