I WAS BORN and raised in Alaska. My family homesteaded there. It was commonplace for residents to own guns for hunting and protection from wildlife. That was the way of life.
Today, I find myself living in a world where the U.S. ranks No. 1 in gun ownership to any other country in the world.
In our country, guns outnumber people! And we see the devastating consequences of this trend every day. So far in 2023, there have been more mass shootings than days, according to gunviolencearchive.org.
We know that community gun violence and gun suicides are claiming more lives in communities every day without ever making headlines. In the face of this relentless violence, many say nothing can be done. Or worse, they argue that continued gun violence proves that gun safety laws are ineffective. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
On the Peninsula Daily News Jan. 31 Opinion page, nationally syndicated columnist David Harsanyi claimed that the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 did nothing to alter gun violence trends. This is not true.
In the decade during the federal assault weapon ban (AWB), gun massacre deaths decreased 43 percent, according to a Sept. 24, 2019 report, “Studies: Gun Massacre Deaths Dropped During Assault Weapons Ban, Increased After Expiration.”
In the decade following the 2004 expiration of the ban, gun massacre deaths increased by 239 percent, according to that report on the Committee on the Judiciary website at judiciary.senate.gov. The numbers continue to rise.
Harsanyi stated that California, with stronger gun laws, had no noticeable decrease in gun violence deaths. Another untruth. California leads every state in gun law strength and has a gun death rate lower than the national average.
Meanwhile, my home state of Alaska, with weaker gun regulations and a higher incidence of gun violence, is an abject failure. Alaska had a gun death rate of 23.4/100,000, the second-highest in the nation, according to an average compiled by the Centers for Disease Control for the years from 2016 to 2020.
In our America, children are being murdered in their classrooms! The fear of mass shootings from schools, churches, shopping malls, movie theaters, hospitals, concerts, even community parades is taking a mental health toll on everyone.
This is an extraordinary rarity elsewhere in our world.
Following a mass shooting in 1996, Australia’s elected leaders took the brave stand to impose gun safety measures. Since then, there have been two mass shootings, according to the BBC, while millions of citizens continue to own guns. So much for Harsanyi’s contention that such laws are cynical and useless.
All these statistics fail to capture what has fueled this insane reality we are living in here in the U.S.
The money and greed of the gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have cost Americans millions of innocent lives. The gun lobby propaganda is based in fear, anger and hatred.
It seems to me the NRA leadership has turned their back on the responsible recreational hunters who were the foundation of their organization.
Their sole interest now is money. Fear sells. Prior to the ’94 AWB, production of assault weapons surged, and the prices of the banned guns and magazines rose by upwards of 50 percent, according to “Impacts of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban: 1994-96” on the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs at ojp.gov.
This trend is repeating itself as the call for a nationwide AWB is again being debated. A report from the Joint Economic Committee at jec.senate.gov said that, as gun violence has surged, gun companies have recorded record profits.
The stakes couldn’t be higher and their ruthlessness couldn’t possibly sink any lower than the recent campaign for the JR-15 assault style rifle, marketed for children, that “looks, feels, and operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.”
Or could it? What will they think of next?
If we care about our children, it is time for us all, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to face the epidemic of gun violence head on. We need to work together and find ways to reduce it.
Here in Washington state, our legislators are heeding the call for action to stop the bloodshed. State lawmakers are currently considering a bill to prohibit the manufacture and sale of assault-style weapons.
We need more courageous leadership in the other Washington to do the same.
In the meantime, leaders in our state and others must continue leading the way.
Ellen Menshew, a Clallam County resident since 1991, is the local chapter lead for the nonprofit Alliance for Gun Responsibility.