By Michael Shank

Sir, The real problem with the US gun debate is that polling questions are frequently framed as gun rights not as gun safety (“It is plain wrong to see the gun lobby as Svengali”, July 28). Few Americans want their rights stripped, but most Americans expect some semblance of safety in society.

After Colorado, the American public was shocked to discover that James Holmes easily purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online and that there are no limits on military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Few Americans knew that US homes with a gun face a 2.78-fold greater risk of homicide and a 4.8-fold greater risk of suicide. Few knew that background checks – which American gun owners support – can identify only one-seventh of the nearly 3m people with mental illness, involuntarily committed, because many states are not giving the data to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Americans have the right to drive a car (also a weapon), yet we abide by the rules for testing, insuring and manoeuvring the vehicle. We must do the same with guns. We must stop protecting gun manufacturers – the apparent purpose of the National Rifle Association – and must start protecting the American people.

Michael Shank
Adjunct Professor
School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution
George Mason University
Arlington, VA