There’s a new video floating around the Internet called “Gun Violence – PSA” that’s making quite a stir. Created by Rejina Cincic, it follows a teenage boy who takes an unlocked pistol out of his mother’s bureau drawer, slips it into his backpack, walks into his class at school and, when there are no other kids in the room, plops the gun down on the teacher’s desk and says, “I don’t feel safe with this at home.” And that’s it.
From viewer reactions, you would think that the NRA had posted a video telling gun owners to turn in all their guns. I have never seen such vitriol, such anger and such cheap and snarky comments directed at any statement about gun ownership, and once the hoi polloi weighed in with their usual invectives, the pro-gun propaganda media known as the Washginton Times came forth with their usual, nonsensical conclusion that the video “encourages” children to commit crimes, such as stealing the gun and then taking the weapon onto school property. The Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Bear Arms, which is the other website belonging to the successful mail-order company known as the 2nd Amendment Foundation, declared that the video depicted six or perhaps seven different crimes.
Know what crime wasn’t depicted in the video? The crime that would have occurred if that same kid had taken his mother’s gun to school, walked into a classroom and opened fire at other students and adults. How do you think that Jaylen Fryberg got his hands on the gun he used to kill four students at Marysville High School on October 24? And it really didn’t matter how many other crimes Fryberg committed that day in order to bring the gun into the school because after shooting the four other kids, he then used the gun to kill himself.
This PSA video has provoked such an intense reaction from the pro-gun community because it strikes directly at their most sacred cow, namely, the idea that guns in homes make us more safe. The gun industry has been tirelessly promoting this crap for the last 20 years ever since they noticed that the traditional reason for owning guns — sport shooting and hunting — were beginning to fade away. But if you can make people believe that the protection afforded by a gun far outweighs the risk of that weapon lying around, you’ve created a new and unending market for guns.
Let’s take a minute and look at some numbers about whether guns really keep us safe from violent crime. The gun industry loves to tout the fact that there has been a 50 percent increase in gun sales while violent crime rates have declined by about the same amount over the last 20 years. The only problem with this bromide is that 95 percent of the decline took place between 1994-2003, while the number of guns bought by civilians began to show major increases after 2004.
If that argument doesn’t work, let’s try another one. According to the FBI, the number of felonies that were prevented by what is known as justifiable homicide using a gun runs around 225 per year. Meanwhile, the number of non-justifiable gun homicides sits above 10,000 annually — wow, that’s quite a safety record for guns, right? As for using a gun to prevent a crime, the NRA publishes a listing of such events on its Armed Citizen website, and the numbers run between 60-75 per year.
I happen to think that Stop Gun Violence is the best gun PSA I have ever seen. It says what we all know, namely, that a gun in the home is a safety risk and an unlocked gun is a much greater risk. I notice that all the critics who were busily counting up the felonies depicted in the film forgot to mention that in most states, leaving an unlocked gun around is not a crime at all. Shouldn’t we be talking about that issue rather than attempting to discredit a teen-age boy who showed a lot more common sense than the owner of that gun?