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America’s fatal obsession with guns

With 59 people shot dead, and over 526 injured during a music festival in Las Vegas last October, the gun control debate is once again reignited. Sectors of society are calling for stiffer legislation and yet Congress refuses to act. Powerful gun lobbies thwart any move at legislating gun control.

Las Vegas now carries the tragic distinction of being the site of the worst mass shooting in modern American history. May there never be another place to bear that dreadful title. But when a culture’s decreasing respect for human life and its significant indifference to violence is combined with its easy legal access to guns, the results are not difficult to predict. Guns do not make us safer.     

According to CNN, and many other reports, Americans own by far more guns per person than residents of any other country. Of the world’s estimated 650 million civilian owned guns, nearly half – 310 million guns – are owned by Americans.

Now consider this: gun homicide rates are over 25 times higher in the U.S. than in any of the other wealthy nations. And gun-related suicides are eight times higher in the U.S. than in other high-income countries.

The U.S. also has the tragic distinction of having by far the most mass shootings of any nation on earth. According to research compiled by criminologist Frederic Lemieux, “The higher the gun ownership rate, the more a country is susceptible to experiencing mass shooting incidents.” 

Lemieux reports that between 1983 to 2013, 119 mass shootings occurred worldwide, with the U.S. accounting for 78 of those mass shootings. Sixty-six percent of all mass shootings in that 30-year period were in just one country – the United States. 

Common sense federal gun control legislation is obviously needed. Yet, Congress refuses to act. And arguably the major reason for Congress’ paralysis can be spelled out with three letters: NRA.

The National Rifle Association mounts a powerful lobbying effort, and any member of Congress brave enough to back common sense gun control legislation is targeted for reelection defeat. 

Strong gun laws are clearly associated with lower gun death rates, and strict background check  laws are the first step to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. 

Present federal law only requires licensed gun dealers to initiate background checks. And since gun sales often take place between unlicensed persons, approximately 40 percent of all firearms transferred in the U.S. are done without a background check. Congress needs to close this dangerous giant loophole.  
Congress needs to step up to the plate and pass comprehensive gun registration legislation. Congress also needs to ban assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazine clips.  

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