Saturday, December 22, 2012

How Much Is That Six Year Old In The Window?

What a tangled web we weave. The day we allowed industrial and corporate lobbying to buy their way into government was the day we sold our world-envied constitution to the devil. In other words, we figured out a way to legalize government bribing. We thought we were being so clever, so first-worldish, by institutionalizing bribery and making it "transparent". Or as we call it today, Political Action Committees (PACs). Yes, we transparently disclose the amount of money being used to buy politicians. Clever indeed, if not the constitutional confidence game of the century.

The problem is much bigger than the NRA, as much as they are the latest center-stage reminder of what we've done. The tobacco lobby is a perfect example: against overwhelming evidence that tobacco is one of the biggest killers of Americans, it is still being protected by elected officials. 443,000 people are being killed by cigarettes every year in the US, according to the CDC. So how much “legal bribing” does it take to allow the federal government to protect the right to kill people? Apparently about $3.4 million dollars every two year election cycle (source: Center for Responsive Politics). That translates to $3.84 per human life killed.

There are limited statistics on how much private gun ownership protects individuals. The closest number I could find is an FBI report stating that between 2005 and 2010, 213 homicides were recorded as legitimate self defense. That's 42 per year. We also know that the proportion of non-fatal to fatal shootings is roughly one to one (Source: CDC Study, 1993 – 1998). So in lieu of a direct statistic, let’s extrapolate and say that another 42 legitimate self defense cases result in non-fatal injury. That only leaves claims where a gun owner legitimately deterred or turned away an assailant -- a statistic that simply does not exist. But I would be hard-pressed to believe that for every fatal and non-fatal incident there are more than TEN times the number of legitimate deterrent incidents -- LEGITIMATE meaning not a deterrent by the mere fact that there is a firearm in the house. That benefit of the doubt would bring our count to about 1,000 incidents a year where private guns save lives. And that would reduce our yearly firearm homicide count from 8,583 per year (source: FBI, 2011) to just about 7,500, rounded. Yes, the logic seems a little twisted, since it trades a life saved for a life lost. A more logical approach would be to say that for every innocent life a private gun saves, it destroys eight. 

Speaking of lopsided logic: if you want to blow your mind for a moment (figuratively, please), consider the following simple math: the United States has been involved in 75 war-scale conflicts since its birth (1776 - 2011); about 20% of those wars were waged against North American natives; the total number of US deaths in all 75 conflicts adds up to 1.3 million (estimate varies by sources, but most credible sources agree that it is well over 1 million); out of the 1.3 million US deaths, about HALF of them were self-inflicted (Civil War - does not include so-called friendly fire). On the domestic crime front, a very conservative estimate puts US homicides since 1776 at 1.5 million (almost a million alone since World War II). So the grand total of Americans killing Americans, in the history of our great nation, is well over 2 million. On the flip side, just over half a million Americans have been killed by foreign enemies. Which means that three out of four American casualties, killed in wars or domestic crime, have been killed by Americans. Talk about our own worst enemy.

So back to our count of recent years: at 7,500 lives per year lost, how much does the NRA value life?  The NRA has been contributing towards the election of congress, senators, and presidents at a rate of $1 million per election cycle (source: Center for Responsive Politics, 2012). All for the right of private firearms to be used to kill over eight times the lives they save. Combining both figures, the NRA actually values life at $66.66. 

For the record: I am not against hunting for food, or against a well managed approach to the private ownership of non-automatic or even semi-automatic firearms (for definition of "well managed", see U.S. Constitution, Second Amendment, under well regulated.) Just because I don't own a gun does not mean that I need to impose my personal beliefs on everyone. But an institution like the NRA offers me no respect in return, when they consistently ignore the overwhelming evidence from over twenty other free and developed nations. Their transparent agenda to maintain the sale of automatic / assault firearms to practically anyone is criminal in itself. The moment they put a $66.66 price tag on the head of little Allison in Newtown, Connecticut, it is time to hold them, and the politicians they purchase, accountable.

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