The latest massacre in Charleston is but the tip of the iceberg. And yet, despite another horrific mass murder, this one very likely a hate crime, coming on the heels of so many over the course of our nation’s history, nothing will be done. But the truth is ever more apparent no matter how loudly the supporters of gun rights and the NRA lobbyists proclaim that guns do not kill people, people kill people.

America is not a safe county, as so may shooting victims, many of them shot with weapons owned by their family members can tell you. Just review the many Gun Fail diaries by David Waldman. And every few months we are reminded by another mass killing in which firearms were the weapons used by the killers. Newtown and Aurora and Tuscon are just three of the most well known, but there have been many, many others.

According to our statistical analysis of more than three decades of data, in 2011 the United States entered a new period in which mass shootings are occurring more frequently. […]

In late September, the FBI released a study showing an increase in the frequency of “active shooter” cases between 2000 and 2013. The FBI analyzed 160 cases, which it defined as any incident in which shooters are “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people” in a public place, regardless of the number of casualties. Our analysis of the FBI’s data using the SPC method corroborates the FBI’s findings that “active shooter” incidents have become more frequent.

Our analysis further reveals that the FBI data overlaps closely with the Mother Jones data. The FBI’s data set contains 44 cases in which four or more people were murdered; as the chart below shows, the process underlying this set of events shifted between late 2011 and early 2012, with mass shootings occurring more frequently since.

It is an undeniable fact that we are a gun obsessed nation. There are so many guns in circulation that it is relatively easy for anyone to acquire a gun, even violent criminals, even those with a history of suicide, even those with a history of domestic violence and threats against their partners. It’s estimated that up to 500,000 guns are stolen every year. Again, no one knows the true figure because of poor record keeping and no federal requirement to report all such crimes.

What we do know is that civilians make up 60% of the US market for small arms, a market that generated $11.7 Billion in revenue for gun manufacturers.

The United States has less than 5% of the earth’s human population. Yet, collectively we own 35% – 50% of the firearms owned by ordinary citizens (non-military members). That figure comes from a 2007 survey of small arms ownership conducted by the Small Arms Survey an organization based out of Geneva, Switzerland. They estimated that Americans owned 270 million small arms (hand guns, rifles, shotguns, etc.). I suspect those figures is sadly out of date, after the flurry of arms purchases following the two elections of President Obama, electoral victories for which the NRA no doubt is secretly thankful. Not to mention the small number of US gun manufacturers, who control 40% of the worldwide market, of which the United States represents % of the worldwide market. Sadly, even the people who study the manufacture of firearms production have found that the actual number of weapons produced is under-reported. The truth is we do not know how many guns are being manufactured and sold in our own country.

We do not know if the Charleston shooter who murdered 9 people bought his guns on the legal market, or through a private sale on the secondary market, but it doesn’t really matter. Restrictions on the ability to obtain firearms in the United States is de minimis. If anything, since Newtown, many more states have relaxed the their gun laws</a., and Congress has underfunded agencies tasked with enforcing federal gun laws, including the Brady law requiring background checks.

Our poor, urban neighborhoods are awash in guns, contributing to the high murder rates, shootings and gang violence in those communities.

“There are certain pockets of the city where there was some pretty severe gang conflicts that are still brewing. We haven’t changed the gang culture. And the reason why shootings are up in those neighborhoods is because there’s so many guns,” McCarthy said. “If these guys are throwing rocks at each other we wouldn’t have this problem.”

Cops are armed to the teeth, and have demonstrated a propensity to shoot first whenever they confront African Americans and other minorities. To say that the immense number of guns in our society has nothing to do with that fact would be misleading at best. Cops claim to see guns everywhere whenever they confront minorities, even for minor offenses or no offense at all.

But truth be told, it is our fellow gun loving citizens who contribute most to this climate of fear which has led to more gun purchases, and increasing rates of gun violence. The 2014 documentary, Requiem for the Dead, is a horrifying look at the damage our national craze for ever more firearms has caused.

Approximately 88 people in America die every day from gun violence. These deaths are the result of accidents, murders, and tragic cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Requiem for the Dead tells the stories of the lives lost between March and June 2014, when 8,000 people in America died from gunshot wounds. The documentary is composed solely from found footage, social media posts, police files, and, most chillingly, recorded 911 calls.

We pay a high cost for our seemingly unfettered “right to bear arms, not only in lives lost but in lives ruined, in people terrorized by fear, and in the economic burden placed on our state and local governments.

A couple of days into what would become her five-month hospital stay, Longdon was lying with her back to the door when a doctor came in. She didn’t see his face when he calmly told her the news: She was a T-4 paraplegic, no longer able to move her body from the middle of her chest down. Rueckert had also survived, but a bullet through his brain left him profoundly cognitively impaired and in need of permanent round-the-clock care.

Longdon didn’t know it yet, but she was also facing financial ruin. Shortly after the shooting, her health insurance provider found a way to drop her coverage based on a preexisting condition. She would be hospitalized three more times in quick succession, twice for infections and once for a broken bone; all told, the bills would approach $1 million in the first year alone. Longdon was forced to file for personal bankruptcy—a stinging humiliation for someone who had earned about $80,000 a year working in the software industry and building a massage therapy practice on the side.

This is a profound public health crisis. And one that each of us is paying the price.

To begin to get a grasp on the economic toll, Mother Jones turned to Ted Miller at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, an independent nonprofit that studies public health, education, and safety issues. […]

In collaboration with Miller, Mother Jones crunched data from 2012 and found that the annual cost of gun violence in America exceeds $229 billion. Direct costs account for $8.6 billion—including long-term prison costs for people who commit assault and homicide using guns, which at $5.2 billion a year is the largest direct expense. Even before accounting for the more intangible costs of the violence, in other words, the average cost to taxpayers for a single gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.

Indirect costs amount to at least $221 billion, about $169 billion of which comes from what researchers consider to be the impact on victims’ quality of life. Victims’ lost wages, which account for $49 billion annually, are the other major factor. Miller’s calculation for indirect costs, based on jury awards, values the average “statistical life” harmed by gun violence at about $6.2 million.

The real question is what are we going to do about this crisis, one that in one way or another threatens each and every person living in this country. For anyone could be the next victim, and any family could be the next one to mourn the loss of a father, mother, sibling or child. Yet, does anyone expect the candidates in the 2016 campaign for the Presidency to focus even a small amount of their time on this plague of guns and what to do about it? Well, they certainly will not if those of us who are fed up with gun violence do nothing, if we cede the field to the gun apologists and organizations such as the NRA, which has become in essence the lobbying arm for the firearms industry and its billions of revenues, both from gun sales but also ammunition sales for these hundreds of millions of guns.

Since when did the right to own a gun override every other right, but most importantly our right to life free, one from the threat of massive hoards of guns in present day America, a danger that our founders could never have imagined? I used to take the middle road (though many will beg to differ) but at this point I can no longer in good faith support a right to ownership by anyone of every kind of firearm imaginable, guns with far more accuracy and firepower than have ever before existed in history. Guns not for hunting or sports such as skeet, trap or target shooting, but for the sole purpose of killing other human beings or threatening them with bodily harm and death. Guns that contribute to the coarsening of our society.

Other nations have found the courage and the good sense to limit gun ownership. We should as well.

Thanks to all who read this post for your consideration.

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