Opinion: America once valued life more than guns. How did that change? | CNN

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Editor’s Note: Dominik Erdozain is a historian and author.A nation under the gunHe said. Follow him with X. @domerdozain. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own; See more Opinion by CNN.


When is a crisis a disaster? Last month, from A Mass shooting in Maine 18 people died, author Stephen King wrote an essay notable for the brevity of its dark message. “There is no solution to the gun problem and little more to write about” he began, “because Americans are addicted to guns.” Americans love their guns, he said, and no amount of torture, no amount of killing, can loosen their grip.

Not long ago, student Lane Murdoch led the national school walkout after the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland. He left the country.. Burned out and disillusioned, Murdoch now lives in Scotland, where freedom is real and no one lives in fear of a gun.

I appreciate the sentiment. But the picture looks different when you realize that almost everything we live by now has laws in place, from assault rifles to your land. It is new. This domestic disarmament is neither an American heritage nor a public interest. It is a political experiment orchestrated and orchestrated by a few militants. To see this is to know that something can be done.

America has always had a gun problem, but never on this scale. daily, 327 people have been shot in the United States.More than a hundred are fatal. And the number is increasing. Mass murders involving four or more victims are imminent. It doubled in five years.. Gun deaths among children have increased dramatically. 41.6% between 2018 and 2021.

School shootings, once rare and exceptional events, are on the same cycle. In the year In 2010, there were 13 such incidents nationwide. last year, There were 79. This year, the number has reached 77 by mid-November. More than half of the 36 fatal shootings on record have occurred since 1903. In the last decade.

No other generation has endured this. The number of deaths is increasing because the current weapons and the right to take them outside the home are new. Today’s regulation would have been unthinkable for Americans in any other era..

Most Americans in the mid-20th century abhorred the concept of “.Preparation of the armored car” and was shocked to see a gun in public. Regulations against “arming” were as old as republican and common law staples. Pistols and hunting rifles were widely owned, but handguns were feared and despised.

In 1959, it was close 6 out of 10 Americans support a total ban on handgunsand only 16% American families carry such equipment, most of them in the South.

In the year In 1969, the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence recommended drastic measures to reduce the number of handguns in circulation, then estimated at 24 million.

“I’m one of those people who believes that violence and weapons cause violence,” said Marvin E. Wolfgang, a criminology professor who chaired the task force on firearms. “If pushed against the wall, I would probably support the Japanese decision that no one is allowed to own or carry a gun except a police officer.He said.

Commission Chairman Milton S. Eisenhower wanted to recommend a ban in favor of a strict and selective licensing policy. Federal law advised the commission, “It should not be taken as a sufficient indication of the need for a handgun for common home protectionHe said.

The problem did not go away, and the Republican President Richard Nixon was among those who favored prohibition. “I don’t know why any individual should have the right to have a revel in his house” he shouted to aides in 1972. Why can’t we “go after handguns?” he thought. The National Rifle Association opposes it. The gun makers object. But “people shouldn’t have handguns,” he insisted, with his usual stream of insults. “A gun,” he once said.They are disgusting.He said.

Nixon was not alone. Attorney General John N. Mitchell said on the “David Frost Show” that “he isAs opposed to anyone except law enforcement officers having a gunHe said. In the year In 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals called for privately owned firearms to be fully decriminalized. In 1983, it was destroyed as a civilian weapon. The nation was bleeding. Russell Peterson, chairman of the commission and former Republican governor of Delaware, urged a blanket ban on these agents of misery. It is long overdue.

Then came the storm. In June 1974, the Madison, Wisconsin city council voted in a dramatic move for a citywide ban on handguns. “Maybe one day when there are no guns in this society “And the cops don’t have to carry it,” said the happy young mayor, Paul Soglin.

Forty years later, serving a third term as mayor, it was Soglin. Fight a different battleHandguns — now legal throughout the state — for protection from crowded buses. The dream is over. Republican lawmakers, not resting on their laurels, have been pushing to remove the last vestiges of gun-free zones from school zones.

What changed? The answer is short. Cold War thinker Ronald Reagan reduced domestic policy to a series of simple choices. Good and evil. Light and dark. Arm the righteous, and Crime protects itself.. It was a “shameful truth,” but criminals were undeterred by gun laws. The answer was to make firepower accessible to the good guys: the pro-people masses. Good people, never miss.

To the new conservative, guns were more than weapons: they were symbols of Americanness and vehicles of destiny. In the year After Reagan came to the White House in 1981, the conversation shifted from gun control to “protecting” gun owners. Reagan continued to embrace the militant NRAA bill of rights for American gun owners Against the recommendations of his own task force on violent crime.

Only a madman would see the problems we have in this country.“What this country needs next is to weaken our handgun control laws,” wrote Michael Baird, head of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. But the agenda was in 1984.

The next year, when Florida passed one of the nation’s first concealed carry laws, Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat, dismissed it as a dangerous pregnant policy. “People could walk into malls, movies, and schoolyards armed.” said one relieved and angry senator. They will do it very soon.

In the year When Texas introduced a similar law in 1993, Democratic Gov. Ann Richards vetoed it in outrage. “On this day,” she said.We say no to the amateur gunners who think they will be smart and smart with a gun in their handsHe said. Texans, she has long argued, “don’t need to be reminded that assault weapons kill innocent children and adults.” The only conceivable result of the decree is that many people are “shot dead.”

But this was not an argument. It was a culture war, in which facts were optional and reality was negotiable. Opposition to the concealed weapons law Richards expense in the next electionAnd her successor, George W. Bush, signed it into law. “This is a bill to make Texas a safer place.” he said, with uncertain gravity. A new era has begun.

In 1986, only one state (Vermont) allowed citizens to carry handguns without a license. 25 states have limited the privilege to those who can show “good cause.” Sixteen states have completely banned the carrying of firearms.

In the year By 2023, the revolution was complete27 states now allow a “right to carry,” unknown in the 20th century. Seventeen states Have a permissive, “case-by-case” basis, which shocked Graham and Richard when the idea was first proposed. The number of states that criminalize carrying concealed handguns is now zero. And “concealed carry” training requirements that form such an important part of the main issue They are widely discarded.

If that were not enough, the gun rights revolution was accompanied by a revolution in the legalization of murder. Standing laws removed the pre-conflict “duty to retreat,” legalizing lethal force in the face of perceived or actual danger.

In the late 19th century, it was derided as a holdover from slave power and power. A mortal threat to the rule of law. He came back after a hundred years. In the year As of 2004, no state has enacted such a law, leaving the question to the courts. right now, 38 are classified as “your-land”. States, authorizing — some would say encouraging — lethal force in situations where it is by no means a last resort.

Finally: machine guns. In the year In the 1920s, fully automatic “Tommy” armed robbers guns They started terrorizing the people, their weapons were condemned.A prime example of peacetime brutalityHe said. of In the year The National Firearms Act of 1934 taxed them out of circulation, and automatic ammunition disappeared from American roads.. of University of Texas In the 1966 massacre. It was carried out by a former Marine sharpshooter with a sniper rifle. In the year Until the return of automatic fire in the 1980s, such incidents were not uncommon.

24-year-old Patrick Purdy was killed Five children and 29 others were injured In the year In 1989, in an elementary school in Stockton, California, with an AK-47, few Americans knew such weapons were available to civilians. And few could have expected how boldly they now defend it as an American right.

“It’s beyond my understanding,” said a Detroit prosecutor.Why are these weapons available to the public?He said. “What are they going to do,” wondered one retired US Army colonel.Shoot trees?Or as one former FBI agent put it with stark clarity: “There’s always a Purdy out there.” One thing we can do is gunsHe said.

He is among those who support an immediate ban. First Lady Barbara Bush, and her husband dared to say for sure. But in the vortex of the culture wars, protecting guns became a patriotic imperative.

In the year The National Rifle Association, which frowned upon the AR-15 at gun shows in the 1980s, has now become a fierce defender. “People who never intended to buy one went out and got one,” recalled Libertarian Grover Norquist. “It was,” he reported happily.An F-you to the leftHe said.

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Less counted device 1% of gun sales in 1992 It will represent a quarter of the market in 2019. A weapon with more killing power than the banned Tommy guns of the 1930s is affordable and freely available.

This is not freedom. America’s hope for peace and “domestic stability” is revealed. And the Supreme Court decides by The gun case is now consideredThere’s no denying the story: This “constitutional right” to own a gun for self-defense is another modern-day outgrowth — a right unknown before “Amazing chaos” The 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision.

For decades, gun activists have used their stories of extremism to cast gun control as a failure of patriotism. But theirs is an imagined past, a brutal freedom — and one that is tearing American communities apart now.

In 1931, Franklin D. Roosevelt said that a government that failed to protect the lives of its citizens from “indiscriminate shooting” was out of step with modern thinking. Before we can go forward, we must go back — to an America where life was more precious than guns.

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