These are problems that can be solved. In many cases they have been and if they aren't good people of good intentions can work them out. Gun violence costs America dearly. It costs a lot of pain and grief to lose a loved one to a bullet. I know that from personal experience. It's pretty inconvenient and expensive to bury someone who was alive one minute and the next was dead because someone shot them in an argument or accidentally or maybe they used a gun in a suicide. It costs in the invasion of privacy after the shooting incident is publicized and reporters want to talk to you about what happened. It costs in court trials if the case was a murder or avoidable "accident" and it goes to trial. Sure, people die every day in accidents or from a disease. We mourn their lost lives and sometimes we get involved in efforts to prevent others from dying in the same way. Thus we have Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or the American Cancer Society or the American Lung Association or the many many other places where people can get involved. Usually when a lot of people die from the same cause, we put our heads together and decide we need to do something. Or if there are even a few injuries or deaths from the same product on the market, recalls happen or there is public outcry demanding it. This needs to be the case for gun deaths and injuries. The good news is that we can prevent gun injuries and deaths. The bad news is that we don't.
And so we write and we lobby and we organize and we talk and we plead and we argue. After the Sandy Hook shooting we thought everything would change. In many ways it did. But what we didn't do as a result was shameful. Our Congress let the shooting of 20 small children and 6 educators go to the back of the line as a legislative priority. They ignored the national outpouring of support for changing our gun laws. Fear of being re-elected trumped fear of having the next mass shooting occur in a neighborhood in the district served. Fear of being made to look bad by the gun lobby trumped saving lives. It makes no common sense.
Thankfully, though, talking about reasonable approaches to preventing gun injuries and deaths is creeping into our national conscience. The gun lobby is not alone any more in wielding money and power to get its' way. This article from The Hill highlights some of the changes in the gun debate. From the article:
Of course, elected officials have had this choice all along. But they have been too scared to choose the right side- that of preventing the devastation to our families and communities caused by gun violence. That is simply not OK.Times have changed: the one-sided battle is over. Elected officials must now weigh the cost of their gun-related votes, and Bloomberg’s Mayors group, his super-PAC Independence USA, and former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s Americans for Responsible Solutions are making clear the cost will be high.Ironically, the NRA’s electoral efforts had already been proving anemic. According to the Sunlight Foundation, of the $11 million the group spent on behalf of candidates in the 2012 election cycle, less than 1 percent actually went to winning races. And like other issues in the conservative movement, social trends are fast moving in the wrong direction for the organization. While 50 percent of American households owned guns in the 1970s, just 34 percent do so today, according to the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey. Also, while 40 percent hunted in 1977, just 25 percent of men do so today.The NRA is a paper tiger rushing headfirst into the American fringe. Its evolution from advocacy group for hunters to Alex-Jones-style conspiracy mongering is complete. Its money is ineffective and its issues unpopular. It can no longer fight its own battles.As always, elected officials have a choice between siding with their constituents or siding with the gun lobby. But unlike the past, wayward politicians will now face serious repercussions for siding against popular opinion, common sense and the safety of their constituents.
Speaking of changing the conversation there is one very important change that can happen without passing any legislation. Asking if there are guns in the home where your children play and hang out is increasingly important with so many accounts of "accidental" and avoidable shootings of and by young children. Read this great article by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign and founder of the Center to Prevent Youth Violence. From the article:
This is a conversation we must have. Lives can be saved without passing laws as well. It's time for that conversation to be at the top of the list of public health and safety concerns. As my readers know, I refer often to the Kid Shootings blog and the Ohh Shoot blog. These sites often reveal the problems with guns in the hands of supposed responsible gun owners. In most cases, these are avoidable shootings. We should all be able to agree that something needs to be done about this problem. The fear that doing something that makes common sense will inevitably lead to gun registration or confiscation overtakes the reasonable conversations we need to have in order to make us safer from gun violence- even in the simple matter of safe storage of guns.Most simply, too many tragedies occur because guns are purchased or owned without giving proper weight to the risks of bringing guns into the home and unsafe access to those guns.This isn't a gun issue. It's a responsibility issue. Thousands of tragedies, in homes across our country could be prevented every year if parents and others had more responsible attitudes and behaviors, based on the real risks around guns in the home.And to address this responsibility issue, we need major public awareness and education campaigns. We need to start a new national conversation that makes responsible choices about guns part of what it means to be a responsible parent, spouse or friend.We need to change social norms just like we've seen on those other issues like drunk driving and tobacco where campaigns like, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk," and "Second Hand Smoke," have changed dangerous and irresponsible behavior that was considered not only acceptable, but glamorous a generation ago. Just watch one episode of Mad Men and think about how far we've come on those issues. We believe we have the exciting potential to create the same kind of sea change around guns through the same kind of public health and safety campaigns.
What we know is that too many people are dying every day from bullets. What should we do about this? Nothing? I don't think so. As Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post reminds us- we just can't be numb to this kind of violence:
Milbank wrote about a group of women who meet every Monday outside of the White House to push for common sense gun laws. They are dedicated to the cause of reducing gun violence and know it is a hard slog. But they aren't giving up. Good for them. We shouldn't be collectively numb to the every day carnage. If we let that happen, as the gun lobby hopes it will, the carnage will continue unabated. Resistance is strong to making the changes that must happen to save lives. That doesn't mean it is insurmountable.By any definition, the level of gun violence is obscene. USA Today reported last month that 934 people had died in mass shootings over the past seven years, and that's only 1 percent of all gun-related homicides. The newspaper’s tally, including incidents in which four or more people were killed, was 146 mass shootings since 2006.A crowd-sourced count on Reddit of any gun incident in which four or more were shot found 365 mass shootings in 2013 alone. The liberal Center for American Progress’ ThinkProgress blog found that in the first 14 school days of this year, there had been at least seven school shootings of all types, compared with 28 in all of 2013.
Just as with other public safety issues of the day, there was resistance to laws to clamp down on drunk driving and smoking in public. Thanks to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense for finding this editorial piece, written in 1984, by a man strongly opposed to increasing penalties for drunk driving. How is it possible that this writer actually believed that he, and others like him, were safe driving while drunk? It just makes no sense given what we know about the numerous accidents caused by drunk drivers. What could possibly have made sense about this position? From the article:
Sound familiar? It's almost impossible to believe that anyone would resist the idea of keeping people from driving drunk. But that is what happened. The country has changed. It's possible to change minds and change the culture. There are risks to owning guns. There is a need to pass measures to reduce and prevent gun deaths and injuries. There are models to follow. Moms are effective agents of change. Moms voices matter because they are often advocates for issues of concern to their children and to safety and health. Women's voices have often been raised historically for social justice issues. In the cause of gun violence prevention, the Million Mom March was born of the advocacy of a concerned mom, Donna Dees-Thomases, who started a movement that has sustained itself in one way or the other since Mother's Day of 2000. That group of Moms merged with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. A new group joined the scene after the Sandy Hook Shooting- Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (linked above). They have merged with a group formed of mayors across the country called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Their new web page, Demand Action, is the culmination of this merged group. These new players, along with Americans for Responsible Solutions, are going to make a difference. There are many other groups working on this issue, too numerous to name here but I appreciate the work they are all doing. When we all have the same end game, we will be a powerful force for change.Indeed, I would venture to extend that to include the vast majority of those whose life styles are in general similar to mine; namely, to all who regularly socialize with family, friends and neighbors, at cocktail or dinner parties, in private homes, restaurants, clubs or any other place where alcoholic beverages are customarily served. At the end of any particular evening, most of those who have engaged in such activities undoubtedly have in their bloodstreams a measure of alcohol above the minimum percentage established by the state beyond which one may be considered intoxicated or impaired, or, to put it bluntly, drunk. Yet these people almost invariably drive home safely without incident, accident or arrest - just as I do.It is a well-established fact that most alcohol-related traffic accidents involve young people, usually males, in the 18- -to- 24-year-old age group. To counter that, New York recently raised the minimum drinking age from 18 to 19, and, in order to be consistent with neighboring states and a growing national trend, is contemplating raising it to 21.New York has also recently instituted much stiffer penalties for those found guilty of drunk driving, and organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) are becoming as ubiquitous as the corner tavern. These measures are definitely working. The number of accidents caused by drunken driving has been markedly reduced.Nevertheless, and despite the fact that these new laws and stricter penalties, coupled with other measures such as stopping motorists at random and administering breath tests, are undoubtedly effective, I am convinced, based upon my own safe driving record and that of millions of others like me, that there is an equally effective method of reducing alcohol-related car accidents without resorting to such draconian measures, which severely encroach upon the rights and liberty of the vast majority of New Yorkers of all ages who are responsible drivers and who find their life styles threatened by such laws, regulations and practices. (...)True liberty entails the responsibility, in effect, to police ourselves, and only when we fail in that obligation is it the province of the state to intervene. I believe that we Americans should import from Europe, along with its beers, wines and champagnes, another aspect of its civilization, namely, a sensible and mature approach to the use of these products.Let us eliminate once and for all the mystique and the myths about alcohol along with the attitudes that led to such follies as Prohibition and the W.C.T.U.. Rather than raising, perhaps we ought to eliminate altogether the minimum drinking age, thereby removing from alcohol the tantalizing mystery that often accompanies things that are forbidden.At the same time, let us as parents educate our children in the mature and responsible use of alcoholic beverages rather than forbidding them, which only leads to their childish and irresponsible misuse. Let us as citizens and motorists demand the enforcement of strict penalties for those found guilty of abusing that responsibility while driving, and by so doing, let us return a lost liberty to responsible users of alcohol and restore safety to our highways.
As always, I will end this post with Joe Nocera's latest column, The Gun Report, which runs in the New York Times several days a week. He will be writing his Week-end Gun Report soon. Reading about shooting incidents of and by actual people all over America should impel us to act. As always, Nocera reports on incidents from states all over America. There are domestic shootings, "accidental" shootings, some suicides, some gang shootings, some robberies or home invasion shootings. The victims are from ages including infants to senior citizens. He reports them all. If we can abide this kind of carnage as a country, something is terribly wrong. Surely we are better than this. Let's get to work to make the common sense changes that our communities deserve.
Here are some things you can do. If you tweet, you can tweet to your Representatives and Senators this Valentine's Day week. Check it out here. You can send an e-mail to your Senator or Representative here asking them to Finish the Job and pass the background check bill lying dormant in Congress. You can find the phone number or e-mail address of your Representative and Senators and tell them you want them to act for common sense and to save lives. You can find a Moms chapter or a Brady/Million Mom March chapter and get involved (links above). You can find Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and share information with your friends and supporters. You can ask if there's a gun where your children play. You can seek out an independent state group and get involved in local and state gun violence prevention efforts. Get involved in local elections and ask questions about the issue of gun violence prevention. Make change happen! Raise your voice and make a difference.
As I mentioned above, Joe Nocera of the New York Times has published his latest Week-end Gun Report. Just take a look at the first two paragraphs and tell me we don't have a serious problem in America:
And this was just the start of the report for just last Friday.Robert Garza Sr. shot and killed his wife Christine, daughter Zoila and granddaughter Rebecca before killing himself in Defiance County, Ohio, Thursday night. A six-year-old boy was accidentally shot by his father as he unloaded his pistol inHuntsville, Ala., Friday night. A 9-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed at his home in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, Mass., Friday morning, and the victim’s 14-year-old brother is facing charges. Police had been called to the house on multiple reports of violence last year.A 15-year-old boy was accidentally shot in the leg while walking home from a rabbit hunt in Alakanuk, Alaska, Thursday evening. A 15-year-old boy was shot in the leg in Muncie, Ind., Thursday evening. Susan Wolfe, 44, and Sarah Wolfe, 38, sisters of Iowa state representative Mary Wolfe, were shot to death in the basement of their home in the East Liberty neighborhood ofPittsburgh, Pa., Friday afternoon. A 39-year-old man was wounded in a drive-by shooting in Amarillo, Tex., Thursday night.