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Debunking the NRA's Utterly and Provably False Claim that New Gun Laws Won't Save Lives

With gun deaths set to exceed auto deaths, it's useful to take a look at how regulating the auto industry saved lives.

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A new study from the Center for American Progress  found that states with looser guns laws have a higher rate of gun violence. And the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has  concluded, "where there are more guns there is more homicide."

Gun manufacturers, taking their cues fro the National Rifle Association's obstinancy, remain firmly opposed to attempts to regulate the industry in an effort to reduce deaths. "The firearm industry is where the auto industry was, which is fighting regulation tooth and nail," said Wintemute.

It's that refusal, and the inability of legislators to pass tighter gun regulations, that explains why in 2015 firearm fatalities are expected, for the first time, to surpass auto deaths as the leading cause of non-medical deaths in America, according to a  recent analysis from Bloomberg.

While the gun debate in America often centers on the issue of crime, it is first and foremost a  public safety issue. (As well as  a very costly health care issue.)  But it's a public safety problem that comes under very little government supervision. 

The fact is that firearms remain  the only consumer product in America not regulated by a federal agency for health and safety. The federal government has an entire agency dedicated to car safety (NHTSA), in part because approximately 35,000 Americans die each year from car accidents. Yet nearly the same number die from firearms and the government doesn't have a comparable regulatory structure in place.

Another difference between carmakers and gun manufacturers, and one that helps explain the latter's unwillingness to embrace regulation, is the fact that gun makers cannot be sued for negligence. Enacted in 2005, and passed at the urging of the NRA, the  Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act  (PLCAA) "shields the gun industry even when it makes guns that are unnecessarily dangerous and sells them recklessly," Time recently  noted.

Prior to the law's passage, gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson were fearful of courtroom liability costs and moved to make their guns safer and easier for law enforcement to trace. But once PLCAA passed, gun manufacturers had less to fear.

In other words, there's no longer any motivation for firearm manufacturers to produce safer products or to sell them cautiously. "There's no incentive," says Wintemute. "There's a moral incentive, but nothing else. There's no liability or threat of increased government regulation." It was those twin forces that convinced automakers to finally embrace safety initiatives (anti-lock brakes, electronic stability, etc.), which in turned helped produce the dramatic decline in roadway fatalities.

At the same time, the government, including law enforcement, got busy unveiling more aggressive drunk driving campaigns ("Booze It and Lose It"), setting up more sobriety checkpoints, building safer roads, and mandating new state laws aimed at young drivers, awarding them graduated licenses only after they've gained experience behind the wheel.

The result, as noted above, was a huge reduction in auto-related deaths between 2005 and 2011.

As for guns, public safety experts say if firearm regulations were passed into law they would quickly decrease the number of gun deaths, just as they did with auto fatalities. The proposed regulations include full background checks for all firearm purchases, complete record keeping for every transactions, the creation of a gun offender registry, an expanded assault weapons ban, ammunition restrictions, and a ban on bulk purchases of handguns.

The gun lobby and its far-right media allies insist news laws and regulations won't reduce gun deaths in the U.S. But automakers have already demonstrated that's not true. Recent regulations have helped revolutionize consumer safety, and have saved thousands of lives.

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