By Katabella Roberts
Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Senate are trying to blame the violent crime epidemic sweeping through various parts of the nation on “law-abiding gun owners,” as opposed to their “soft on crime” policies, according to representatives of a gun rights organization.
The National Association for Gun Rights, which aims to bring an end to what it says is a “radical anti-gun agenda” across the United States, made the comments following a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on violence involving guns on Nov. 28.
During the hearing, which was led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), lawmakers discussed whether or not violence involving guns should be treated as a public health emergency, with officials noting that there were more than 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2022, of which more than half were suicides.
More than 4 out of every 10 of the firearm-related deaths in the United States last year were homicides, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
The number one cause of death for children and teens is now gun-related, according to Mr. Durbin.
“Chicago faces the same challenges as many other cities and towns. In fact, many rural areas have even higher rates of gun violence than the urban areas that are often highlighted on the news,” Mr. Durbin said. “Across the country, gun violence is a public health epidemic, plain and simple.”
The lawmaker went on to argue that collecting data, identifying trends, and developing strategies to prevent harm and reduce risk are all ways in which to tackle the violent crime epidemic.
“It’s worked in the past. We used the same public health approach to dramatically cut automobile fatalities—we still drive where we need to go, but we have seat belts and speed limits that get us there alive,” the Democrat said.
Mr. Durbin added that public health experts are already working to address violence in real time, citing a group of doctors in Chicago who, along with the senator, formed the Chicago HEAL Initiative, a 10-hospital project that works to address violence through economic, health, and community projects.
‘Soft on Crime District Attorneys’
“Without these programs, 45 percent of patients with a gunshot wound are likely to return within five years with another one,” he said.
The lawmaker said it is high time that officials build on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed by Congress to “create real change for the American people when it comes to the public health crisis of gun violence.”
However, the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), which has over 4.5 million members, has argued that Senate Democrats are pushing the blame of the violent crime epidemic in Democrat-controlled cities on “law-abiding gun owners” instead of “taking responsibility for ‘soft on crime’ [district attorneys]” who are “releasing dangerous criminals and making stealing legal.”
The group also took aim at numerous gun control bills currently being discussed in Congress, including red flag gun confiscation laws that would allow government agents to “enter homes seizing firearms with no due process or even a crime being committed,” and mandatory storage laws forcing gun owners to “have their guns locked up at all times.”
Other laws currently being discussed by lawmakers include universal gun registration, which would make private firearm sales between neighbors and close friends illegal unless a federal background check is completed, and sweeping bans on so-called assault weapons, according to the group.
NAGR is actively collecting petitions to present to Congress urging senators and representatives to reject all gun control measures in the legislature.
In a statement, Dudley Brown, president of NAGR, claimed President Joe Biden and his administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have a “shameful history of making end runs around Congress and the Constitution to force their totalitarian style edicts on law-abiding citizens of the United States.”
“The history of gun registration is long and bloody,” said Mr. Brown. “Regime after regime have tread the same path of gun controls leading to confiscation and disarming of law-abiding citizens.”
‘Effective Criminal Law Enforcement’ Needed
Senate Republicans also pushed back against framing violence involving guns as a public health crisis during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, arguing it would punish law-abiding gun owners under the guise of public health.
“We have a trust issue and a constitutional issue when we use the public health approach to attempt to strip away core constitutional rights,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “The most effective solution to firearm-related homicides and assault is effective criminal law enforcement. That means effective police, prosecutors, courts, and prisons.”
“If you empower law enforcement to selectively investigate and prosecute repeat offenders, you can dramatically reduce the gun violence in a community where it’s a problem,” Mr. Cornyn noted.
He also pointed to the other side of the issue, which is the nationwide mental health crisis.
“We can find ways to come together to get things done, but using public health authorities as a blanket excuse to strip away constitutional rights divides us more than it unites us,” the Republican added.
Elsewhere, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., noted that considering the violent crime epidemic, a public health emergency would do nothing to stem the situation, and said the real issue is district attorneys who are making communities less safe by failing to prosecute various crimes.
“If our policing, bail, and prosecutorial policies spit these repeat violent offenders back into the community without pursuing criminal prosecution or punishment, they will predictively keep committing violent crimes,” said Amy Swearer, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
“A public health lens doesn’t change the fact that most gun deaths are suicides, but half of suicides are carried out with something other than a firearm. The end goal of those publishing the public health framing is often either to use crisis language as an end-run around the constitution or to pathologize the right to keep and bear arms,” she said.
According to a National Firearms Survey published in 2021 by Georgetown University, there were an estimated 1.67 million instances in which an individual used a firearm in defense of self or others.