Thanks to States United to Prevent Gun Violence for this video.
What are we going to do about all of the important underlying issues left behind in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury turmoil? We can go on and on about police shootings and the bad race relations between police and people of color. We can go on and on about our nation's insane and tragic gun culture. We can go on and on about our lack of ability to change laws to make our country safer. We can go on and on about institutional racism so evident in America. We can go on and on about the mythical influence of the corporate gun lobby on gun safety policy in our country. We can go on and on about the second amendment and what it means. We can go on and on about the insanity of gun rights advocates as they strut around in public with loaded guns in places where they shouldn't. And then we can go on and on about the daily tragedies that come from all of the above.
One thing is clear- our American gun culture is leading to insanity. We have a broken and insane system of gun regulations or lack thereof. The most important article I found was this one at Vox.com pointing out that we can't talk about race relations and what happened in Ferguson without talking about guns and gun violence. As you recall, I wrote these same sentiments in my last post. From this article:
Radley Balko's excellent book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop, offers plenty of examples of overly militarized policing. But American cops don't carry weapons because they're bloodthirsty or insane. The basic reason American police departments are so much better-armed than their British counterparts is that Americans civilians are much better armed. There is about one gun per person in the United States, and the police legitimately need to be able to wield more force than the citizens they are policing. In America there are lots of guns, so the cops need lots of guns. Consequently, people get shot. (...)
The cost of American gun ownership isn't borne evenly across the country. Black people — specifically young black men — are suffering disproportionately from both gun homicide (which, yes, is more common where guns are widespread — it's true that a large share of crime guns are already illegal, but the legal circulation of large quantities of small weapons makes it much easier to obtain one illegally) and police shootings.
To be clear about something, since it seems very important to a lot of people who email and tweet at me, this is not some kind of crazy cosmic coincidence. It is genuinely true that men murder at a higher rate than women, that young people murder at a higher rate than old ones, and that black people murder at a higher rate than white ones. That a pall of suspicion falls on young black men is, in part, a statistical inference.
But this statistical inference gets young black men killed for encounters with the police that would lead to a reprimand or a citation for a white one. And that's a national scandal. It is a form of wholly unjustified collective punishment inflicted on an African-American community that, just like the white community, consists overwhelmingly of non-murderers.There is much more in this article that should be read and considered. The one thing missed by the writer of the article is the easy access to guns by kids and teens allowing for a large number of accidental deaths and even more ( the majority of gun deaths, actually) for suicide by gun. This all adds up to an American tragedy of great proportions. We ignore it at our peril. Over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun injuries and more than 70,000 are injured. People all over the world are taking note of our violence and gun culture. They can see this insanity for what it is.
We can do something about this if we have the will to stand up to the current mantra that more guns are necessary for our safety and that legal gun owners are not the problem. What is clear is that legal gun owners need to be part of the solution. And I am not talking about the gun extremists who lurk on blogs and articles about guns. I am not talking about the ridiculous folks who strut around like peacocks with their loaded guns in public places. I am talking about the majority of gun owners who know that reasonable gun regulations will not affect their rights to own guns and use them for hunting and recreational purposes.
Much has been written about the now released testimony from the Ferguson grand jury proceedings and the conflicts of the various witnesses. This only adds "fuel to the fire" because, as it turns out and I said in my last post, Michael Brown is now dead and Officer Wilson got to give his side of the incident. And now, after months of unrest about Wilson, he has resigned from the Ferguson police force.
Meanwhile, back in the rest of America, life goes on. This Oklahoma man was shot to death "accidentally" at a family Thanksgiving gathering. Another young Texas child gained access to a parent's gun and shot and killed himself. A church with stock in Walmart is challenging the sale of assault type guns at their nation-wide stores. Walmart is the biggest provider of guns to Americans. Oh, and again in Florida an 11 year old girl died after being shot in the back in her own home. And then there is this insane incident of a Florida man who was threatening his wife with his gun but instead, shot himself in the face accidentally. Why do so many of these incidents happen in Florida anyway? Oh yes, Florida has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. It's the home to the nation's first "Stand Your Ground Law" bringing us the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, among others. I'm just saying....Oh yes, and in Texas ( also with weak gun laws) an off-duty police officer shot a woman over a road rage incident. In Chicago, a domestic dispute spilled over into a public place ( as they often do) leaving one man dead and a woman injured after a shooting in a Nordstroms store. You really just can't make this stuff up. These are just plain negligent and irresponsibility by "law abiding" gun owners. The folks involved in the incidents above thought that they were safer with their guns and that nothing bad could possibly happen to them as a result of their owning a gun. They were wrong.
But never mind all of this. In America we just go along with the status quo as if it is inevitable. It's not. We can do something to change it. This article shows how broken our system of gun background checks is leaving us all to wonder why we have not taken steps to fix it. Is this by design? If so, it's insane and unconscionable. More on this later.
The video above, produced by States United to Prevent Gun Violence, is something that all Americans should be required to view. This is the dichotomy of the world of guns at the time our founding fathers wrote the second amendment and the reality of what it means in today's world. We don't need to live in an America where mass shootings are on the increase, where small children shoot themselves every day, where officers shoot people of color more often than white people, where domestic abuse results in deadly shootings, where road rage ends in a shooting, where people shoot each other at family gatherings, where small children are massacred in their school, where guns make it easier to take one's own life, where just anyone can buy guns no matter what, where there are almost as many guns as there are people and where our leaders are afraid to deal with all of this.
If and when common sense comes to our elected leaders, we may be able to be safer in our homes and communities. Until then, we can expect incidents like the Michael Brown shooting and the other incidents listed above. That is just the tip of the veritable iceberg. For the America we have is a country where a gun culture has gone terribly wrong. It's a country where second amendment rights trump anything else, including saving lives. We have much work to do but the message is clear to me. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. They are the only product made for this purpose. Other things kill people but are not designed to kill them. Our failure to discuss the risks of guns is a phenomenal failure and a big puzzle to the rest of the world where guns, gun regulations and gun safety are taken seriously. The result is that people in most other democratized countries not at war are safer than Americans. That is a sad commentary on us. I know we can do better than this. Let's get to work.
I could actually add numerous incidents of negligent gun discharges or allowing of access to guns to kids by "law abiding" gun owners to this post. But I chose just this one that came to my attention since I wrote this post. An Ohio man was "playing around" with his gun not heeding the comments of his girlfriend, and ended up shooting himself in the head. From the article:
Guns are dangerous. Why do so many gun owners not understand this simple fact? Gun safety is key to saving lives. We need a lot more common sense when it comes to gun safety. Apparently some people should not have guns.Middletown apartment, according to police and the Warren County Coroner’s Office.Middletown police responded at about 7:25 p.m. Saturday to a report of a man who was shot in an apartment in the 600 block of Lafayette Avenue.There, police said they found Dimetrian Wright, 21, in the kitchen with a single gunshot wound to the head.Medics transported Wright to Atrium Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. A revolver was recovered in the kitchen, police said.Lt. Scott Reeve said Wright’s girlfriend reported hearing the clicking of a revolver and told him to stop playing with the gun.“He said it is not loaded, putting it to his head and pulled the trigger,” Reeve said.“Unfortunately there was one round in the revolver and it went off and he ended up shooting himself in the head,” he said. (...)Reeve reminds residents that guns are not toys.“Be really cautious with firearms. Assume it’s loaded even when you think it’s empty,” he said. “We’ve had a few people accidentally shoot themselves because they thought a gun was unloaded.”A Middletown teen was indicted on felony charges in October in connection with a game of Russian roulette that killed his 20-year-old girlfriend.