Given the virtually unregulated access to guns in the US, it's actually surprising that there aren't more than 80-90 gun deaths and 200-300 injuries everyday. There are an average of 30,000 gun deaths and 100,000 gun injuries each year. The average US annual firearm fatality rate is 10.6 per 100,000 population which is more than the entire industrialized world combined. Since 1999 when the US experienced a 30 year low in violent crime, most US cities have experienced a dramatic increase in gun violence. The difference between then and now is that the gun lobby now dictates national gun policy, and the deadly trend will continue until the President and Congress enact a handful of effective uniform national gun laws that address the unrestricted private sale of guns, including at 5,000 gun shows without even a criminal background check, support rather than restrict law enforcement, and confront race, poverty and the lack of economic opportunity in our poorest neighborhoods.
For instance, although Massachusetts has enacted the most effective gun violence prevention laws and initiatives in the Country and is among the top three states with the lowest firearm fatality rate in the US, it is an island surrounded by a sea of states where criminals can buy and sell an unlimited number of guns without even an ID or background check. To make matters worse in the last seven years the Federal government has not only turned a blind eye towards gun violence it has intentionally allowed easy access to guns and restricted law enforcement's ability to prevent and prosecute criminals how use and traffic guns. In fact there aren't even Federal minimum mandatory gun trafficking statutes on the books and incredibly, the US Justice Department requires that the FBI destroy National Instant Check (NICS) gun purchase records after 24 hours making it nearly impossible for police to track gun traffickers and illegal multiple gun sale patterns. The primary reason is the NRA and gun lobby's influence and control over Congress and the Bush administration. As a result the Federal Government renders nearly useless what few national gun laws that do exist and sadly law enforcement is unnecessarily put at risk by easy criminal access to much more powerful military style weapons and ammunition than police are issued to protect themselves and the public.
According to law enforcement crime guns are coming from the following sources:
1) Home, car, and gun dealer invasions/break-ins and subsequent undocumented "secondary sale" transfers.
2) Straw purchasers (buyers with clean background checks) who lawfully purchase guns from FFL's (Federally Licensed Dealers) as well as private sellers and then resell to anyone without a background check requirement or documentation. Historically about 1 percent of FFL's are responsible for approximately 60% of guns traced to crimes.
3) Gun shows, flea markets and other "secondary sale" markets in the 32 states where no background checks or documentation is required. There are over 5,000 gun shows in the US each year where over half the guns sold are transferred by "private sellers". In addition the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATF) is literally prohibited from regulating "private sales" especially at "politically radioactive" gun shows and flea markets.
So what's the answer to gun violence in the US?
1) Enact uniform national gun laws similar to what has worked in Massachusetts that:
-Require backgrounds checks for ALL gun purchases including for "private sales" and especially at gun shows, and flea markets
-Require safe storage of all firearms unless they are in the owner's direct control to reduce guns from home, car and dealer theft
-Allow the FBI to maintain gun purchase records and include criminal AND mental health history that can be accessed by gun dealers and law enforcement
-Develop effective federal gun trafficking laws with minimum mandatory sentences for unlawful multiple gun sales
-Create incentives for gun manufacturers to produce "personalized" and "child-proof" guns that only the intended user can fire
2) Create economic opportunities, job training, mentoring programs and close the equality and social "equity" gap for the geographically small and disproportionately dangerous and poor urban neighborhoods where virtually all the gun violence and gang activity takes place.
The solutions to gun violence are relatively simple-it's the politics that stand in the way of saving lives from largely preventable gun violence; reduce easy access to guns by kids, the mentally ill and criminals with uniform national laws, support vs. restrict law enforcements ability to enforce gun laws and acknowledge and address the realities of poverty, race and social inequity in especially our inner city neighborhoods, schools and employment sectors. Unfortunately these solutions require the political will and courage to stand up to the greed, ignorance and shortsightedness of the gun lobby and their supporters in Congress and the White House. We must recognize that if gun violence were killing mostly suburban white kids like at Virginia Tech, Columbine High, University of Texas, Jonesboro Elementary School or Anyboro USA vs. the 80-90 mostly urban kids of color everyday, the uproar that we heard last week in the wake of VT would be deafening and Congress and the President would act. It's way past the time for the uproar to quiet the sound of gunshots in the United States-gun violence capital of the world!