BERNARD COLUMN: Georgia and Gun Control-pragmatism is key

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, July 26, 2022

By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired  corporate executive

“I won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I want universal background checks, I want a ban on assault weapons, but I will settle for something much less because that will save lives,” Sen. Murphy (CT-D), CNN, 12-5-21

I agree with Murphy that something is better than nothing, which is what we are accustomed to seeing regarding gun control (see below). Further, Senator Murphy also went on to say that the only time his conservative colleagues seem to even acknowledge the need for gun control is when an incident like this one in Michigan occurs. Afterwards, when the clamor dies down, they conveniently forget all about the need for weapons control. Conservative legislators ignore the issue despite the fact that  a recent PEW research survey shows that 72% of Americans view gun violence as a very big or moderately big problem.

The shooting Murphy was referring to is just another disgustingly avoidable shooting in which innocent kids have died. But this situation is even more egregious. The 15-year-old murderer’s parents are alleged to have helped the Michigan teenager to buy the gun, encouraged him to purchase ammunition and ignored warning signs. If so, they are equally guilty. But Michigan is not alone; there is a bigger picture.

In Georgia, for example, between 2014 and 2021 there have been 5,245 shootings that resulted in death, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The 5,245 figure also includes nearly 400 children killed but does not include the thousands of suicides by gun. During this time period, there were 128 mass shootings in Georgia. There were only 589 cases of a “defensive shooting,” the NRA’s oft cited reason to have a weapon. 

And things are not getting better. In 2019, there were 15,468 Americans shot and killed (homicide/murder/unintentional) versus 19,480 in 2020. About 1,400 of those killed were children. And these numbers do not include the 24,156 suicides by guns in 2020. Mass shootings are also up from 417 in 2019 to 611 in 2020.

It’s outrageous that the US is the only major democracy without reasonable gun control laws. Because we don’t have them, we are also the nation with the most gun deaths per capita.   

The Gun Violence Archive lists all of the mass shootings that have taken place in the USA just this year.

There is an annual report issued by a pro-gun magazine which details exactly where gun laws are the laxest . As shown, a disproportionate number of these mass shootings are taking place in red/rural states, where guns laws are weakest.

For example, four of the five states with the laxest gun laws have more gun murders per capita than the national average -Arizona (5th most gun deaths per capita); Idaho (10th); Alabama (8th); and Oklahoma (15th). Only Kansas has less deaths per capita (33rd). Georgia is number 11 regarding lax gun laws and also has the 19th most deaths per capita, higher than 31 other states.

Contrary to what the NRA asserts, the data shows having more guns does not mean fewer deaths and shootings. Having more weapons means that they will more often be used aggressively to kill more of our neighbors, relatives and friends.

The NRA and similar groups say that the “gun grabbers” want to take away all of our guns. In reality, virtually no reputable gun control organizations demand this approach. So, what can be done? 

We must have thorough background checks, doing away with automatic approval after 3 days. Weapons sold in one-on-one private sales (outside of family members) must be first reported to the authorities for background check purposes. Gun show sales must be subject to prior background checks. 

Assault weapons and extended magazines must be banned. The minimum age for firearm purchases must be raised to 21. Interstate shipment of weapons to individuals via mail must be stopped. Red flag laws to remove guns from mentally deficient individuals must be passed and enforced. Tightened concealed carry restrictions are needed. The repeal of the Dickey Amendment, prohibiting the CDC from gun control research, is necessary.

To pay for enforcement of these laws and to compensate victims, much higher taxes on guns and ammunition are needed.

There is only one reason that laws to reduce firearm deaths have not been passed. We have not told our national and state politicians that to get our vote, they must act.