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Why Do We Get Riled Up About Gun Rights, and Not Rights to Health Care and Education?

Billionaires like the Koch brothers are helping shift our priorities.
 
 
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The suicide/mass-killing in Newtown has provoked Senator Dianne Feinstein to propose going back to the assault weapons ban that George W. Bush let lapse in 2004. That’s a nice start, but increasing numbers of Americans are calling for a ban on all guns, except for those carried by people who actually need them.

And there’s a strong argument to be made for it.

The Charles Koch Foundation, which was founded in 1974 and then changed its name to the Cato Institute two years later, would like you to know something about gun control. In a commentary titled “ Gun Control, Myths and Realities,” their director of publications, David Lampo, writes:

[T]he facts show that there is simply no correlation between gun control laws and murder or suicide rates across a wide spectrum of nations and cultures. In Israel and Switzerland, for example, a license to possess guns is available on demand to every law-abiding adult, and guns are easily obtainable in both nations. Both countries also allow widespread carrying of concealed firearms, and yet, admits Dr. Arthur Kellerman, one of the foremost medical advocates of gun control, Switzerland and Israel “have rates of homicide that are low despite rates of home firearm ownership that are at least as high as those in the United States.”

Sounds pretty compelling, right?

It sounded so solid to the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein that he quoted it in an op-ed for that publication right after the Newtown murders. And then he discovered that just because something comes from the former Charles Koch Foundation – now the Cato Institute – doesn’t mean that it’s true.

In an article titled, “ Mythbusting: Israel and Switzerland are not gun-toting utopias,” Klein set the record straight when he interviewed assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the State University of New York, Janet Rosenbaum. She’s an expert who’s actually researched the issue of gun control and gun violence in Israel and Switzerland.

In both countries there is no equivalent of our Second Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Hellerand, two years later,McDonald. In other words, there is no “right” to own a gun in either of those nations.

It’s worth noting that both countries recognize physical and mental healthcare as a “right.” But here in America we reverse that – the Supreme Court tells us (largely by omission) that physical or mental healthcare are merely privileges, while they explicitly declare that we have the right to own a gun.

Not so in Israel or Switzerland.

As Dr. Rosenbaum told Klein, and today essentially repeated on my radio program: “Both countries require you to have a reason to have a gun. There isn’t this idea that you have a right to a gun. You need a reason. And then you need to go back to the permitting authority every six months or so to assure them the reason is still valid.”

As a consequence of this, she pointed out to Klein, “There are only a few tens of thousands of legal guns in Israel, and the only people allowed to own them legally live in the settlements, do business in the settlements, or are in professions at risk of violence.”

For centuries, Switzerland has had a citizen’s militia instead of a standing army, much like that envisioned by Jefferson and many of the other Founders for America. Every able-bodied male spends a bit of time in the militia and, so the story goes, has a gun in his home.

 
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