And in commemorating Black History month, this writer reminds us that Martin Luther King Jr. is still amongst us with his words of non-violence. Black youth and young men are at great risk in many parts of our country of being shot to death. We love our guns and as a result, we have more victims than any other civilized country in the world. These are victims- people who were one minute living, breathing human beings with families and friends, and the next, their lives snuffed out by bullets. From the article: " And not surprisingly, America has the world's highest gun-related death rate, with nearly 100,000 people shot or killed with a gun each year. Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, according to the Childrens' Defense Fund. Moreover, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says that America's homicide rate is 6.9 times higher than rates in other 22 advanced nations combined. And among 23 high-income countries, 80 percent of firearms deaths occur in the U.S". Shameful and senseless.
New York City Mayor Bloomberg's efforts with Mayors Against Illegal Guns are now literally moving across the country with the message that 34 Americans a day die from gun homicides. Since 9/11, when 2752 people were tragically killed by the terror attacks, 270,000 Americans have lost their lives to bullets. These are somebody's mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, niece, nephew, friend, spouse or partner. Now their names grace the list of victims of gun homicides. They are memorialized by their families at events to get the attention of our national leaders to do something about the carnage. Their faces and silent voices are powerful. They make people uncomfortable because if our leaders or pro gun people acknowledge their deaths, they might just have to do something about them.
Yet, here is what some who comment on my blog say about victims:
- This one says that she has also been a victim: "I was a victim once when I was powerless. Now I hold the power of the gun - and I won't be a victim again. Unless of course you put me into prison for my common sense anti-rape precautions."
- "You speak, think, and act like a victim. That's why we say you are naive. "
- ..." I'm guessing that 1/3 of the victims were shot with the first 11 rounds and the next 2/3 victims were shot with the rest. If that is the case, then 4 murder victims might have not been murder victims due to this case. That's out of 13000 a year is it? How many others are there? " ( about the Tucson shooting victims and high capacity magazines)
- " Likewise Rep. McCarthy may or may not be "stupid". I wouldn't have chosen those words. However losing her husband in a shooting provokes sympathy but has no bearing on a discussion of her mental capacities."
- " Rep McCarty was elected as a sympathy vote. And she knows it otherwise her son wouldn't be at all the campaign rallies. "
- "Likewise, people who are victims of tragedies are entitled to privacy in their grief. However, the moment that they choose to enter the marketplace of ideas and advocate political change, then consideration -- including criticism -- of their ideas becomes valid. And if they choose to use their personal experience as evidence to support their ideas, then it also becomes valid to examine and question the nature and relevance of that personal experience."
- " No, those stories are not "inconvenient" (your word). They are tragic losses, especially if preventable, and hopefully we can honor the memories by learning from those stories. But that doesn't give victims or survivors a free pass to push for any policy they want without critical examination of their claims."
- " And while I do feel sorry for McCarthy and what happened to her family, that doesn't give her the right to attack law abiding people and take things away from them. Plus she knows absolutely nothing about guns whatsoever, so what kind of authority is she to determine what guns or features are necessary or not?"
- " The argument isn't that victims have no standing, it's that being a victim doesn't make someone fully qualified to make the right decisions. The example of McCarthy is that she was shown to have absolutely no knowledge of firearms whatsoever."
- " She is certainly qualified to say "We have a serious problem with gun violence in this country, I lost part of my family to it, we have to do something." I can agree with that, but I can not agree with her making policy for something which she knows absolutely nothing about. It's fine if McCarthy wants to bring public attention to the problem and try and find solutions, but it's not fine for her to go making up laws on a topic she doesn't know."
- " Ok, McCarthy and those who wrote her magazine bill, have no experience with the shooting sports, do they? Have they gone to the range to shoot targets for fun? Have they ever taken part in shooting competitions? Have they ever had to fight off attackers trying to rape them or otherwise threaten their well being? What is the rate of shootings occurring with "high capacity" magazines, versus shootings occurring with 10 round or smaller magazines?"
I could go on but you get the idea. These comments were written about a post that wasn't even dealing with victims or even H. R. 308 to ban high capacity magazines sponsored by New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy. But, alas, that is how things go with the pro gun folks. They are off on a tangent in a second and we are arguing something about which we have no idea where it started and is completely off topic from the original post. That, of course, works well for the pro gun folks. They like to divert, especially when it comes to shooting victims. Representative McCarthy has a compelling story to tell. She lost her husband when a crazed gunman on the Long Island Railroad opened fire and killed him and permanently disabled her son. Her husband was one of 6 killed and her son one of 19 injured in a senseless mass shooting in 1993. Does she know what she is talking about? She's been there. Sometimes experience counts.
But you can see here, by the comments I selected, that the pro gun people want victims to be experts on guns and gun terminology when they speak. And while I can understand that view to a point, the gun guys are not willing to grant that many of us have not been steeped in the gun culture as have they. We understandably have an aversion to dealing with guns and the terminology and have chosen other paths to get to the end result. As victims, we are not experts. We rely on a lot of other folks with whom we associate such as law enforcement, lawyers, legislative staffers, gun owners and hunters, etc. to help with writing the laws. That does not mean we can't speak about gun laws or promote measures to keep guns away from those who should not have access. On a gut level, we know the issue. We know our stories and we know how it feels to lose a loved one. We are a passionate group who are going on with our lives missing someone dear to us. When we speak, legislators and those in Congress take notice. They know we have a special and different voice in the conversation. We often ring bells or place flowers in memory of lost loved ones. These activities have a legitimate place in the overall discussion.
According to David Love who wrote the commentary linked above ( about gun victims in the U.S.): "This is a travesty and an embarrassment in the industrialized world." The problem we have is that we are not embarrassed by our lack of will to address the moral and legal problem of too many shootings and too few sensible gun laws. That is why victims/survivors voices are so important. If we embarrass our leaders with our stories, so be it. Hear again, the words of Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard as he takes his experience as a victim in the country's worst school shooting around the country. We will continue to tell our stories and urge our leaders to do something about the gun violence in our country.
As it turns out, victims are everywhere and anyone. When you least expect it, you get a phone call which changes everything forever. To that end, listen to the words of Dallas Green, grandfather of 9 year old Christina Green, shot in the Tucson massacre. Feel his pain as he remembers his beloved granddaughter and listen to his words about guns and magazines. He knows about guns and now he knows about grief and becoming an instant victim of a shooting. I will let him have the last word.