WASHINGTON — Dennis Henigan, author and former vice president of the Brady Campaign and Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said Americans should no longer allow “myths” like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” to “dictate” the federal government’s gun policies.
Henigan emphasized that the Orlando mass shooter would not have been able to kill 49 people with a baseball bat and compared government regulation of automobiles to firearms.
“How does this fit with our treatment of other dangerous products? Let’s take the automobile, for example. Automobiles are inanimate objects. They’re morally neutral in this sense as well. They are pretty innocuous when they are sitting in our driveways. Whether they are used in a social beneficially way or a socially destructive way depends in large part on the driver, whether the driver drives with excessive speed or is otherwise reckless or is rather a careful driver who obeys the speed limits and the other rules of the road,” Henigan said at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., during a discussion about his new book, “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”: And Other Myths About Guns and Gun Control.
“But do we conclude from this that the sum total of our public policy toward preventing auto accidents is to punish reckless driving after the fact? No, we do not. Instead, we license drivers to make sure drivers are properly trained — that they know the rules of the road in an effort to prevent potentially high-risk people from getting behind the wheel in the first place,” he added.
To support his position, Henigan mentioned state vehicle registration, federal safety standards and other measures.
“We don’t conclude that these kinds of regulations are inappropriate because cars don’t kill people, people kill people. And for guns we should also have policies in place that go behind punishing misuse after the fact. We should have policies to prevent high-risk people from getting access to guns in the first place, at least through universal background checks,” he said.
“We should register guns to ensure that gun owners are accountable for what happens with their guns. We should set safety standards for guns. Most people don’t realize guns are exempt from the authority of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which has authority over toy guns but not real guns,” he added.
Henigan acknowledged the U.S. is not the only “high-income nation” that has violent criminals but said the violence happening in America is “more lethal” compared to other developed nations.
“Our violence is more lethal because we have more guns and we have weaker laws giving criminals easy access to those guns — that’s what makes us exceptional,” he said. “If the Orlando shooter had been equipped with a knife or a baseball bat instead of a gun, does anyone here believe he could have killed 49 people and injured 53 others? Guns don’t kill people, they enable people to kill people more effectively, more efficiently than any other widely available weapon — that is a core truth that should guide our nation’s gun policy.”
Henigan said the nation moved in the wrong direction on gun control under Democratic leadership, pointing out that legislation allowing loaded guns in national parks passed when Democrats occupied the White House and controlled Congress at the same time. The move reversed a policy in place since the Reagan era.
He also reminded the audience that unloaded guns were allowed in luggage compartments on Amtrak trains during the same time period.
Despite this, Henigan is “hopeful” for the future of the gun control issue.
“So we actually went in the wrong direction during that period when the Democrats were in charge. Well, since Sandy Hook the policies of guns have dramatically changed and much has happened that was inconceivable before that shooting: a major gun control bill sponsored by two senators — one a Democrat, the other a Republican — both formally A-rated by the NRA,” he said, referring to failed legislation from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Referring to President Obama, Henigan added that a “Democratic president has declared that he will be a single-issue voter on gun control and he has urged others to do the same.”
He concluded that the American public should not “allow this indefensible serious of myths and fallacies to dictate our national gun policy.”
“We can allow it to happen no longer,” he said.