Allen J Frances M.D.

Saving Normal

Ten Myths and Realities About Mass Murders and Gun Control

Let's not be distracted from the danger of assault weapons.

Posted Jan 29, 2013

The NRA leadership tries to pin all the blame for mass murders on mental illness or video games or the fact that teachers aren't packing heat in the schools. (gun-control-cant-work-if)

Rejecting the more responsible views held by the majority of its own membership, the NRA leadership continues to support unlimited access to military style weapons that have no real purpose in civilian life and pose unacceptable dangers to innocent victims and to law enforcement first responders.

This NRA extremism in the face of common sense suggests it has become the marketing arm of the gun industry or the political arm of insurrectionists, or both. You know there is something radically wrong when the stock prices of the major gun manufacturers rise sharply after a school massacre.

A sane gun control policy is necessary both to avoid frequent massacres and to reduce our high ambient rates of homicide and suicide.

Responses to my previous blogs have been informative not for the quality of their reasoning, but for a tone that is extremely passionate, sometimes bullying, and usually far from the facts- but always completely self assured.

Below are the most frequent arguments offered to support free access to assault weapons and responses to them.

Myth: Guns don't kill people, people do.

Reality: People with guns kill people- and the more powerful the gun, the more efficient the killing.

Myth: We don't need new laws, just the stricter enforcement of existing laws.

Reality: Existing laws allow the sale of assault weapons and the sale of guns without background checks at gun shows.

Myth: The second amendment guarantees the right to have any type of weapon a person wants.

Reality: Nothing in the constitution discusses what types of arms citizens are permitted to own. Would the NRA argue that private citizens can ride to work in tanks, carry grenade launchers and flame throwers, or patrol their neighborhoods with weaponized drones? Take this to its illogical extreme- does the second amendment guarantee our citizens the right to own nuclear devices? We have to draw the line somewhere to prevent civilian ownership of military weapons - restricting assault rifles is just common sense.

Myth: To stop the bad guys from doing bad things, you have to arm the good guys.

Reality: A good guy one day can become a bad guy the next- particularly under the influence of substances or the stress of domestic conflict or job loss.

Myth: Only crazy people kill.

Reality: Mental patients are responsible for only a small percentage of violent crime. It is not possible to predict with any precision who will become violent.

Myth: We can stop violence if we stop violent movies and video games.

Reality: it is a good idea to control media violence, but this will be difficult and provides only a very partial solution. First off, there are first amendment rights that make media control as tough as gun control. And remember that humans were violent before there were movies- they just didn't have the firepower now so readily available. We can't prevent all violence, but we can reduce the damage any given killer can do.

Myth: We need to arm the schools.

Reality: More guns in schools will just increase the risk that some of the people carrying them will go berserk and turn them on the kids.

Myth: Guns are necessary to keep my family safe.

Reality: Family members in gun owning households are more likely than their non-gun-owning neighbors to die in a gun-related accidents, suicides, or homicides.

Myth: It is to late to solve the problem so why go to the trouble of trying.

Reality: Now that the country is keenly aware of the risks of assault weapons, it is only a matter of time before we return to sane legislation controlling them.

Myth: The NRA is too powerful to take on.

Reality: That's what they said about Big Tobacco 20 years ago.

Saner gun control will inevitably be driven by the accumulation of gun deaths. Legislators who reap the short term political advantages of supporting assault weapons will feel increasingly ashamed and guilty as the murders of innocents pile up.

The moral and the politically smart thing is for legislators to move the issue before they become indirectly responsible for tens of thousands additional avoidable deaths.

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