The children shot and killed in Newtown will not have died in vain if we bring about change. Americans have been far too complacent about intelligent gun control. In 2008-2009, the number of kids killed by guns was 5,740. That’s ”one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years.” As sickening as this is, consider that in addition to the 5,740 kids killed by guns in just two years, another 34,387 kids suffered guns injuries in 2008-2009—that’s one child or adolescent every 31 minutes. This shocking information comes from the Children’s Defense Fund and the statistics are from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 We’ve grown so accustomed to violence, we never thought to ask how many children guns kill. Now you know. And now that we know, we can no longer accept this.
This summer, I posted about the irony of Aurora, a name full of hope for new beginnings, as the site of a mass murder. Now it’s happened again. Another picturesque American name—Newtown, a name full of hope and inspiration, has faced the same tragedy as Aurora and Columbine, a sweet mountain wildflower. What do these names suggest? The peace and quiet of small town America, the essence of everything we think about as “the heart” of our country has been lost. Like most Americans, I knew we had a problem and that we were apathetic about our gun deaths, because we have been brainwashed into thinking that guns are necessary for our freedom—even if that means freedom to kill one another. Why do we accept this?
Americans have come to accept violence, especially, in our big cities. More Americans were shot and killed in Chicago (228) than died in Afghanistan (144) as of August of this year.2 According to Department of Defense and FBI data, 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. During that same period of time, more than 5,000 Chicagoans were killed.3 More kids were killed by guns in 2008-9 (5,740) than military personnel (5,103) killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the same time period. The poor in our big cities are at much greater risk of being shot. Why do we accept this?
Patrick Caldwell points out that there have been 65 mass shootings in the U.S. since Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2009. Between 2000 and 2008, 272,590 people were shot to death in the United States—an average of 30,288 gun deaths per year—a shocking number compared to other developed nations. During that same time period, another 617,488 people suffered nonfatal gunshot injuries in the U.S. The total number of people shot in 2008 totaled 110,215.4 Many if these injuries alter lives forever: e.g., fifteen percent of spinal injuries are due to gunshot wounds. On a purely financial basis, we cannot afford the billions of dollars in lost incomes, lost productivity, and medical bills, to say nothing of the psychic distress guns cause each and every one of us, from our children to our elderly. Why do we accept this?
Our children go to school and have to practice lockdowns in case a gunman gets into the school with the aim of shooting and killing them. I grew up as a child with the fear of a Russian atom bomb—a vague, generalized fear. Our children are growing up knowing they may be the specific targets of a mass murderer—the bull’s eye is on them specifically. Our children are growing up in fear with training that sounds more like learning survival strategies in a war zone than in a developed country. Why do we accept this?
The only countries with worse gun statistics are Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, Jamaica, and the Philippines—regions we associate with weak governments, corruption, or drugs wars. Europe and Australia have strict gun control laws and their murder rate is a tiny fraction of ours. We have more guns than any other nation on the planet, and we also have many more gun incidents—homicides and injuries. The argument that more guns will make us safer is obviously inaccurate. The more guns we have, the more we use them to harm one another. As Pogo so famously said in 1953, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Why do we accept this?
When gun advocates tell you we need our guns, cite the number of American children dying every hour in the U.S., the more then 30,000 Americans killed every year, the more than 60,000 injured—the more than 100,000 victims of guns every year, not counting the hundreds of thousands of family members and relatives, whose lives are forever changed by these losses—death, injury, and psychic trauma. Tell gun advocates these losses are not acceptable. When gun advocates tell you gun deaths have decreased, repeat these numbers and tell them these losses are not acceptable. When gun advocates tell you your chance of being shot is about as great as being hit by lightning, tell them we can’t control lightning, but we can control guns, gun magazines, sales of ammunition, and hollow tipped bullets (designed to do the most physical damage—the bullets used to kill the kids in Newton). When gun control advocates tell you guns don’t kill people, people do, they’ve made your point for you. We need gun control for the people using the guns. When gun advocates tell you people are more at risk in gun free zones ask them why murder rates in Europe and Australia (which have strict gun control laws) are so small compared to ours. It’s not gun free zones that cause increased murder rates, it’s increased, easy access to guns. When gun advocates tell you, you are less likely to be shot if you carry a gun, tell them scientific studies prove just the opposite.5 When gun control advocates tell you we need guns to protect our freedom, tell them that guns are actually restricting our rights to life, liberty (freedom from fear), and happiness.
Most gun owners are decent people horrified by all of this. However, there are gun owners who carry a gun because they are terrified of their own projected fears. Despite their argument that you are more likely to be hit by lightening than shot, they are afraid to walk down the street without a gun hidden in their pocket—that’s how afraid they are. What kind of society do we live in that citizens believe that they have to have a gun concealed in their pocket in order to be safe? Perhaps it’s because they grew up in school having to practice lockdown in case a shooter breaks in and wants to shoot them—they grew up in fear of being shot. We are creating a vicious cycle of arming our citizenry that is not doing anything but making it easier for us to kill one another. We are creating a paranoid society that has been brainwashed by the NRA into believing we need to be armed to the teeth. The solution to all our problems is buy, buy, buy guns from them so they can make a billion dollars a year in profits. Gun companies provide 75% of the funding for the NRA. We have been brainwashed into buying the products and the story line of big business. Why have we fallen for this?
If things are going to change, you and I are going to have to do something. It can be something very simple. Adam Green suggests we call the White House and our representatives once a month and tell them we want them to enact common sense gun control legislation. I would add banning gun clips, regulating ammunition sales, and banning hollow tip bullets—like the ones the kids in Newtown were shot with. Whatever you decide to do, get your friends to help too, and keep up the pressure until something gets done. We can no longer think, “As long as it’s not me, I don’t care, I don’t have the time, I didn’t know, etc.” There are no more excuses left.
1. Children’s Defense Fund, http://tinyurl.com/b7qdhc5
2. The Huffington Post: "Chicago Homicides Outnumber U.S. Troop Killings in Afghanistan": http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/16/chicago-homicide-rate-wor_n_1602692.html
3. “Truth in Numbers: Former gang members discuss the reality of Chicago’s rising homicide numbers,” Katie O’Brien: http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/truth-numbers-former-gang-members-discuss-reality-chicagos-rising-homicide-numbers
4. Common Dreams: statistics provided by the Violence Policy Center: https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/01/06-3
5. New Scientist, "Carrying a Gun Increases Risk of Getting Shot and Killed," Ewen Callaway, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17922-carrying-a-gun-increases-ris...