A Message from the President of Americans Against Gun Violence
November 9, 2020
With the outcome of the 2020 presidential election now decided, the fact that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the next President and Vice President, respectively, of the United States of America brings new hope that we can make progress toward ending our country’s epidemic of gun violence.
It’s hard to imagine any president being worse on the gun violence issue than our current lame duck, Donald J. Trump, who promised the National Rifle Association at the beginning of his presidency, “I will never, ever let you down.”[i] On the other hand, if we hope to make progress in preventing gun violence over the next four years, we will need to educate both President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris concerning the facts that the main reasons for our country’s extraordinarily high rate of gun violence as compared with all the other high income democratic countries of the world are our extraordinarily lax gun control laws and the related extraordinarily high number of privately owned guns per capita in our country; and that in order to reduce our rate of gun deaths and injuries to levels comparable to the rates in other advanced democracies, we must adopt comparably stringent gun control laws. Based on past statements that they’ve made, both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris clearly have significant gaps in either their knowledge or in their political courage on the issue of gun violence prevention. Given that they’ve both pledged to be guided by science, truth, and the bests interests of the American people, though, I have hope that with the help of input from people like us, those gaps can be filled.
And at the same time that we educate President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris and urge them to have the political courage to openly advocate and do everything within their power to achieve the adoption of stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in other high income democratic countries, we need to continue to work to fill the gaps in the knowledge and/or political courage of other elected leaders and to dispel some myths that are widely accepted by a majority of the American electorate – myths that constitute the main obstacles to stopping our country’s epidemic of gun violence. These myths include 1) the myth that the Second Amendment was intended to confer an individual right to own guns; 2) the myth that honest, law-abiding people should own or carry guns "for protection;" 3) the myth that we can stop the epidemic of gun violence in our country without adopting stringent gun control laws comparable to the laws in other high income democratic countries and without substantially reducing the number of privately owned guns in circulation; and 4) the myth that we need more research in order know what steps we must take to prevent gun violence.
I will be posting additional information in the near future concerning these four myths and the extent to which President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have endorsed them, refuted them, or been silent on them in the past. For now, though, for a more detailed discussion of these four myths, I'll direct interested readers to the expanded text of the presentation that I gave at the American Public Health Association annual conference on October 26, 2020.
At this point in time, I would like to urge everyone to register for our National Gun Violence Prevention Conference this coming Sunday, November 15, from 12 noon-2 PM PST. This conference, which will be conducted live via Zoom, will be a unique opportunity to hear Dr. Michael North talk about how he helped lead a successful campaign to completely ban civilian ownership of handguns in Great Britain after his five year old daughter, Sophie, was murdered along with 15 other students and their teacher at the elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996. There have been no further school shootings since the ban went into effect, and the rate of gun deaths in Great Britain is currently 1/60th the rate in the United States.
The conference will also feature a presentation by the prominent San Francisco Bay Area attorney, Anthony Schoenberg, who successfully defended a local large capacity magazine ordinance against a gun lobby challenge in the case of Fyock v. Sunnyvale. Mr. Schoenberg was the first person to describe the Supreme Court's rogue 2008 Heller decision to me as "an abomination." He’ll be talking about the Second Amendment and the need to overturn Heller. I'll be wrapping up the first hour of the conference with a reprise of portions of the talk on gun violence prevention that I presented at the American Public Health Association annual conference last month and further discussion of the opportunities and challenges that a new presidential administration present. In the second hour of the conference, we'll invite all participants to join in discussing how we can work more effectively together to stop our country's epidemic of gun violence.
Because of technical features of the Zoom platform, we’ve decided that it will work best to break up the conference into two separate components - a Zoom "webinar" for the first hour, and a Zoom "meeting" for the second hour. We aren’t requiring any payment to participate in the webinar or the meeting, but in order to ensure that we have adequate capacity on our Zoom account to accommodate everyone who wishes to participate, we do request that participants register in advance. The registration process involves simply clicking on the links below and entering your name and email address.
To register in advance for the November 15 webinar beginning at 12 noon, click on this link.
To register in advance for the interactive meeting that follows the webinar (beginning about 1 PM), click on this link.
After registering for the webinar and the interactive meeting that follows, you’ll be sent emails from Americans Against Gun Violence via the Zoom server with the links for joining both hours of the conference. Note that you can log in for the webinar portion as early as 11:30 AM, but the webinar itself will begin at 12 noon.
You’ll have an opportunity to type in questions for Dr. North, Mr. Schoenberg, and myself via the “Q&A” feature on the Zoom screen during the first hour, but you can also submit questions in advance if you like via the Contact Us page of this website. During the second hour, you’ll be able to ask questions and offer comments and suggestions verbally.
We’re hosting the virtual conference via Zoom in lieu of our traditional annual dinner due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Our annual dinners have been our main fundraising events in past years. Although we’re not asking for anyone to pay anything to participate in the Zoom conference, we would appreciate it if you're not already an official paid member of Americans Against Gun Violence, that you would join at this time at the rate of just $25/year ($10/year for students). And of course, if you're in a position to make an early end of year donation to support our ongoing work, we'd greatly appreciate any additional contribution that you could make.
Thanks for your support. I hope to see you (virtually) and talk with you at the Americans Against Gun Violence National Conference on November 15.
Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence
[i] Michele Gorman, “Full Transcript: President Trump’s Speech Fires up the NRA,” Newsweek, April 28, 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-full-transcript-atlanta-592039.