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As we prepare in earnest and important national dialogue on guns, a discussion driven by the slaughter of 58 of our fellow Americans in Las Vegas, let’s establish some guideposts.
Members of Congress are drawing up new bills. Lawyers and lawmakers and suits representing special interests are framing their white papers. And we need some guideposts so that this discussion does not devolve, as so many others have, into shouting and futility.
So let’s begin with some rules of engagement — some stone-cold facts:
We have a gun problem in America. There’s no denying it. None of us are ingénues here. We’ve seen enough in the past quarter-century to know we occupy a violent land, where evil and unhinged minds routinely intersect with instruments of death. Columbine, Newtown, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, San Bernardino, Orlando and now Las Vegas.
After the Newtown shooting, liberal commentator Mark Shields told a “PBS NewsHour” audience, “Since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II, in those 43 years.” Politifact double-checked his math and found it spot-on.
America has a gun problem, and only about 13 percent of us are still in denial, according to a 2017 poll by the Pew Research Center. The rest of us know better.
The United States has one of the highest rates of gun violence in the advanced world. We need only compare ourselves to Canada to know something is terribly wrong. Our gun-violence rate is 3.85 deaths per 100,000, to Canada’s 0.48. That’s eight times higher than our next-door neighbor and 27 times higher than Denmark, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
They are big and unnerving and almost cinematic in their horror, but mass shootings are a sideshow to the bigger gun problem in America. They amount to about 1 to 2 percent of all the gun violence in the country.
The most common weapon used in gun murder is the handgun. Rifles, such as those used in Vegas, are actually rare. 
Yes, the big, bad wolf of gun lobbyists spreads a lot of money around the halls of Congress and can act in extreme and highly annoying ways. The system isn’t rigged. The NRA is just better and more aggressive at using the system than those who would oppose them.
If you can blame the NRA for gun violence, then you don’t shoulder the responsibility that you didn’t engage politically to oppose them, even though you have access to all the political rights and tools they’ve used to dominate the gun debate.
If you believe, as we do, that we need tighter gun regulations in this country, then you need to get politically active, find candidates, fund them, vote for them and compete
There is actually widespread agreement left and right on some pretty important gun reforms. That spells enormous opportunity for those who will only engage.
To hell with the NRA. Start registering people to vote.

Arizona Republic, Oct. 9

 

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