Had a corporation in an industry federally regulated for safety been aware of a high level of product-related death and injury in children, obstructed attempts to look into the matter, obstructed dissemination of information about the matter, impeded the work of local, state and federal law enforcement, while continuing to increase public exposure to more powerful versions of the product that claimed multiple other young lives, those involved would have faced criminal prosecution. Yet our own lawmakers are so engaged while keeping firearms unregulated for safety and pocketing backdoor money from the gun industry through the NRA. The double standard is staggering. The behavior is reprehensible if not scandalous. Our free press should step forward, as only it can, to explore this issue.
NOTE: What follows is a meld of an unpublished Op-Ed piece I authored and correspondence I have sent to federal lawmakers in both the US House and Senate. Prior to sending, a telephone call was placed to the lawmaker’s office explaining the concerns.
As background to the following correspondence, an April 2011 report issued by the Violence Policy Center documents the flow of millions of dollars from the firearms industry into the National Rifle Association (NRA) under its expanded Corporate Partners Program. NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre is cited as stating in a promotional brochure: “The National Rifle Association’s newly expanded Corporate Partners program is an opportunity for corporations to partner with the NRA….This program is geared toward your company’s corporate interests.”
With the gun industry facing a decades long decline in household gun ownership
, it would be naive to believe that this level of corporate contribution into an organization involved with political contributions and lobbying efforts is simply ideologically-driven; industry contributors are no doubt looking for return on that investment through a legislative agenda that keeps the gun markets wide open and unimpeded by government intervention. This while thousands of our nation’s youth are being killed or injured by gunfire each year.
Secondly, although Harry Reid promised on multiple occasions to address the obstructionistic use of the filibuster in the US Senate, the rule remains largely in place to the disappointment of many. No doubt this procedure does some lawmakers the favor of not being forced to place votes on matters they would otherwise wish to avoid (e.g. assault-style weapons? High capacity clips?). And with NRA A ratings and nearly 90% of 2011-2012 NRA contributions being skewed to Republican lawmakers, it is likely that our lawmaking bodies (the Republican dominated House and a filibuster prone Senate) will place into law a minimalist package addressing gun violence.
That our lawmakers have not intervened regarding the substantial level of gun-related death and injury in American youth, while pocketing backdoor money from the gun industry under the pretense of protecting Second Amendment rights, or using a procedural rule to duck tough votes, is nothing less than scandalous and a dereliction of their duties. And with lawmakers so behaving, our free press needs to step forward and engage, as only it can, to explore this issue.
Dear Representative/Senator xxx:
I would like to share my perspective on the current gun violence debate. Common ground should be found in the clearly unacceptable level of death and injury in US children to gunfire. This issue transcends claims of constitutional rights, arguments about research validity, or how many times guns have been used in self-defense. The matter involves straightforward fatality and injury statistics in a population our government has historically acted to protect. A little on my background.
I write as an individual who has held senior executive and corporate officer level positions in a federally regulated industry, pharmaceuticals, where I was administratively responsible for R&D, manufacturing, and regulatory affairs. In that role I held legal responsibilities for safety data acquisition, assessment and reporting, the requirements of which were codified under Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 312 and 314, for investigational and marketed products, respectively. I have also been an adjunct professor as well as founder and CEO of my own contract drug development corporation where I assumed, under written transfer, legal obligations of the sponsoring corporation regarding safety data acquisition and reporting.
As the gun debate involves product-related safety and associated health consequences, the matter is well-suited to my background and experience. My work on gunfire death and injury in children has been disseminated by multiple national advocacy groups. It is frequently carried in the Gun Violence Prevention Report (States United to Prevent Gun Violence) and I have been a guest columnist for the Los Angeles-based Women Against Gun Violence. Several of the groups that VP Biden’s task force recently met with are familiar with my work and I have personally met with several of them.
The issue I raise is the grossly disproportionate loss of life and injury in US children to gunfire while our government has actually worked in a way to perpetuate, if not increase, risks in children – a population that our government has historically taken a leadership role in protecting. Through both their legislative actions and inactions, what lawmakers have permitted regarding firearms would constitute criminal behavior in an industry federally regulated for health and safety.
To give an idea of the size of the gun-related safety/health issues with children – I’m sure you must know these statistics: The 20 young lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary represent less than 1% of America’s youth who die from gunfire each year (birth through teen years); Eighty-six percent (86%) of gunfire deaths in children from 26 wealthy industrialized nations occurred in the US and the death rate in US children, under the age of 15 years, was found to be nearly 12 times that of the other 25 countries combined; The American Academy of Pediatrics has described the morbidity and mortality associated with gun-related injuries in children as being “a significant public health problem”, “epidemic” and has called for research into the matter; and, our country’s disproportionate level of gunfire deaths occurring at younger ages contributes to more than 25% of the decreased life expectancy in America relative to other wealthy nations.
It is difficult to imagine that a product associated with this level of death and injury in American youth remains unregulated. However, despite the role our government has taken in protecting children, it has not only failed to intervene in this matter, but consider the following actions lawmakers have taken (federal and state levels):
* Obstruct examination of the matter (cutting off federal funding for firearms research);
* Obstruct dissemination of information (physician ‘gag orders’ that restrict questioning patients about guns in the home despite the well-established risk of injury and death to children);
* Impede the work of local, state and federal law enforcement (ATF); (Tiahrt Amendment);
* Make it easier for convicted felons and the mentally-ill to regain their gun rights; and
* Refusing to address a mechanism that contributes to illegal gun sales and gun trafficking.
And while so doing, the National Rifle Association, that drafts some of this legislation, serves as a conduit for gun industry money to our lawmakers under the stated purpose of protecting Second Amendment rights – the very industry that financially benefits from such a legislative agenda – while our country is losing nearly 3000 of our young citizens each year with thousands more being injured, some developing life-long disability. This is, simply put, outrageous, if not scandalous.
Had a corporation in an industry federally regulated for safety been aware of a high level of product-related death and injury in children, obstructed attempts to look into the matter, obstructed dissemination of information about the matter, impeded the work of law enforcement (local, state and federal), while continuing to increase public exposure to more powerful versions of the product that claimed multiple other young lives, those involved would have faced criminal prosecution. Yet our own lawmakers are so engaged while they keep firearms unregulated for health and safety. The double standard is staggering.
My belief is that some of our lawmakers should be made to publicly explain themselves. Having competed in the business world, there is much to leverage here that can be translated into achieving a broad array of effective interventions that would not affect wide-spread ownership as has been done with other products.
Should you or others of your colleagues wish to speak, feel free to contact me.
Arthur R. (Art) Kamm, PhD