Guns: A Reign of Terror, Part II
As reported in my previous commentary, gun violence continues to be a serious issue in this country and the terrible human destruction is described by Tom Diaz in his book The Last Gun. Here are some more amazing bits of data he reports.
While the number of homicides (and the homicide rate) has actually declined in recent years, the number of people injured by gunshots has increased. He cites research that notes that the decline in deaths from gunshots stems from the improvement in emergency responses and the growth of trauma centers. Between 2000 and 2008 a total of 617, 488 people were injured by gunshots, or an average of 68,610 annually. In 2008 alone 110,215 were shot. By comparison, just there were 12,390 active-duty military deaths between 2001 and 2008. (For the most recent data on gun deaths and injuries see the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.)
Diaz refers to a 2002 study on the relationship between Murder and Medicine. The chief finding of this study was that without the many medical advances (911, trauma centers, etc.) the number of homicides would be between 45,000 and 70,000 each year, instead of 15,000-20,000. But, Diaz notes, there are still horrible consequences from gunshot wounds, including being confined to a wheelchair the rest of your life. And with the proliferation of military-style weapons there is a question of whether or not someday even advances in available care will outpace the number of these weapons.
Diaz spends a considerable amount of time reviewing and critiquing the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller where, in a 5-4 decision split along strictly ideological lines, the Court struck down the District’s ban on the possession of handguns. What is most interesting here is the fact that Justice Scalia should have recused himself as he has for years been an enthusiastic gun supporter. Diaz notes: “Justice Scalia….served on the junior varsity rifle team at Manhattan’s Xavier High School, then a Jesuit military academy. He is an avid turkey hunter who hunted ducks with former vice president Dick Cheney in 2004 and went on a similar venture in 2001…” Also, he was presented with the “Sport Shooting Ambassador Award” by the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities in 2007 “along with a solid silver reproduction of a sixteenth-century pistol.” He is also a friend of Alan Gottlieb who happens to be the head of a pro-gun “Second Amendment Foundation” that just happened to be helping to fund a lawsuit against Chicago’s gun law, which was filed the day after the Heller decision (eventually the Supreme Court decided to support the lawsuit). By the way, Gottlieb was once convicted of income tax charges and sent to a federal prison for 10 months. He is also the president of the Defense of Free Enterprise, which was established to oppose environmental regulation.
Diaz concludes that the Heller decision was not merely a case that came out of left field. It was in fact a “culmination of a well-funded campaign to overturn settled law, mounted over several decades by a network of wealthy conservatives…working in close concert with the gun lobby.”