Because things have been so busy and because my continuing healing from cataract surgery is still making computer time a bit more difficult, I’ve put off posting on some topics that have been top of mind.
One of those is the continuing – and seemingly accelerating – plague of gun violence in the United States.
Over these past couple of months, there have been some personal reminders of gun violence. The April 3rd anniversary of the American Civic Association shooting in Binghamton and driving by the memorial to it, only a few hundred feet from the site, knowing that, fourteen years on, if the victims are remembered at all, they are just numbers in a long tally of mass shooting victims. A Lenten program on gun violence that was part of a series on social sin, which led to my contacting my Congressional representative to request federal action on gun violence, only to get a discouraging reply that he won’t support such practical actions as keeping military-style weapons and ammunition out of civilian hands.
All of this while hearing every day of more mass shootings and their aftermath. The fact that we are averaging more than one mass shooting per day in 2023, 192 recorded by day 125, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The fact that firearms are now the leading cause of death among children and adolescents (ages 1-19) in the United States, far surpassing the rate in other industrialized nations. Laws being passed in some states to make it easier to carry weapons, despite the dangers to the public. The bizarre ousting of two state legislators in Tennessee for “lack of decorum” in speaking out against gun violence in the chamber, only to have those members re-appointed by their districts.
The feature of news coverage that makes these recent weeks even more disturbing is the increased attention to shootings that happened after harmless incidents. Being shot through a closed door for ringing a doorbell at the wrong address. After chasing an errant ball into a neighbor’s yard. While pulling out of a driveway in a rural area while trying to navigate to a friend’s home. Mistakenly going to the wrong car in a dark parking lot. All instances where you would expect a neighborly person to ask how they can help, not shoot and wound or kill.
I don’t understand.
Is it uncontrolled fear? Paranoia? Rage? Hate? Sense of entitlement? Illness? Racism? Misogyny? Addiction to power? Some combination of these, varying from incident to incident?
One thing that doesn’t vary? There’s always a gun.
We need legislation to address gun violence on the federal level. I live in a state with quite a few statutes regulating firearms but it is too easy for people to cross state lines or use the internet to circumvent them. I believe that military-style weapons don’t belong in civilian hands and that large ammunition clips should be banned, along with modifications that make a semi-automatic weapon behave like it is fully automatic. I think that there should be background checks, training, and licensing required for firearm ownership and robust laws against illegal possession and gun trafficking. People who have a history of violence or those who have restraining orders against them should not have guns. There should be universal red flag laws to make sure that those who are a danger to themselves or others do not have access to guns. Sadly, over half the gun deaths in the United States are self-inflicted; while people can and do die by suicide from other methods, guns kill a much higher proportion than other means. [If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or are in a mental health crisis, dial 988 in the US or visit https://988lifeline.org/ to live chat or find resources. In other countries, use a search engine to find similar programs. Or ask a trusted friend, family member, doctor, etc. for help.]
Public polling in the US shows a large majority want more regulation of guns but Republican lawmakers are almost universally opposed. That needs to change. Either they need to change their minds or the people need to replace them with representatives who care about their safety.
Meanwhile, the losses, pain, and trauma accelerate…