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Overview: America's Gun and Violence Crisis; And: How the 2nd Amendment Got Hijacked by the NRA and Antonin Scalia

Don Hazen introduces our ongoing series on gun violence and the NRA; Steven Rosenfeld exposes the commandeering of the Second Amendment.

The Challenges Ahead: Protecting Our Society From Gun Violence

An Editorial by Don Hazen

One of the worst feelings that emerges from horrible events like the mass murder at Connecticut's Sandy Hook elementary school is the sense that we live in a country that has fundamentally lost the ability to protect itself and its most vulnerable citizens from gun violence.

This sense of defenselessness can be overwhelming, especially when the increasingly savage mass killings are blasted over our mass media. When we look at the recent scorecard, it's clear that the problem is spiraling out of control. Six of the 12 most deadly shootings in our history have occurred within the past five years. The vast majority of the world’s worst mass shootings, in developed countries,   have taken place in the United States. There have been 65 mass shootings since Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2009. On top of that, nearly 15,000 homicides were committed in the  U.S. in 2011, two-thirds of them with firearms, and this rate is rising since December.  

Ironically and depressingly, sales of guns and ammunition has gone through the roof since the Sandy Hook tragedy, and production cannot keep up with demand. So the 300 million guns in personal hands in the U.S. are increasing for sure. 

With the mass murders, it is the NRA that is most culpable. The NRA has been transformed from an organization primarily about gun safety to one taken over by gun zealots. The NRA protects the ability of virtually anyone to get their hands on guns, even the most powerful assault weapons like those used in recent killings. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the developed world. For the NRA, "freedom" is now defined as the ability to carry a concealed handgun virtually anyplace.

Like most realities in America where consumers and citizens are routinely victimized, the adage "follow the money" always rings true. The NRA for all intents and purposes is the advocacy arm for the booming gun and ammunition industry, where in turn, some of the top gunmaker companies are owned by Wall Street hedge funds.  

Gun violence is a huge problem for our society and a top editorial priority for AlterNet. Over the weekend we published Steven Rosenfeld’s illuminating article, " The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA." Below is, "How the Second Amendment Was Hijacked by Antonin Scalia and the NRA." Rosenfeld is a veteran investigative reporter, deeply immersed in the history and controversies regarding American gun culture, gun violence and gun control laws. He will be writing a series of articles on gun safety, the NRA, and violence this week and next. 

We at AlterNet know that the fight with the NRA will be long and challenging. Many elected officials fear the NRA, because it will use its deep pockets to try to defeat them if they stray from the NRA’s uncompromising hard line. The NRA also donates, along with the gun industry, large amounts of campaign dollars to those running for office (follow the money).

Beyond the NRA, other factors that contribute to our violent culture must be examined. Jan Frel and I co-wrote the piece, " We Are a Country Drenched in Bloodshed: Some Hard Truths About Violence in the Media" several weeks ago about violence in the media, urging all of us to take a look at the interlocking dynamics that pervade much of our media landscape. The NRA works to "normalize" gun violence by sponsoring and collaborating with the production and marketing of violent video games, which deeply affect children and adolescents. 

There is a long road ahead of us as a country before we can dig out of the morass of violence that has multiple causes and difficult fixes. But our intelligence tells us that easy access to guns, especially powerful assault rifles, is at the center of our pervasive and unacceptable violence problem. Clearly, the country has strayed from any semblance of balanced and cautionary policies where public safety is more important than the unfettered right to guns, including weapons designed for the military.

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