The editors on confronting gun violence

Just posted on the homepage: Commonweals editors on confronting gun violence.

The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, with more than 200 million guns in circulation. The result: a rate of violence wildly out of step with all other developed nations. There are approximately thirty thousand firearm fatalities every year in the United States (according to data compiled by the Firearm and Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania), and more than twice as many non-fatal firearm injuries. More than three hundred of those killed annually are under the age of fifteen(.pdf). Some forty police officers are killed by guns every year. And every seventeen minutes, someone in America commits suicide with a gun.The numbers represent a wide range of social problemsincluding mental illness and inner-city crime (a disproportionate number of gun victims are young male minorities)that wont be resolved by limiting access to guns. But the easy availability of firearms is the most basic reason those problems turn deadly with devastating frequency. As the Penn study points out, Firearms, especially handguns, are effective lethal weapons with the capability to escalate often-impulsive acts of interpersonal violence or suicidal thoughts into death.

Its been three weeks since E.J. Dionne Jr. wrote on the need to remember Newtown, and just under a month since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the first three days of this week:

- Connecticut governor Dan Malloy in his State of the State address directly rejected the National Rifle Association's proposal to put an armed guard in every school in America in the wake of the Newtown massacre, saying that freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom

- New York governor Andrew Cuomo, in advance of his State of the State address, was crafting with legislators a package of gun measures that would make New York the most restrictive state in the nation

- The Obama administration suggested it is considering executive action on guns

- Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota (who has an A rating from the NRA) backed off comments made Sunday in which she called White House gun violence task-force proposals extreme, supposedly after a series of ads run in response by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

- The NRAaccepted a White House invitation to attend a series of meetings on guns and gun violence on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Tuesday was the second anniversary of the shooting of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; she and her husband Mark Kelly announced they were forming a political group to take on the NRA . Also on Tuesday, at a preliminary hearing in Colorado, emergency calls from the Aurora movie theater at which gunman John Holmes killed 12 people last summer were played; a judge is expected to decide by the end of this week whether the case will go to trial. On Monday, a collection of conservative and gun rights groups announced plans for a gun appreciation day to be held just before President Obamas January 19 inauguration; its modeling its event on last Augusts anti-gay-marriage Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day and calling on supporters to head to gun stores, gun shows, and gun ranges to protest gun-grabbing by the government in the wake of the Newtown shootings.

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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