This is Not the Wild, Wild West: Sandy Hook and The Right to Bear Arms
Posted on December 18, 2012
By now you’ve probably watched Piers Morgan tear into the National Rifle Association on CNN. You may have read the statement falsely attributed to Morgan Freeman, blaming the media for the epidemic of mass shootings. Maybe you watched (or participated) in the endless back and forth over gun rights and mental health that’s been taking place across all social media sites.
Maybe you’re tired of it all.
I know I am. Which is why I thought I could skip over this painful mess and write about something upbeat and, I don’t know, normal. We all want to move on. We don’t want to think too hard or too long about the fact that twenty children didn’t wake up and go to school this morning. The trouble is, I don’t feel normal. Do you?
There are some things that are so painful that to ignore them means risking a permanent scar. We have to find ways–writing or debating or lighting a candle–to dislodge the sorrow.
When news broke about the shootings, my mind registered the outrage but my heart felt nothing, as if a protective mechanism kicked in and said, “Move along. Nothing to see here.” We’ve all been to this horror filled rodeo before. After a while, it’s hard to watch. It’s difficult to feel anything other than helplessness.
On Saturday, I reluctantly sat down at my computer and scrolled through the news. It was a simple list that made me sob. There were no pictures, just a row of twenty-six names and next to each, the age of the victim–the number six repeated over and over and over again. Beneath that: “Every child died of multiple gunshot wounds.”
The Virginia Tech Shootings left me in shock: How can this be? Who would do such a thing? The Aurora shootings had me mildly depressed for weeks. This time, I’m just plain angry.
I am angry that twenty children went to school thinking it was a safe, happy place where they would be protected and didn’t survive the day.
I am angry that we proudly uphold “the rights” of our tiny citizens to one day bear arms, only to see them gunned down by a semi-automatic rifle before they’ve experienced their first kiss.
I am angry that we are having a debate over whether this is a gun thing or a mental health thing.
Because this is a gun thing AND a mental health thing.
Both systems are broken. They need reform. But only one of these issues can be resolved by taking a product off of a shelf.
We can hem and haw and argue over the finer points. But assault rifles that fire multiple bullets per second should not be sold to civilians. Period.
That old saying, guns don’t kill people, people kill people?
Guns kill people ALL of the time. They kill children who get their hands on unlocked cabinets. They kill suicidal teenagers who pull the trigger before they have a chance to reconsider. They kill homeowners who think they are protecting their families but end up shooting themselves instead. They kill unsuspecting movie theatre patrons. And now, they kill classrooms full of six-year olds.
Have you heard of the Akihabara massacre? In 2008, a Japanese man went on a stabbing spree in a heavily populated shopping district in Tokyo. He stabbed twelve people. Eight of those people survived.
That sort of thing just doesn’t happen when the weapon employed is a semi-automatic rifle. In that case, everyone dies.
It’s a fact of life: sometimes one guy (or, in this case, many, many guys) spoil it for everyone.
Gun ownership may be a right. But rights can be revoked when they are abused. This is not the wild, wild west.
In the coming days and weeks, our sorrow will lessen, our anger will subside. We can’t hold onto this kind of pain indefinitely. So we let it go. But what of the parents who will carry this grief around for a lifetime? The kids who will never go to prom or get married, who are stopped in time, their sweet little faces memorialized on a Facebook wall?
Here are some things to keep in mind as the Sandy Hook story inevitably fades into the background:
The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. There are 88 guns for every 100 Americans. (Source)
Pro-gun sentiments in the U.S. have gone UP over the last five years. (Source)
In 2010 there were over 5.4 million new firearms manufactured in the United States, nearly all (95 percent) for the U.S. market. An additional 3.2 million firearms were imported to the United States. (Source)
There are 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers in the U.S. Compare that to America’s 36,569 grocery stores. (Source)
Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. (Source)
In 2008, there were 42 gun related homicides in Britain. 11 in Japan. And in the U.S? Over 12,000. (Source 1, Source 2)
The Sandy Hook Shootings caused a SURGE in gun sales. Many people requested AR-15 style rifles, the same assault rifle Adam Lanza used in the Newtown massacre. (Source)
I know we won’t all agree on this loaded topic. But this has to stop, and it won’t unless we get angry enough to speak out. No more children should die prematurely at the hands of a legally (and easily) obtained gun.
A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths
Michael Moore: It’s the Guns–But We All Know, It’s Not Really the Guns
The Geography of Gun Deaths
Why the Next Shooting Massacre is (Sadly) Inevitable
First School Day (what I will not ask of the Newtown Parents)