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As Politicians Fiddle, US Gun Sales Soar

Tasks force, policy circles and meetings thrive as children and victims of gun violence continue to suffer

At a gun store in Casper, Wyo., late last month, a wall that typically displays about 25 military-style rifles was almost bare. (Alan Rogers/Casper Star-Tribune, via Associated Press)

As politicians in Washington have talks with "stakeholders" and convene "task forces" to review policy, gun violence continues apace and gun sales are surging.

In addition, gun and ammunition sales—particularly of the most dangerous varieties—have skyrocketed across the US in recent weeks as Americans appear to be stockpiling semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity clips amid fears that lawmakers will respond to long-ignored calls for a ban on such items.

Though Vice President Joe Biden is heading a national task force to address the renewed national outcry for gun safety laws in the aftermath the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut last month, advocates of stricter gun laws fear that new regulations will not likely be strong enough.

Worried that even the new public push following the murder of twenty kindergarten children will not be enough to break the National Rifle Association and other gun industry lobbyists' hold on US lawmakers, Mariam Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, asks:  "What is it going to take for the American people... to push the president and members of Congress and governors and state legislators to stand up to the NRA, gun manufacturers, and sellers?"

According to a counter on her group's website, already 446 children and teens have been shot by a gun since the 113th Congress was sworn in less than ten days ago.

In that context, however, CNN has learned that the "NRA is also preparing an ad campaign, expected to include both print and television advertisements, that would begin soon to help mount its opposition to new gun restrictions."

NRA officials refused to discuss specifics, but CNN reports:

The association is planning to send mailings to its members urging them to contact members of Congress with their opposition to new gun laws. "Let them know you feel strongly," is how Keene summarized the group's message to members.

The NRA is also sending personnel to gun shows to help to mobilize gun owners to voice their opposition.

"What is it going to take for them to place protection of children and youths and adults ahead of the protection of guns and profits and their election to office?" she continued. "How much is a child’s life worth in today’s political economy in America?"

And as the New York Times reports Saturday:

Gun dealers and buyers alike said that the rapid growth in gun sales — which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election and soared after the Dec. 14 shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., prompted him to call for new gun laws — shows little sign of abating.

December set a record for the criminal background checks performed before many gun purchases, a strong indication of a big increase in sales, according to an analysis of federal data by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group. Adjusting the federal data to try to weed out background checks that were unrelated to firearms sales, the group reported that 2.2 million background checks were performed last month, an increase of 58.6 percent over the same period in 2011. Some gun dealers said in interviews that they had never seen such demand.

“If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week,” said Jack Smith, an independent gun dealer in Des Moines, referring to the popular style of semiautomatic rifle that drew national attention after Adam Lanza used one to kill 20 children and 6 adults at a Newtown school. “When I close, they beat on the glass to be let in,” Mr. Smith said of his customers. “They’ll wave money at me.”

Mr. Smith said many people were stocking up on high-capacity magazines in anticipation that they might be banned. Two weeks ago, he said, a 30-round rifle magazine was $12, but it now fetches $60. Popular online retailers were out of many 20- and 30-round rifle magazines.

Meanwhile, Edelman's Children's Defense Fund has just released the latest their annual report on gun violence, "Protect Children Not Guns: The Truth About Guns," which debunks myths that guns make you safe and gives some of the grossest statistics from the year mostly recently available, 2010.

According to the report:

A child or teen dies or is injured from guns every 30 minutes.

  • 18,270 children and teens died or were injured from guns in 2010.
  • 1 child or teen died or was injured every 30 minutes
  • 50 children and teens died or were injured every day
  •  351 children and teens died or were injured every week

More children and teens die from guns every three days than died in the Newtown massacre.

  • 2,694 children and teens died from guns in 2010.
  • 1 child or teen died every 3 hours and 15 minutes
  • 7 children and teens died every day
  • 52 children and teens died every week

Between 1992 and 2010, 119,079 children and teens died from guns. This is more child and teen deaths in 32 years than U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam (47,434), Korean (33,739), Afghanistan (1,712), and Iraq (3,518) wars combined.

The number of children under five who died from guns was more than the number of law enforcement officers who died from guns in the line of duty in 2010.

  • 82 children under five died from guns in 2010, compared to 58 law enforcement officers killed by guns in the line of duty.

Three times more children and teens were injured by guns in 2010 than the number of U.S. soldiers wounded in action that year in the Afghanistan war.

  • 15,576 children and teens were injured by guns in 2010.
  • 1 child or teen injured every 34 minutes
  • 43 children and teens injured every day
  • 300 children and teens injured every week

In addition, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, which as been working closely with the Biden task force, offered its policy recommendations on Friday, which follow:

Our top policy priority is closing the massive hole in the background check system that enables 40% of all gun sales to take place without background checks, not only at gun shows, but also with the added anonymity of the internet. As a result convicted felons, domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally ill and other prohibited purchasers can easily purchase guns with no questions asked.  Calling it a “gun show loophole” trivializes the problem. “Universal background checks” on all gun sales would have a clear positive impact on public safety, and is also clearly compatible with the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns. These policies also tend to enjoy the greatest public support. For example, 92% of Americans and 74% of NRA members support background checks.

Examples of additional policies that should be implemented include:

  • Strengthen the background check system that already exists to ensure, for example, that mental health and other relevant records are in the background check system and readily available within the states.  
  • Improve the ability to identify dangerous people who present the most risk, especially among the mentally ill.
    • We should provide legal mechanisms to prevent those dangerously mentally ill who present the most significant risk from possessing guns, while carefully protecting the rights of those who are mentally ill but do not pose a risk.
    • Other dangerous people who are currently not prohibited from purchasing firearms include: terrorists, violent misdemeanants (not involving domestic violence), violent juvenile offenders, and some substance abusers.   
  • Support law enforcement by giving them the tools to crack down on gun trafficking and prevent straw purchases. 
    • Limit the number of guns that can be purchased in a short period of time.
    • Make gun trafficking a federal offense.
    • Allow the ATF to conduct more than one spot inspection a year for dealers (currently prohibited).  
  • Eliminate legal loopholes that unfairly protect dangerous practices that contribute to gun deaths and injuries.
    • Guns are the only consumer product exempt from federal product safety regulations, so feasible safety features are not required.
    • Negligent gun companies are the only businesses shielded from state civil justice laws, so corrupt gun sellers are not held accountable.
    • Crime gun data is the only special industry exception to public disclosure under FOIA, so officials, law enforcement and researchers are kept in the dark.
    • Department of Health and Human Services agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control, are prevented from studying guns as a public safety risk, so important public health data on policies and programs to prevent gun injury are unavailable.
    • ATF is prevented from requiring basic store inventories that would prevent thefts and expose corrupt dealers, and minimal punishment and excessive evidentiary hurdles make it unduly difficult to punish traffickers and corrupt dealers. 
  • Limit the availability of military-style weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines that are designed for mass killing.


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