There have been 182 days since America woke up to the mind-numbing violence that erupted on Newtown, Connecticut. Six months have passed since politicians fell all over themselves trying to find the nearest camera, the nearest microphone to extend their deepest, heartfelt sympathies to the families of the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and to promise that they would do whatever possible to make sure that the senseless tragedy never occurred again. In that six months many things have happened, most showing the worst side of Americans, our unwillingness to work together to actually do something to reduce the senseless deaths, our willingness to write-off the lives of 10,000 Americans each and every year.
In that six months – just 182 days – we have over 5,000 more dead to add to the Butcher’s Bill, over 5,000 people whose future stopped cold because of gun violence. And this past six months were not exceptionally violent, not a spike in the “normal” course of murder, manslaughter, accidents and suicides. And it is that “normal” that is so appalling. We have, as a society allowed, each year over 10,000 people to die from gun violence and another 20,000 suicides with firearms to become an acceptable reality. And more important, it is the WHY we have allowed it that is so reprehensible.
When any discussion of deaths, and ways to slow it down bubble to the top of the national zeitgeist Americans tend to step up with great support to do everything in our power to stop, or at least slow down the number of deaths. You cannot begin to count the number of organizations and grassroots groups who fight cancer, to stop its relentless killing. When a disease like Muscular Dystrophy cuts down children, society does everything it can to just make it stop. Since 1952 Jerry Lewis helped raise over $2,000,000,000 [that’s TWO BILLION] for research in MD cures.
When deaths from automobile accidents exceeded 50,000 per year in 1966, the public, government, and industry began to work on solving that deadly problem. They enacted legislation to require seat belts, to install collapsible steering columns, remove steel dashboards, make interiors of cars safer, redesign frames and bodies of cars to burn off the energy from a crash, rather than push all that energy to the occupants. As a result, with a population that has added 120 million, we have reduced deaths to under 33,000 per year and dropping. That success occurs as Americans now drive over 3,000,000,000,000 [THREE TRILLION] miles per year…three times what was driven in 1966. Further, because of the actions of MADD, deaths from drunk driving have fallen from over 60% to just over 35% in a 30 year period, due to a determined legislative and public perception campaign to stop drunks from killing on the highways.
But the attitude about deaths from gun violence is strikingly different. Many Americans don’t react the same way to these thousands of deaths per year. They quickly respond “it happens” or “it is the price for freedom” or “guns don’t kill people, people do” or “gun owners are responsible”…all an attempt to rationalize that they care more about their hobby than they do about 30,000 lives a year being lost to gun violence. Now, they will scream Second Amendment to the top of their lungs but it boils down, by the end of each debate that they just don’t want changes to the status quo, don’t want to be inconvenienced by that additional 10 minutes required to do a background check on ALL weapon sales. They argue that gun owners are responsible, never mind that responsible gun owners have over 240,000 guns stolen from their homes and cars each year which end up in the black market; that hundreds of children a year are killed or wounded by guns that they fail to properly stow. And more irrationally they argue that their guns are to defend against a tyrannical government, and that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, though they would be really happy if you would kindly ignore that whole “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” part of the Second because it really, REALLY throws a curve ball into their argument.
It has been a hard six month as we look at gun violence. Included in the over 5,000 killed by gun violence are attacks at 10 schools including Lone Star State and the University of Central Florida, and we have had spree killings throughout the country including Orange County, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Nevada.
Besides the two headline grabbing types of gun violence, 2013 has seen multiple deaths from multiple instances of domestic violence and family shootings. But the ones that seemed to hit the public hardest, those that were easily the most preventable involved kids picking up guns that their parents failed to stow. In April a six year old was shot and killed by a four year old in New Jersey – just two days after a four year old in Tennessee finds a deputy sheriff’s “unloaded” gun and kills the deputy’s wife. On May first, in Kentucky a two year old died from his brother’s “first gun”. One month later, tragedy was in Rusk, Texas. And in between a 15 year old is killed in Oklahoma when her little sister dropped her mother’s pistol on the kitchen counter top.
Those are seven instances of children dying from gun violence in the past six months. If I wanted to be thorough I would provide links to the 268 teens who have been killed or the 94 children under 12 who have died since Sandy Hook.
The response from those who support the intractable National Rifle Association’s position on guns are always the same…”It happens”, “Guns don’t kill people…” and the most appalling…”It is the price of freedom”. It is embarrassing that, in a 21st Century society we still have people who have such a disregard for life, that prefer a selfish, narcissistic approach that THEIR hobby is more important than the lives of 10,000 cut down by gun violence each year.
We as a society are better than this. We are better than the callous folks who just blow off unnecessary deaths because of their inconvenience and in reality an endless propaganda machine that is the NRA. The NRA has so brainwashed many of these folks with their constant “they are coming to get our guns” that the supporters simply kneejerk and parrot their responses rather than realize that the NRA is winding them up to get more and more money from them, to support their lobbying efforts for the gun industry.
In six months, Congress has done nothing. That’s not exactly true. Congresspersons have taken in millions of dollars from the NRA and its PAC the NRA/ILA for their re-election campaigns, monies supplied by the gun industry and members.
What they have not done, however is provide comprehensive, bipartisan solutions to begin to reduce the number of deaths from gun violence. As supporters of the NRA will tell you, gun deaths are down, and they are. What they won’t tell you is the drop began as the Brady Bill and later NICS were implemented. But, much like that annoying “well regulated Militia…” clause in the Second Amendment, facts get in the way of a good dose of fear and paranoia.
The Rise of Grassroots Action
And one last thing that seems to be very important in this past six months. While our Congresspersons have failed America, failed to build consensus solutions to save lives from gun violence, the public has shown that they have had enough. Grassroots campaigns and social media groups have banded together to push for solutions. When folks who support sensible gun laws lost one battle in April, where Congress could not even pass a simple bill to strengthen background checks so felons and the mentally ill can’t buy guns a funny thing happened. They didn’t fold…in fact they strengthened and grew. From groups like Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns to Jim Brady’s Brady Campaign to Gabby Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions to the very grassroots Occupy the NRA and It Can Happen Here and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the voices are getting louder, more organized, more united.
The voice is clear…We as a society are better than this. We will not stop until solutions are in place.
Previously Published 6/14 on LiberalAmerica.Org and ItCanHappenHere on Facebook.
McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.
You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip