Letter to Eric Cantor. Gun-Related Deaths in US Children: Government Complicity

Jan 13, 2013   //   Politics

 

The following was e-mailed to US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office on the date of this posting.

 

January 13, 2013

Re:           Gun-Related Deaths in US Children: Government Complicity

Dear Representative Cantor:

I direct this correspondence to you due to your leadership position in the House, your record on ‘gun rights’ legislation that has earned you an A rating by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and because your party this past election cycle received 89% of the political contributions issued by the NRA – this nation’s leading ‘gun rights’ lobbying organization.  You are listed as the 4th leading recipient of such contributions in the House.

I write you not only as a concerned citizen and parent regarding the issue of gun violence in America, but as an individual whose career involved responsibility for assessing and reporting product safety in a federally regulated industry (pharmaceuticals).  I have held senior executive positions, consulted for corporations, and have been before government regulators on numerous occasions.   Unlike most (if not all) consumer products, guns remain unregulated for health and safety.  In the industry where I worked, federal law required us to not only assure the safety of our products, but that we take steps to reduce risk, finding an optimal balance between benefit and risk.

Gun violence in America is a significant public health concern.  Gun-related deaths have been reported to account for more than 25% of the decreased life expectancy in America versus other wealthy nations.  The product also carries the risk of serious injury that can result in life-long debilitation, both physically and psychologically.

A particularly disturbing issue is the grossly disproportionate level of gunfire deaths in US children versus other peer nations.  The horrific massacre of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary represents less than 1% of gun-related deaths in our country’s youth each year.  The leading cause of death in African-American teens is gun-related, and those deaths contribute to a full year decrease in the life expectancy of black males in our country.  It has been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the gun-related death rate in US children under the age of 15 years is nearly 12 times that of 25 other industrialized nations combined.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that the morbidity and mortality associated with firearm injuries in US children is “a significant public health problem”, “epidemic”, and has called for serious study on the matter.  And, as has been reported in the academic literature, there is a correlation (that holds across both countries and states) regarding the level of gun ownership and gun violence – the more guns the greater the incidence of gun violence.   The US exhibits by far both the highest per capita gun ownership and population adjusted gun-related death rate of any other Western democracy.  A death rate in the US that is reflected in both the general population as well as children.  The data are clear that more guns have actually made us, and our children, less safe.

But what is exceptionally troubling, and what I have found to be poorly understood by the public, is just how long this issue with children has been known.  The CDC and AAP published their findings and opinion in the 1990’s.  Not only has Congress failed to intervene in the matter, lawmakers have actually worked to obstruct both the generation and availability of information while allowing expanded public exposure to increasingly more powerful versions of these products.  And while doing so, many members of Congress have been accepting political contributions from the NRA – contributions that are derived, in part, from the very industry that financially benefits from such a legislative agenda.

Particularly disturbing in light of the Newtown incident was the AAP forewarning in a 1997 publication: “The recent occurrence of several highly publicized shootings in suburban or middle size town schools deserves continued serious study and prompt local and national responses.”  And yet our lawmakers, under the influence of the NRA, have all but choked off money for such research, first with the CDC and more recently with the National Institutes of Health.

Speaking frankly, in the industry where I worked, if a corporation was aware that it had a product that was associated with a disproportionately high loss of life in children, and the corporation worked to obstruct generation and dissemination of such information while expanding public exposure to even more powerful versions of the product that claimed multiple other young lives, executives of that corporation would have faced criminal prosecution under federal law.  It is difficult to argue that our lawmakers have not been complicit in contributing to this high loss of life in American children as well as increasing the risk of events like Newtown, Tucson, and Aurora, all of which claimed the lives of youngsters.  And that lawmakers are using an element of our Bill of Rights to justify product-related deaths in children is, frankly, offensive.  To the contrary, our Congress has a long storied history over the past century of enacting numerous laws to ensure the protection of children.

There will be forthcoming recommendations from Vice President Biden’s working group intended to reduce the level of gun violence in our country.  Yet I read that certain measures, such as banning types of weaponry that have been used in mass shootings involving children, will meet political resistance by legislators.  I would hope that your party will embrace the need for tighter gun regulation regarding our children’s health and safety, perhaps even making additional recommendations.  But in doing so, remember the data are clear that more guns have made us, and our children, less safe.

That our lawmakers, through both their actions and inactions, have knowingly permitted such a disparate loss of life in US children to persist, while accepting contributions derived from the industry that financially benefits from such behavior, represents the worst of special-interest driven politics.  It was never intended that the Second Amendment be used to justify such a disparate loss of young life in this country.

Should you or your colleagues wish, I can provide sources for the information contained in this correspondence.

 

Recent Posts


The Link Between Gun Violence, Race and Politics in America versus US Human Rights Obligations

This article explores the interrelationships between gun violence, race and politics in America versus human rights obligations our country assumed following its ratification of the International Convention to End all forms of Racial Discrimination. Our country’s progress under that treaty will be reviewed by the UN’s CERD in August of this year in Geneva, Switzerland. In what was called an act of public shaming by media, in March of this year the UN committee overseeing our country’s obligations under another treaty we have ratified (the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights) cited numerous human rights abuses by our country – included was rampant gun violence and the proliferation of stand-your-ground laws. An important question becomes why our government is not aggressively intervening to put a halt to the grossly disproportionate loss of life and injury to gun violence in a segment of its own citizenry.


NC Voter ID Law vs Human Rights: Lawmaker Communications Should Be Made Available

Did NC lawmakers knowingly put a law into effect that violates legal obligations the US has accepted under an international treaty to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination? Additionally, the deleterious effects of racial discrimination and political marginalization on longevity, health, and childhood development are well-publicized. Did lawmakers knowingly put a law into effect that could only help to sustain, and even create, conditions that contribute to premature death and a host of serious health problems in African-Americans, including impaired childhood development? With our current knowledge base regarding the millions of lost and damaged lives due to the deleterious effects of racial discrimination, laws like NC’s Voter ID law should be viewed as something far more serious than just an obstruction of a civil right.


Voter ID Law and a Human Rights Atrocity of Unspeakable Proportions

The estimated six year shortfall in life expectancy between African-Americans versus white Americans, largely attributable to disproportionate adverse socio-economic conditions created by over two centuries of racist portrayals and discriminatory legislative/policy actions, results in 240 million lost years when applied to a population of nearly 40 million African-Americans (2010 census). The estimated premature loss of life in just the existing African-American population of today totals into the millions of individuals and is conservatively estimated to easily exceed at least ten percent of that population. In considering the potential cumulative loss of life since the beginning of the 20th century, it becomes apparent that the United States is in the midst of an ongoing and prolonged human rights atrocity of considerable magnitude, in direct contrast to our country’s position of being a standard bearer of human rights in the international community. Recent restrictive Voter ID Laws, such as North Carolina’s, that disproportionately disenfranchises the African-American poor, can only work to maintain the adverse conditions that contribute to premature death in a historically discriminated population. The concerns expressed here extend into other political actions such as gerrymandering along racial lines that effectively reduces African-American representation. Further, these concerns are held to represent serious human rights issues that violate at least three treaties both signed and ratified by the United States.

Featured Article


The Year the GOPs Con Game was Exposed

The GOP’s decision to reinstate tax cut policy in 2001 exposed their hand. It was not about deficit reduction, growing the economy, or job creation. It was about ideology and, no doubt, special interests. It was a backdoor approach where government revenue was cut in an attempt to curtail spending on popular programs they otherwise could not take head-on. This while obstructing the work of Congress, spinning a web of deceit about the benefits of their policy, and weakening our country’s financial standing. It’s time to play hardball during ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations and force them to be specific about what spending cuts they are talking about to offset the tax benefits they wish to preserve for the wealthiest. They wouldn’t have the nerve.