Letter: myths about guns and violence (1)

November 17, 2000

I read with appreciation how Michael Bellesiles's research on gun mania in the United States revealed that pre-civil war gun ownership and murder rates were rather low ("Who said your daddy's daddy won the West with the help of a gun?", Features, THES , November 10).

Bellesiles's pro-McCain pro-hunting Republican politics have, however, perhaps led him to minimise contemporary history, which disproves the mythology of Charlton Heston's National Rifle Association. This shows that most Americans polled in Clinton's second term in 1996-2000 support "tighter" gun control.

The NRA suffered a big setback with the televised Columbine high-school killings by kids using relatives' legal guns. Despite what the NRA says, the gun murder rate in Detroit is at least three times more than in neighbouring Windsor, Canada.

The amount of money distributed by the NRA, either overtly or indirectly, has dramatically increased. For example, Missouri saw a vicious Right to Own handgun campaign challenging an attempt to tighten state laws. All but 10 per cent of the $3 million spent abortively on the challenge came from "out of state" (ie the NRA). Posters and most rural newspapers outside of the big Afro-American cities of Kansas and St Louis and their well-educated white suburbs were financed so well by this NRA blitz that 95 per cent of them were pro-NRA.

If the law had been rejected, Missouri would have nullified post-civil war anti-handgun laws aimed at the pro-Confederate Jessie James gang. In the US, as we are seeing in the botched presidential election results, big money fuels grotesque mythology.

Lawrence Irvine Iles
Kirksville, Missouri

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