America’s love affair with the gun continues.
I’ll never forget Newtown.
Twenty babies slaughtered in their first-grade classroom. Six teachers gunned down as they tried to protect their students. Heart-broken parents, a devastated town, a numbed and grieving nation. Nothing made any sense; no one had any answers.
In the midst of such horror and such pain, I could see only one possibility for good. This massacre would spur us to re-consider our relationship to guns, improve our mental health care, and put sensible regulations in place to limit weapons that fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition in only minutes.
We’d been through Tucson–the mass shooting in January 2011 that left 6 dead, 12 injured and Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) fighting for her life. That time, no one talked about changing the laws. After all, Gabby Giffords herself was a proud gun owner.
We’d been through the Aurora movie massacre that killed 12 and injured 70 and no one really pushed to change the laws. In fact, Americans bought more guns than ever and responsible guns owners wondered why no one in the movie theatre was carrying.
After our mass shootings, a parade of politicians and ministers offer “prayers” for the victims and vague promises to never forget. A tiny voice here or there suggests that Congress revisit reasonable gun safety regulations. There is the obligatory press conference decrying gun violence. The families bury their dead and after a time, the NRA reminds us that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
But, Newtown was different. Grace, Ethan, Daniel, Madeleine, Jack and Benjamin and their classmates cracked open our hearts. Americans said it was different. All the polling said it was different. All the pundits said it was different.
It had to be different.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and Slate magazine, 30,875 people have died by guns since Newtown.
Then . . .
In the year since Newtown, the Senate of the United States turned down legislation to require background checks for gun purchases. Despite weakening the proposed law in order to garner bi-partisan support, the measure failed to reach the 60 vote hurdle needed to break a Republican filibuster. That was the death of the national effort to strengthen gun regulations.
In state legislatures, 109 new laws were passed since Newtown.
72 of those laws EASED existing gun laws.
Americans bought more guns, stockpiled more ammunition and started carrying their favorite weapons to the grocery store, the coffee shop, the mall and even to Church.
A whole lot of Americans are gun-crazy and here are some of the numbers that prove it.
- 310 million guns are in private hands
- 30% of Americans have guns in their homes.
- 40% of guns are sold by unlicensed private dealers.
- Every year 100,000 Americans are shot.
- We have the highest per capita gun death rate of all developed countries.
- In the last 10 years, 335,609 peoples have died in gun-related incidents. (ABC News, Jan 2013)
On September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis, an independent defense contractor, walked into the Washington Navy Yard and murdered 12 people. The shooter had been discharged from the Navy, had mental health issues but could still land a concealed-carry permit issued by the state of Texas. With license in hand, he bought his guns in Virginia.
Two weeks later, when the Navy Yard shooting had vanished from the headlines and most everyone’s memory, Paul Ciancia opened fire in the Los Angeles International Airport, killing an on-duty TSA agent, wounding two more and hitting one by-stander. Ciancia’s rampage was fueled by his fear of the New World Order and an all-consuming anti-government paranoia.
On December 21, 2013, Claire Davis (17) died after a shooting in her Centennial CO high school. The shooter carried a shot gun, 125 shells, a machete and firebombs into Arapahoe High School in a plan to kill his debate coach. Karl Pierson ended up killing Claire and himself.
In May 2013, a 5 -year-old killed a 2-year-old with a rifle made just for kids. Later that month, 3-year-old Lucas found a pistol “hidden” by his dad and shot himself in the eye. 11-year-old Cassie was killed by her 12-year-old brother when he aimed an “unloaded” pistol at his sister. These are just a few of the children-killing-children accidents.
Fewer than 20 states have laws that hold adults responsible for gun accidents
resulting from unsafe storage of guns.
What will jolt Americans into action? Not mass murders. Not 30,000+ gun deaths a year. Not Newtown or Aurora or even Tucson. Not kids killing themselves while playing with their parents’ loaded guns. It will take something else.
It will take . . .