Gun lobbyists insist that "good guys" with guns are saving lives every day. They're not wrong — I know because a gun saved my life over 20 years ago. After leaving an abusive relationship, my ex stalked me for days, and one evening, assaulted me in a parking lot with a machete. I was with a friend, however, who pulled out a 686 revolver and intimidated my ex into backing down. The NRA might point to that incident — as I have for most of my life — as a clear example of a "good guy" with a gun acting in the public interest.
Yet in light of the Sandy Hook massacre, I am forced to consider: that evening could have turned out so differently. What if my ex hadn't backed off, and the confrontation had escalated into a shootout? What if the weapons at hand had been semi-automatics firing multiple rounds per second? Or what if mental health services had been available to my ex in the first place?
I don't know. After all, the anecdote I've just related is merely one woman's isolated experience. Unfortunately, however, it seems that our public policies are increasingly rooted in anecdotes when it comes to gun violence. Rigorous inquiry demands that personal opinions cannot drive the conclusions that data reveal. Unless, of course, we simply refuse to ask the hard questions in the first place — which is actually public policy thanks to the gun lobby.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention haven't researched the public health effects of gun violence since the mid-'90s, when House Republicans spearheaded a near-complete withdrawal of funds from that part of the agency. If guns save lives, why not allow the facts to say so?
I, for one, am tired of the platitudes. Let's take back control from the lobbyists and examine how to prevent gun violence with all of the scientific resources at our disposal. In a democracy, we are equal by virtue of our rights as citizens, not our access to weaponry. Let's find the truth behind the rhetoric and pressure our elected officials to do the same.
With a Perspective, I'm Wendy Muse Sinek.
Wendy Muse Sinek teaches in the Office of Undergraduate Research at UC Berkeley.