Time is ripe for tackling gun control

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The people of Aurora, Colo., had just begun returning to normalcy after the July 20 massacre at a cinema there when Milwaukeeans were hit with the news that a hate attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek had left six worshippers near the Texas A&M University campus, killing two and wounding four before he was gunned down by police.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the Texas case was the 12th mass shooting in the nation since the beginning of June. FBI statistics show guns are used in 67 percent of all homicides.

The National Rifle Association, which promotes the ownership and use of guns, is possibly the strongest and most effective lobbying group in the nation. Few elected officials will stand up to the all-powerful NRA. Even President Barack Obama has caved in to the group on such important policies as regulating the international small arms trade.

The NRA contends that guns don’t kill – people do. But according to the circular reasoning behind this bumper-sticker philosophy, everybody should be entitled to a stockpile of H-bombs and chemical war agents.

Americans owned about 70 million firearms in 1999m and the number has been steadily climbing. Since the Tea Party began liberalizing access to guns, the number in circulation has grown to an estimated 260 million to 300 million.

Tea Party officials also have eliminated most restrictions on where and how firearms can be carried and used. At a time when there’s widespread economic hardship and unprecedented polarization in the United States, it would be miraculous if this set of conditions did not have catastrophic results.

Not all deaths by firearms are the result of crimes. In 2010, for example, 11,015 homicides were committed using guns, but firearms were used in 19,308 suicides and caused 600 accidental deaths. In addition, there were about 200,000 non-fatal injuries involving firearms.

The World Health Organization studied and compared firearm deaths in 23 countries in 2003. The total U.S. population that year was 290.8 million, while the combined population of the other 22 countries was 563.5 million.

Yet 80 percent of all firearm deaths in the 23 high-income countries in 2003 occurred in the U.S, where guns rank among the top ten causes of death.

Recent events have created an opportunity for progressives to counter the NRA’s propaganda and make a case for gun-control policies.

Democratic leaders in three big states have used the recent shootings to push bills to crack down on assault weapons and ammunition sales. But these scattered efforts have not gained traction in Congress or the presidential campaign, and we have yet to see an orchestrated gun-control effort emerge.

It’s disappointing that progressive leaders are not pushing harder and louder to address this critical health issue. Not only disappointing, but cowardly and shameful.