Americans Against Gun Violence extends heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all the people killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1. We also extend our deepest sympathy to all the surviving victims along with sincere wishes for a prompt and complete recovery.
At the same time, however, we agree with the statement made by the late Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut in 1968, following the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy:
Pious condolences will no longer suffice....Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice....The time has now come that we must adopt stringent gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country of the world.
The massacre in Las Vegas, in which at least 58 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded, is the deadliest mass shooting to date in U.S. history, eclipsing the number of casualties in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, in which 49 people were killed and 58 injured. Unless definitve gun control laws are adopted, however, the Las Vegas massacre will not be the last mass shooting in U.S. history, nor will it continue to stand as the worst.
The regular occurrence of mass shootings is preventable. Mass shootings occur rarely, if at all, in other high income democratic countries of the world, all of which have far more stringent gun control regulations than the United States.
Preliminary reports indicate that the perpetrator of the Las Vegas massacre, Stephen Paddock, obtained all of the semi-automatic rifles that he used in the shooting legally under the lax U.S. gun laws, along with the "bump stocks" that allowed the rifles to function similar to fully automatic machine guns. Paddock used these weapons for the purpose for which they were designed - to kill and maim large numbers of people in a short period of time. Americans Against Gun Violence believes that there is no legitimate civilian use for such weapons. Civilian ownership of such semi-automatic rifles is either strictly regulated or completely banned in all other high income democratic countries.
The legislation that has been introduced in Congress following the Las Vegas massacre to ban "bump stocks" does not qualify as even a "quarter measure" in the terminology used by the late Senator Thomas Dodd. It's likely that Stephen Paddock would have been able to kill and maim very nearly as many people using semi-automatic rifles without "bump stocks."
Following a mass shooting in 1996 in the resort town of Port Arthur, Australia, in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded by a single gunman using semi-automatic rifles, it took the Australian government just 13 days to ban all semi-automatic rifles. The Australian government subsequently bought back approximately 1 million semi-automatic rifles and melted them down. There have been no more mass shootings in Australia since the ban went into effect, and overall rates of firearm related deaths and injuries, which were already much lower than in the United States, have continued to fall.
The U.S. Congress should follow the example of Australia and pass veto proof legislation to ban all semi-automatic rifles. Until such a ban is adopted, we should not be surprised when the next horrific mass shooting occurs. Rather, we should ask ourselves why as a nation we lack the political will to prevent such massacres.
Click on this link to make reservations to attend the first annual dinner of Americans Against Gun Violence at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 2001 Point West Way in Sacramento, California, on the evening of Sunday, October 22, 2017. The event will mark the first full year that Americans Against Gun Violence has been in operation, and it will provide an opportunity for us to reflect both on the progress that we’ve made up to this point and on the formidable challenges that lie ahead. Doors open for social hour and check-in at 5:00 PM, dinner begins at 6:00, and the program begins at 7:00. The cost of the dinner is $45 per person ($25 for students).
We’re honored to have an outstanding keynote speaker, Josh Sugarmann, lined up for the dinner. Josh is the executive director of the Violence Policy Center based in Washington DC. The Violence Policy Center has long been one of our country’s most credible sources of information on the many facets of gun violence in the United States. Josh has worked for more than three decades in the file of gun violence prevention. He’s written innumerable articles and reports on the subject, and he’s the author of two books, NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear, published in 1992, and Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns, published in 2001. Josh will speaking at the October 22 dinner on the topic, Gun Violence in America: A Preventable Epidemic.
Americans Against Gun Violence president, Dr. Bill Durston, was quoted in an article on the front page of the Sacramento Bee on July 24, 2017 concerning the decline in long gun sales in California after Donald Trump became President. Dr. Durston noted that grandfather clauses that are typically included in US gun control laws, allowing people who already have the types of guns in question to keep them if they obtained them before a ban goes into place, lead to surges in gun sales when potential buyers fear that a new gun ban is imminent, as after a mass shooting or when it appears that a candidate who supports gun control will be elected.
Sales of AR-15 style assault rifles surged after the Pulse nightclub massacre and when it appeared that Hillary Clinton would be elected president, but they've declined since Trump assumed office. Sales of handguns, though, have continued to rise. With more than 300 million guns already in circulation in the United States, and with handguns accounting for most firearm related deaths in our country, Dr. Durston noted that a decline in new sales of long guns without a reduction in the total number of guns in circulation would not be expected to lead to a significant reduction in rates of gun violence.
The first annual dinner of Americans Against Gun Violence will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Sacramento, California, on the evening of Sunday, October 22, 2017. The event will mark the first full year that we’ve been in operation, and it will provide an opportunity for us to reflect both on the progress that we’ve made up to this point and on the formidable challenges that lie ahead.
We’re honored to have an outstanding keynote speaker, Josh Sugarmann, lined up for the dinner. Josh is the executive director of the Violence Policy Center based in Washington DC. The Violence Policy Center has long been one of our country’s most credible sources of information on the many facets of gun violence in the United States. Josh has worked for more than three decades in the arena of gun violence prevention. He’s written innumerable articles and reports on the subject, and he’s the author of two books, NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear, published in 1992, and Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns, published in 2001.
Details will be posted on this website in the near future regarding the exact time and location of the annual dinner, menu choices, cost, and how you can make reservations both for the dinner itself and for overnight accommodations if you’ll be coming from out of town.
Marcos Breton is completely and utterly on point. For those of us who have asked our representatives to do something about guns, ammunition and the efforts of the gun lobby, it’s hard to know what’s next. I so appreciate your public, loud call for more action on all our behalf. An Americans Against Gun Violence Member, Davis, California
We need serious and effective national gun control as found in New Zealand, Australia and other countries. Gun freedom, as practiced in the United States, is the major reason for needless deaths. There are real-life gun control models in use around the world that would vastly reduce gun deaths in this country if our politicians had guts to do what is right. They do not. They are all afraid of the NRA. I am a lifetime gun owner and user but support gun control models like those now in use in many other very free and productive countries. I even support controls that will restrict my usage if it saves all those lives. Doug Sutherland, Roseville, Califonria
Americans Against Gun Violence extends sincere condolences and wishes for a prompt and complete recovery to all the victims of the mass shooting that occurred at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia this morning. Preliminary reports indicate that at least four people, including U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, were wounded in an attack by a lone gunman as members of the Republican Party and their staff were practicing for an annual charity softball game against members of the Democratic Party.
The mass shooting in Virginia today, which comes just two days after the one year anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history - the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, in which 49 people were killed and 58 injured - demonstrates that no one in the United States is safe from the threat of gun violence.
Americans Against Gun Violence concurs with the following statement by a U.S. senator from Connecticut:
Pious condolences will no longer suffice....Quarter measures and half measures will no longer suffice....The time has now come that we must enact stringent gun control legislation comparable to the legislation in force in virtually every civilized country of the world.
Unfortunately, however, this statement was made 49 years ago by the late Senator Thomas Dodd, following the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. In the intervening 49 years, Congress has failed to enact the stringent gun control legislation that Senator Dodd called for, and as a result, more U.S. civilians have been killed by guns than all the U.S. soldiers killed in all the wars in which the United States has ever been involved.
We are deeply saddened by the mass shooting that occurred in Virginia this morning, but we hope that it will provide the impetus necessary for all members of Congress to work together toward the adoption of definitive gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world - countries in which mass shootings are rare or non-existent, and in which overall rates of gun violence are far lower than in the United States.
On June 12, 2016, a lone gunman, Omar Mateen, committed the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, killing 49 people and wounding 58 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Mateen was subsequently killed by police. The shooting was classified as a hate crime, as most of the patrons of the Pulse nightclub were members of the LGBT community. It was also classified as an act of terrorism based on a claim of allegiance to the Islamic State that Mateen made during the shooting, although Mateen was born and raised in the United States and had no known formal ties to any terrorist organization.
Since the Pulse nightclub massacre, Congress has not taken any action to prevent future mass shootings or to stop the epidemic of gun violence that claims more than 90 lives on an average day in the United States. Please contact your elected representatives at the state and federal levels to demand stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws that have long been in place in every other high income democratic country of the world - countries in which mass shootings are rare or non-existent and in which overall rates of firearm related deaths are much lower than in the United States. See Dr. Durston's June 11 President's Message for more talking points. Click on this link for contact information for your elected representatives.
Re: "UCD doctor's research is a danger to the gun industry (Dan Morain, May 28): There's already abundant evidence that guns in our homes and communities are much more likely to be used to kill innocent people than to protect them. The rate of gun deaths is 10 times higher in the United States than in other developed countries. The main reason for this vast difference is our weak gun control laws and the extraordinarily high number of guns in circulation.
In 1968, the late Sen. Thomas Dodd, D-Conn., called for the adoption of stringent gun control laws comparable to laws in place in other democratic countries. Since 1968, more U.S. civilians have died of gunshot wounds than all the U.S. soldiers in all the wars in which our country was ever involved. More research, in the absence of definitive gun control laws, will only document more senseless deaths. Bill Durston, MD
As most people know, the United States leads the industrialised world in gun violence. For example, according to data collated by the organization, GunPolicy.org, based at the University of Sydney, a person living in the US is over 50 times more likely to be murdered with a handgun than a person living in Europe or Australia. This is perhaps not surprising given that the United States leads all other nations in domestic gun production as well as in imports and exports of firearms. The US also leads the rest of the world in the number of advocacy groups campaigning for improved firearm regulations.
Until the founding of Americans Against Gun Violence a few months ago, the range of policy recommendations put forward by the dozens of other firearm injury prevention advocacy organizations in the United States has been generally quite modest. Examples include expanding background checks to a larger proportion of gun buyers, banning new sales of assault weapons, and blocking gun sales to people already identified by government authorities as dangerous. While these are vitally important proposals, they constitute what should be an absolute minimum level of regulation. Observers outside the US – and indeed, many Americans – have wondered why more ambitious measures, like the ones already in place in other high income democratic countries, are rarely mentioned.
Gun control regulations in most industrialised nations include:
A requirement for a license to possess (buy, own, use) any firearm, subject to suspension or revocation for violations of the law or of license conditions. Only license-holders can purchase ammunition.
Registration of all firearms
Either a complete ban or very stringent regulation of civilian possession of handguns and semi-automatic rifles
Rejection, in most cases, of “self-defence” as a legitimate reason for acquiring firearms, given the overwhelming evidence that there is no net protective value from owning or carrying a gun.
Background checks extending far beyond a computer check of criminal convictions and involuntary commitments for mental illness (The onus is on the potential gun buyer to prove that acquiring a gun would not jeopardise community safety, not on society to prove that he or she is a criminal or mentally unstable.)
Mechanisms to deter the accumulation of personal arsenals
It is understandable that most of the US advocacy groups are promoting a more limited gun control agenda, given the perception that more definitive gun control measures are not politically achievable at present. Nonetheless, reducing the huge public health and social problems created by the proliferation of guns in this country – including over 33,000 gun deaths per year – will likely require stronger measures. From the political point of view, as well, there is a need to test the assumption that advocating definitive gun control measures is political suicide in the USA.
Enter Americans Against Gun Violence, a non-profit organization incorporated in March of this year and first opened for general membership after the June 12 Pulse nightclub mass shooting. Americans Against Gun Violence openly advocates the adoption of definitive gun control regulations in the USA, similar to those already in place in other high-income democratic countries.(Actually, a few states do have regulatory frameworks not too far below the international norm, though the effectiveness of these regulations is undermined by neighbouring states with weaker laws. A more ambitious approach will help to highlight and promote those good examples.)
If US rates of gun violence drop to something around the levels in other comparable democracies, the public health benefit will be enormous. For example, if the rate of firearms-related deaths in the United States in 2014 (10.54 per 100,000 population) had been the same as the rate in Australia (1.02 per 100,000), more than 30,000 American lives would have been saved in that single year.
Even if Americans Against Gun Violence doesn’t immediately succeed in its goals, the existence of such an organization can change the terms of the gun control debate. Currently, the US mass media portrays the gun control debate as a contrast between two extreme positions. At one extreme is the NRA, opposing almost any restrictions on access to guns and ammunition; at the other end of the spectrum, according to the media, are the majority of gun violence prevention organizations – even though the measures that they advocate are exceedingly modest by international standards. To the extent that the position of Americans Against Gun Violence is seen by journalists as the new extreme, the positions of other firearm injury prevention groups are likely to be seen as all the more reasonable by American standards.
The more ambitious approach of Americans Against Gun Violence will also be welcomed by violence prevention advocates, policymakers, and victims of gun violence in other countries, who are battling the flood of guns unleashed onto the global black market by the loophole-ridden American laws. Around the world, members of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), are working with their governments and communities to strengthen firearm regulations, transform cultures of violence, and improve public safety capacity and performance. But the full benefit of these advances cannot be felt until genuine progress is made upstream, in the source country whose lax gun laws provide a ready source of weaponry for bad actors in other countries, including Mexican drug lords and the Islamic State.
So welcome, Americans Against Gun Violence! My colleagues and I at IANSA look forward to working with you toward a safer United States and Planet Earth.
About the Author:
Rebecca Peters earned her law degree from the University of New South Wales, Australia. In the 1990s she chaired the National Coalition for Gun Control, leading the campaign that succeeded in securing the reform of Australia’s gun laws after the 1996 massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania. The reforms, announced just 12 days after the massacre, created uniform gun laws across the country, including a ban on all self-loading rifles and shotguns. Ms. Peters was awarded Australian Human Rights Medal, Australia’s highest civilian award, for the key role that she played. She subsequently became the founding director of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). She continues to advise IANSA and is currently working with gun violence survivors in Guatemala. Ms. Peters may be contacted via IANSA through the following links:
AAGunV President Speaks at August Peace Event: Attendees “Take a Stand” against Gun Violence and Nuclear Weapons
Americans Against Gun Violence president, Dr. Bill Durston, spoke at the annual August Peace Event in Sacramento, California on Sunday, August 7. The event is held every year to commemorate the atomic bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, respectively, in 1945. Dr. Durston was asked to speak at this year’s August Peace Event concerning what actions citizens could take to help ensure that nuclear weapons would ever be used again. Americans Against Gun Violence was a co-sponsor of the event.
Dr. Durston noted that the weaponry of armed violence can be seen as a continuum, with handguns at one end of this continuum and nuclear weapons at the other. A nuclear war, which could be triggered by a terrorist attack, an accidental launch, a false alarm, or the action of a rogue nation or rogue leader, could wipe out human civilization overnight. Day in and day out, though, firearms are the weapons of choice for the commission of armed violence. As former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said during an address at a small arms conference in 2006:
"The death toll from small arms dwarfs that of all other weapons systems – and in most years greatly exceeds the toll of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In terms of the carnage they cause, small arms, indeed, could well be described as ‘weapons of mass destruction"
Every year at the August Peace Event, the story of Sadako and the 1,000 Cranes is retold. Sadako was a young Japanese woman who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast in 1945 but who later contracted leukemia, probably due to the radiation to which she was exposed. According to Japanese legend, if one folds 1,000 paper cranes, his or her wish for a long and healthy life will be granted. Sadako succeeded in folding over 1,000 cranes as she battled leukemia, but her wish to live was not granted, and she died 10 months after her leukemia was first diagnosed.
Dr. Durston urged attendees at the August Peace Event to help us write a story with a happier ending - The Story of Sacramento and the 1,000 Phone Calls - by calling President Obama and their elected members of Congress to demand that they oppose any further spending on “modernizing” our nuclear arsenal and that they instead work toward the complete abolition of nuclear weapons. At the same time, Dr. Durston urged attendees to demand that the President and members of Congress work toward the adoption of definitive gun control laws in the USA – laws comparable to those already in place in every other high income democratic country of the world.
Attendees at the August Peace Event enthusiastically supported Dr. Durston’s call to action, and many volunteered to have their pictures taken “taking a stand against gun violence and nuclear weapons.” Selected photos from the August Peace Event will be used to create the banner on the Americans Against Gun Violence website.