Concert Across America

The following is the text of a speech made by Thomas Gabor, Ph.D., at the Concert Across America event on September 24 in Lake Worth.


Some people say that the high level of gun violence in the US is the price we pay for living in a free society. Let’s look at other free societies.

  • We have about 11,000 gun homicides each year.
  • By contrast, the United Kingdom has about 40 gun homicides a year, Australia has 35, Germany about 60, Japan about 10.  When we combine other advanced countries and adjust for population differences, the US has 25 times the gun homicide rate as other advanced democracies
  • There is now more than one mass shooting per day in the US. A third of all the civilian mass shootings in the world occur in the US even though we have just 5% of the world’s population
  • In addition, a half million rapes, assaults and robberies are committed with guns each year in the US
  • While seldom reported to police, close to 5 million American women have been threatened by an intimate partner wielding a gun
  • US stands alone in the rate at which women, children and youth murdered, when compared with other democratic countries

Instead of addressing our gun violence problem, legislators in Florida and other states keep introducing bills that would expand the rights of gun owners, make it easier to use lethal force in disputes (SYG laws), and that would allow guns to be carried into airports, college campuses, government buildings, and many other venues.

There is a mountain of evidence showing that places with more guns have more gun deaths and that guns are more likely to harm than protect us.

  • We have by far the highest rate of gun ownership in the world
  • If more guns were the answer, the US. would have fewer, not more, gun deaths than other countries
  • If more guns were the answer, states with more guns would be safer than states with fewer guns.  Just the opposite is true.  In the 5 states with the highest gun death rates, half of all homes own a gun.  In the five states with the lowest gun death rates, just one in 7 homes owns a gun.
  • If more guns were the answer, homes with guns would be safer than those without guns.  Instead, research shows that guns are many times more likely to harm residents of gun-owning homes than to protect them from intruders

The evidence is clear: More guns and gun carrying make a community a more dangerous place.  I offer many solutions in my book and invite you to look at them.

I would like to address what I feel is the biggest obstacle to change.  It is not the National Rifle Association, but cynicism among those who support our cause that change in the form of smart gun laws will never come.

I’ve met many people who said they lost hope when no federal legislation was passed after the massacre of children and school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. However, I remain hopeful that the grip of the gun lobby on our legislators will weaken.

Here is why I’m hopeful:

  • First, as powerful as the gun lobby is, the power resides in us, the citizens of this country.  Non-gun owners make up three-quarters of the population.  NRA members make up 1% of the population.
  • Second, the public as a whole favors gun regulation: Nationally, a poll in June showed that 94% favored background checks on all sales; 57% say it is too easy to buy a gun and just 6% say it is too hard to buy a gun.  Thus, most people want tougher laws.  And a new poll shows that even a majority of Evangelical leaders, most of whom are gun owners, want stricter gun laws.
  • Third, we often hear that tougher gun laws violate the Constitutional rights of gun owners.  Yet, the Supreme Court in the 2008 Heller decision made it clear that the 2nd amendment right to bear arms is not unlimited and that laws barring felons and the mentally ill from owning guns, and keeping guns out of sensitive places, like schools and government buildings, do not violate Constitutional rights.  The court also noted that laws prohibiting the carrying of dangerous weapons do not violate the Constitution. And this was the most pro-gun ruling by the Supreme Court in American history.

Thus, the gun violence prevention movement has public opinion on its side and the Constitution allows for reasonable gun laws

So, my friends, we must do better to make the case that there is no freedom without personal safety.  We need to be free to use public spaces without fear, free to express ourselves at public meetings and in college without a fear of gun violence

It is up to us to demand changes in the law that will make it harder for violent or unstable individuals to gain access to firearms and to insist that weapons of war, that can fire hundreds of rounds a minute, should never be in civilian hands.

We must stand up against violence, hatred and bigotry and the forces that produce these ills.

Our ultimate power as citizens resides in our vote and it is our sacred duty to do so.  We must use the ballot box to vote out those who support hatred and intolerance, or who fail to make it a priority to confront the scourge of Gun Violence.

 

Thomas Gabor, Ph.D.

Speech at the Concert Across America 2017

September 24, 2017, Lake Worth, Florida