Indeed, it’s time to “politicize” the gun violence issue in this nation; and, it should be done in this election cycle. The top “gun rights” advocacy groups in terms of money spent on candidates are: (1) The National Rifle Association, which spent $952,252 during the 2013-14 season; (2) Safari Club International, which spent $694,640 during the same period; (3) Gun Owners of America, $270,157; (4) National Shooting Sports Foundation, $169,250; (5) The Ohio Gun Collectors Association, $35,500; and, (6) The Dallas Safari Club, $9,250. [OpenSecrets] And now – Who has been collecting some of this money in Nevada?
Contributions from all cycles to date as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics show:
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) $101,565
Representative Joe Heck (R-NV) $31,415
Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV) $25,765
Representative Cresent Hardy (R-NV) $1,000*
During his 2012 election campaign Senator Heller was presumably pleased to have five contributions from the Safari Club International totaling $6,000. [FEC] FEC records show more recent money coming into the Cresent Hardy* (R-NV4) campaign from pro-gun sources: there was a $1,000 contribution from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund on June 19, 2015, and a $2,000 contribution from Safari Club International on June 30, 2015. [FEC]
Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) collected $2,000 from the Safari Club International (6/22/15) thus far in the 2016-2016 season; he collected $2,500 from the National Rifle Association on 9/15/14, $1,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (9/22/14), and $1,000 from Safari Club International on 6/21/13. The gun lobby was generous to Representative Amodei in the 2011-2012 season as well, with three contributions (8/1/2011) (12/20/2011) (7/27/2012) totaling $4,000 from the National Rifle Association. Then, he received four more contributions from Safari Club International for $1,000 (8/9/2011) another $1,000 (3/19/2012), a boost of $2,000 (2/4/2012) and yet another $1,000 late in the season (9/8/2012).
While the politicians were collecting contributions from the pro-gun organizations, the CDC reported 16,121 homicides in the US in 2013 of which 11,208 were attributable to firearms. [CDC] As of 2011, the CDC reported, there were 41,149 suicides in this country, of which 21,175 were attributable to firearms. [CDC] Worse still, we’re not even sure exactly how many children we’re losing every year to gun violence. [WaPo] [NYT] As close as we can infer is that between 2007 and 2011 an average of 62 children under the age of 14 were accidentally shot and killed each year. This is probably, as the Post pointed out, an undercount. [ERorg.] The politicians collect more contributions, and the count rises.
Counting is important because the gun violence argument is becoming entangled in the differentiation between causation and correlation. Gun fetishists will be delighted to find that FactCheck is criticizing one of the President’s recent comments about gun regulation and death rates as not being one of causation. No one appears to be disputing the correlations. What’s interesting is that the original comment, “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths” doesn’t seem to imply a causal relationship (or even a near perfect positive correlation of .98) Perhaps for the purists, he might have expressed it as: “There appears to be a correlation between the efforts of a state to enact and enforce gun safety legislation and a lower overall gun violence death rate.”
Additionally, as the FactChecker points out counting suicides and accidental gun deaths is problematic because we lack a standard reporting system, an issue which muddies the clarity of statistics on accidents involving children as described in the links above. Accurate information (data collection as in “counting” as accurately as possible) would also allow us to treat gun violence as a public health issue. [Gupta CNN]
Counting and Will Power
If we go by the numbers, none of us can avoid the No. 1 cause of death until we reach 44 years of age – the heart disease and cancer causation kicks in. Unintentional injury is the leading cause for those aged 1-44. However, when we look at the second leading cause of death in those between the ages of 15-35 it’s suicide, and the third leading cause is homicide. [CDC] Surely, if we have these kinds of statistics before us we can observe a public health issue of the first water.
Consider for a moment: Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, and Gastrointestinal infections were leading causes of death in 1900; in 2010 the leading causes were heart disease and cancer. [I09] We treated TB, Pneumonia, and gastrointestinal infections as public health problems, studied causes, promoted research to find preventative measures and cures, and made a political decision that we would address these three killers with the funding and resources to defeat them. However, as long as the merchants of lethal weapons continue to pay off politicians, and dispute even the most common sense elements of a potential solution, and won’t even consider funding basic research … our public health problem will persist as a matter of ill-advised political policy.