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Students get off buses after being evacuated to a recreation center following a school shooting that injured at least seven children on May 7, 2019 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

Students get off buses after being evacuated to a recreation center following a school shooting that injured at least seven children on May 7, 2019 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. (Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The GOP's Newfound Concern for "The Children" Doesn't Save Kids from Their #1 Killer: Guns

We have the resources to deal with childhood injuries and deaths from the only product sold in America specifically designed to kill human beings—now the leading cause of death in children.

Thom Hartmann

 by ThomHartmann.com

Nina Shapiro reports at Forbes this week in an article titled "The Leading Cause Of Death In Children And Youths Is Now Guns":

"Access to firearms by children, by unlicensed owners, and absence of safety measures when it comes to both intentional and unintentional gun-related injuries and deaths, are among the reasons that the incidence of this horrific, truly avoidable tragedy is on the rise."

The latest con from the GOP is that they're all about "the children."

  • They're worried that trans people will show up in the "wrong" bathroom and scare or threaten "the children."

  • They're hysterical that teaching American history will cause white children to "feel bad."

  • They're locking up women and threatening them with life in prison because they had a miscarriage that Republicans suspect might have been a self-induced abortion.

  • They're happily jumping on the 2022 GOP version of the Tsar's antisemitic blood libel, claiming their political opponents are "groomers" targeting children.

  • They're enthusiastically embracing the Qanon slogan: "Save the children!"

Until you mention children killed by guns.

Then, Republicans retreat into a bizarre cone of silence or simply turn and run away from the conversation altogether. Or, worse, they continue grooming their own young people to become school shooters, as you can see below.

Twenty years ago, car accidents were the leading killer of children and youth; today it's guns.

At the turn of the 21st century, there were about 14 car-crash deaths among young people (aged 1-24) per 100,000 young Americans, and only a bit over 7 gun deaths per 100,000. This year, almost 11 out of 100,000 children died from guns while only 8 per 100K died from car crashes.

And most all of those child gun deaths, which don't happen in any other developed country in the world, are entirely preventable, if only Republicans would stop actively blocking progress.

As I noted in The Hidden History of Guns and the 2nd Amendment:

A company named Safe Gun Technology, Inc. developed a fingerprint reader that's built right into the grip on handguns and rifles, preventing the weapon from being fired by anybody except those people "authorized" to shoot it by having their fingerprints in its system. Their fingerprint reader, simply a flat spot on the grip where a fingertip would normally lay, can even be retrofitted onto existing weapons.

Another company, Intelligun, offers a similar fingerprint-reading product and is working with the US Army's Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center to come up with a stock that, instead of recognizing fingerprints (which can be obscured by dirt, etc.), measures exactly how and where the authorized user grips his or her gun, another biometric measure that's highly personalized.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) recognition of a gun's owner, thus unlocking the weapon, has become a mature industry; TriggerSmart Technologies sells a gun that unlocks when handled by a user who's wearing a ring that the gun recognizes. The Germany company Armatix sells a gun that unlocks by RFID with a watch worn by the owner.

But none of these technologies are making any significant inroads in the American gun market. In fact, gun dealers who've tried to sell these products have been threatened, including explicit death threats.

Fortune magazine reported on a man named "Doug" who started and ran a website, now closed, at smartgunz.com, that promoted safer guns and offered the Armatix (RFID with a watch) gun for sale here in America. He wouldn't give his last name to Fortune, though, because he feared for his life.

As Fortune wrote: "And that's why Doug has to be so hush-hush. If his last name were made public, people would try to put him out of business and, perhaps, threaten to kill him. That's what happened to the last two gun dealers who tried to sell this gun."

It's as if the car industry had succeeded in their 1970s campaign against having to put seat belts and airbags into cars, and thus instead of only around 35,000 people a year dying in car crashes, the number was two or three times that. And car enthusiasts or agents of the auto industry were threatening the lives of people offering to sell aftermarket seat belts or running websites advocating for them.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation requiring one of these sorts of safety devices to be built into any new guns sold in America; Republican leadership in the Senate refused to even consider it in committee, much less bring it to the floor for a vote.

The GOP gifted gun manufacturers with near-absolute immunity against product liability lawsuits, so manufacturers have zero incentive to sell safer weapons.

Their immunity from lawsuits is so extreme that the only way the parents of the kids murdered at Sandy Hook could hold Remington responsible was to instead go after their marketing: they had to point out how the company was "selling masculinity" to get guns into the hands of insecure boys.

The danger of an AR15 weapon-of-war in an elementary school couldn't even be discussed.

Back in the early years of the 20th century when cars had become so common they were regularly killing people in auto accidents, states hit on a simple formula to encourage safe driving and maintain clear lines of responsibility when things went wrong.

  • Every car was required to be registered every year with the state; if it was found out in public without registration it could be confiscated.

  • Every driver was required to prove knowledge of how to safely drive, with both a written and a real-life driving test.

  • And every driver was required to carry liability insurance, so if there was an accident the victims were covered, regardless of who was at fault.

For about 100 years drivers have lived with these three simple requirements, and they've worked. The liability insurance is particularly effective: as a "free market solution," insurance companies now compile information on drivers' safety records, including their history of violence, and set their rates accordingly.

Think about it: if Adam Lanza had murdered those kids at Sandy Hook by mowing them down in the street with his mom's SUV, their families would have gotten $1 million each from Geico (for example). But because he killed them with a gun, they got nothing; even survivors of gun shootings and "accidents" get nothing for medical bills.

The only city in America that's taken a cue from that century of insurance experience is San Jose, California which in 2021 put a liability insurance requirement into place for all gun owners in the city.

If you've committed gun-related crimes or your guns have killed people in the past, the "free market" for insurance will make it very expensive to own a gun; if you're a gun owner who keeps your weapons in a gun safe and uses trigger guards, your rates will be nominal.

One of the main reasons fewer children are dying in car accidents now than a decade or two ago is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been compiling statistics for decades and has repeatedly identified safety flaws in particular vehicles or the way they're used.

Throughout that time gun safety advocates have wanted a federal agency to compile gun injury and death statistics, but a bought-off member of Congress, Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey, attached the notorious "Dickey Amendment" to a must-pass omnibus spending bill in 1996.

In response to a growing number of research papers in the 1980s and early 1990s calling gun deaths a national health crisis and demanding federally funded science on the issue, his NRA-sponsored amendment banned any federal dollars from being used to research gun injuries or deaths in the US.

As The New England Journal of Medicine noted this week:

"Although substantial federal funding has been devoted to research on motor vehicle crashes, the firearm industry and gun-rights organizations, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been effective at keeping federal dollars from financing firearm-related research."

Republicans in Congress continue to attach the Dickey Amendment to every major omnibus spending bill and refuse to vote for any that doesn't contain it. If anybody is "grooming" children toward dangerous behavior, it's Republicans proudly grooming their own kids to be future school shooters:

There's also the problem of the simple proliferation of guns, and the fact that more and more of them are semi-automatic weapons of war rather than simple revolvers or sport-shooting guns and rifles.

In 2010, a bit fewer than 10 million guns were sold in the US. Just the one year of 2020 saw that number more than double to nearly 22 million guns sold in just a 12-month period; 2021 added another 19 million guns to America's homes.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more guns there are—particularly lacking any incentives to secure them safely—the more gun deaths (accidental, homicide, suicide) there will be.

There are now more guns in America than there are people, a bizarre situation that no other developed country in the world experiences. Literally none.

The average of all countries in the world is 9.86 guns per 100 civilians. The United States is highest in the world at 120.5 guns per 100 people. Yemen, which is in the middle of a war with Saudi Arabia and dealing with an internal insurgency, comes in second at 52.8. No other nation is even close; even Afghanistan and Iraq average around 20 deadly weapons in the hands of every hundred people.

While President Biden has signed an executive order banning the scourge of untraceable "ghost guns" and put gun safety in his last State of the Union speech, there is so much more to do.

Tuesday of this week a group of young activists including mass shooting survivor and March For Our Lives leader David Hogg covered the front of Senator Chuck Schumer's office with body bags because of his unwillingness to bring gun control legislation to the floor of the Senate during this election year.

Meanwhile, the NRA, still flush with an infusion of cash from Russia, has succeeded in lobbying 25 states to allow anybody to carry a concealed gun with no background checks, no training, and no permit, regardless of their criminal or violent history.

America is neither poor nor stupid. We figured out how cars were killing people and put an end to most avoidable automobile deaths using a combination of commonsense laws (like mandatory licensure and insurance) and safety measures (seatbelts, carseats, padded dashes, anti-lock brakes, etc.).

The problem is that the GOP, their newfound concern for "the children" notwithstanding, does everything they can to block any reasonable solutions to the problem of gun violence and deaths in America, particularly among our kids.

We have both the technology and the resources to deal with childhood injuries and deaths from the only product sold in America that is specifically designed to kill human beings.

We just have to shame Republicans enough to stop taking money from and embracing this death-dealing industry so America can put these reasonable steps—that have worked so well in other developed nations—into place here.


© 2015 Thom Hartmann

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