More than 30,000 people in the U.S. die from gunshot wounds every year, through murder, suicide, and accidents. That is an average of 82 a day, and prospects for reducing the toll are dim, Reuters reports. At the hastily arranged White House Conference on School Safety on October 10, panelists covered topics ranging from metal detectors and school bullies to the value of religious beliefs and good communication between parents and schools. The word “gun” was not mentioned until a plucky teenager pointed out to a panel moderated by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that the common factor was easy access to high-powered firearms. “The Bush administration is in complete denial regarding the catalytic role that guns play in school violence,” said Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center, which was not invited to the conference.
Justice Department figures put the number of guns in private hands at more than 200 million and swelling by several million every year. The annual U.S. production of pistols, revolvers, rifles, and shotguns for the domestic civilian market has been running at between 2.6 million and more than three million for the past seven years, says the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives. “The U.S. level of lethal violence is far out of line with those of other industrialized nations,” said David Hemenway of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “The fact that most of our lethal violence involves firearms lends credence to the hypothesis that the prevalence of guns is a prime reason.” The National Rifle Associaiton disputes that notion and argues against more gun control, telling its 4 million members that “the past two years represent one of the most successful congressional sessions that gun owners have ever had.”