It’s Past Time to Talk About Gun Control
by Sheila Musaji
First let’s look at the statistics:
Mother Jones has a A Guide to Mass Shootings in America in which they list and map every shooting spree in the last three decades in Americas. “Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii.” That’s 61 mass shootings in 30 years.
Firearms are used in 300,000 crimes a year in the US. In the U.S. there are about 10,000 homicides a year by firearms and about 15,000 homicides by all means That means about 41 people are killed each day in the U.S., and of those, about 27 people each day are killed by guns.
According to a study by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies “The United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens, making it the most heavily armed society in the world. ... U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world’s 875 million known firearms. ... About 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute the U.S. is the world’s largest arms exporter, and has the largest defense budget. Americans represent only about 5% of the total population of the world and we own 31% of all of the firearms.
In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years. The 5,740 children and teens killed by guns in 2008 and 2009:
—Would fill more than 229 public school classrooms of 25 students each;
— Was greater than the number of U.S. military personnel killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan (5,013).2
— The number of preschoolers killed by guns in 2008 (88) and in 2009 (85) was nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2008 (41) and 2009 (48).
— Black children and teens accounted for 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths in 2008 and 2009 but were only 15 percent of the total child population.
— Black males 15-19 were eight times as likely as White males of the same age and two-and-a-half times as likely as their Hispanic peers to be killed in a gun homicide in 2009.
— The leading cause of death among Black teens ages 15 to 19 in 2008 and 2009 was gun homicide. For White teens 15 to 19 it was motor vehicle accidents followed by gun homicide in 2008 and gun suicide in 2009.
— The most recent analysis of data from 23 industrialized nations shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States. The gun homicide rate in the United States for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 was 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for the other nations.
—Of the 116,385 children and teens killed by a gun since 1979, when gun data by age were first collected, 44,038 were Black—nearly 13 times more than the number of recorded lynchings of Black people of all ages in the 86 years from 1882 to 1968. Even so, more White than Black children and teens have died from gun violence.
Stop a minute and think about those statistics. They represent more than numbers, they represent human lives lost, families destroyed, an entire society terrorized. We have a problem with violence in our society. The very recent Colorado and Connecticut shootings were two of the deadliest in our history, but they are not unusual. The terrible violence that has plagued our inner cities and made families there fearful of going to the park or carrying out ordinary activities, even sitting on their front porch has come to the suburbs. We have to care as much whether it is inner city gang violence or a shooting in suburbia. Our children are dying.
It is past time that we stop, take a deep breath, pray for guidance, and attempt to find a way to protect all of the innocent victims of this violence. We need to ask some hard questions and consider such things as improving mental health care, improving gun control regulations (perhaps banning assault weapons), identifying and helping “at risk” young people, and many other measures. We need to have a national conversation and implement new strategies to stop this horrifying wave of violence.
2012 has been a very bad year. Here are just a few of the plots and actual mass killings and acts of random violence carried out during 2012. Some of the plots stopped by law enforcement before they could be carried out would have resulted in many more deaths. Some of these are called gang violence, some called hate crimes, some called terrorism. The perpetrators had all sorts of justifications. Some were acts of revenge or payback for some perceived injustice, some were politically, religiously, or ideologically motivated. Some were carried out by individuals with mental health issues, and in many cases those perpetrators were also victims because they did not receive the mental health care they needed. Some violent acts were carried out using weapons other than guns, but guns were involved in more than half of the cases.
Read the list slowly and think about the suffering of the victims families and about the tragic loss of innocent lives. These are not statistics, but human beings. These are our families that are dying.
- A 4-year old boy was shot in the head by a stray bullet as he sat on his living room couch in Jacksonville,Florida
- A sixth-grader in Kearns, Utah brought an unloaded handgun to his elementary school on Monday, reportedly at the urging of his parents. The 11 year-old told his fellow students he was encouraged by his parents to bring the gun to school “for protection” following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
- A woman was arrested for threatening a school shooting at Faine Elementary School, Dothan, Alabama
- In a San Antonio, Texas movie theater parking lot, a man opened fire, wounding one person before an officer shot him inside the theater.
- A gunman shot two employees as well as a police officer. A second officer shot and killed the unidentified gunman at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama
- East of Birmingham, Alabama police shot and killed an assailant armed with an AK-47 assault rifle at the end of a pursuit that began with a triple killing in Cleburne County, near the Georgia state line.
- Von I. Meyer was arrested after he allegedly threatened to set his wife on fire. A police statement says Meyer also said he would enter Jane Ball Elementary Schoo in Cedar Hill, Indianal and “kill as many people as he could.” Authorities found 47 guns and ammunition worth over $100,000.
- Jeremy Robert Chilik was arrested for making school-shooting threats at Winter Park High School in Orlando, Florida
- Marcos Gurrola was arrested Saturday after firing about 50 shots in the parking lot of a Southern California shopping mall
- Newtown, Connecticut school shooting by Adam Lanza which left 20 children and 8 adults dead.
- Sammie Eaglebear Chavez was arrested at his home in Bartlesville, Oklahoma for plotting a high school massacre
- Two people were injured after a drive-by shooting, one of them was a child in Kansas City, Missouri
- A teenage boy is in critical condition after sustaining gunshot wounds in a drive-by shooting in San Francisco’s Inner Mission district.
- Jeremy Ray and Darion Causey charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder, accused of firing several 12-gauge shotgun rounds into a home in Slidell, Louisiana
- Jacob Tyler Roberts killed 2 people and himself with a stolen rifle in Clackamas Town Center Mall in Oregon.
- Four killed and two injured on the Tule Indian Reservation including the shooter’s three children, only one of whom survived the initial attack.
- Portland, Oregon police seized a loaded gun from 16-year-old high school student accused in July park shooting. The student was arrested while he was in study hall at Jefferson High School, and the loaded gun was in his pocket.
- Two dead in shooting in the Excalibur Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
- A 12-year-old boy is on life support after someone shot multiple rounds into his home in Fresno, California.
- Jose Erebia arrested inn connection with the shooting of 3 teenagers on the basketball court of Gloria Hicks Elementary School in Corpus Christi, Texas.
- Two teenagers killed in a shooting in Pleasantville, New Jersey
- A homeless man was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in South Los Angeles
- Carnell Delvon Davis arrested for a drive by shooting of 5 people in Jacksonville, Florida
- Abdullatif A. Aldosary detonated an explosive devise outside Social Security Administration office in Casa Grande, Arizona, no one was injured but 10 employees were inside.
- Blaec Lammers was arrested in Bolivar, Missori for a plot to go see the Twilight movie, and shoot people at the movie theatre on that night. He had purchased assault weapons.
- One killed and one injured in shooting outside St. Columbanus Church after a funeral for a gang member in Chicago, Illinois
- Brookfield Square Mall, Brookfield, Wisconsin, Radcliffe Haughton, 45, killed three, injured four at a spa across from the mall.
- Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis arrested in plot to bomb the the New York Federal Reserve Bank
- HUB Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Travis Baumgartner killed three fellow armored car guards, wounded another while they are stocking a bank machine overnight and steals the money. He is caught at the U.S. border the next day.
- At least 5 Killed, 24 Wounded In Gun Violence in Chicago over one weekend.
- Five were shot to death by Andrew Engeldinger at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, MN. Three others were wounded. Engeldinger went on a rampage after losing his job, ultimately killing himself.
- Jeffrey Johnson shot a former coworker and injured nine more people before being shot and killed by police. The shooting occurred near New York’s Empire State Building during rush hour.
- Three people were killed at Texas A&M University when Thomas Caffell went on a shooting rampage; one of the dead was a police officer.
- Six Sikh temple members were killed when US Army veteran Wade Michael Page opened fire in a Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four others were injured, and Page killed himself.
- Four soldiers, Army Pfc. Michael Burnett, Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon, arrested for murder and plotting to assassinate the President and take over Ft. Stewart and the U.S. Government. They shot and killed 2 people to keep their plot secret
- Two gunman opened fire from a car and wounded eight people including 2 children on Chicago’s South Side
- There was a gang shoot out at Peninsula Park, a public park in Portland, Oregon
- Baby killed in north Houston, Texas drive-by shooting
- Eight people, ranging in age from 14 to their early 20s, were wounded in a drive-by shooting in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago
- Century 16 multiplex, Town Center at Aurora, Aurora, Colo.: James Holmes killed 12 and injured 58 during a screening of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises”.
- Nathan Van Wilkins opened fire in a crowded bar near the University of Alabama. Seventeen people were injured in the attack but no one was killed.
- At a soccer tournament in Wilmington, Delaware, three people were killed, including a 16-year-old player and the event organizer, when multiple gunmen began firing shots, apparently targeting the organizer.
- Rezwan Ferdaus, plead guilty to plottingh to damage and destroy the Pentagon and the United States Capitol with explosives using remote-controlled planes
- During an afternoon pool party in an apartment complex near the Auburn University campus, 22-year-old Desmonte Leonard opened fire, killing three people and injuring three others.
- Eaton Centre, Toronto, Canada - Christopher Husbands killed two, wounded five. He is arrested two days later.
- A 17 year old girl sitting on her front porch was killed in a drive by shooting in Hanley Hills, Missouri
- J.T. Ready, a former Marine, a neo-Nazi and member of the anti-immigrant Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, strapped on body armor, grabbed several firearms, and then killed four people in Gilbert, Arizona.
- Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso, a cafe in Seattle, WA, killing 5 and himself after a citywide manhunt.
- Christopher Hecker was arrested and charged with making death threats against the president and threatened to bomb the White House, hotels and other places, including Philadelphia City Hall and the site of the former World Trade Center.
- Twelve white supremacist, neo-Nazis arrested in Melbourne, Florida crime and criminal conspiracy charges stemming from an alleged plot to attack a rival, anti-racism group. They were also attempting to make Ricin (considered a WMD).
- Joseph Benjamin Thomas, a man with suspected ties to white supremacist groups planned to attack the Mexican consulate in St. Paul, Minnesota, he’d amassed weapons and wanted to attack minorities, people with left-leaning political beliefs and government officials.
- Darren Wesley Huff was convicted of transporting firearms across state lines with the intent to cause a civil disorder. When arrested Huff carried in his vehicle a .45 caliber handgun and an AK-47 with ammunition. He told people that day that he had 300-400 rounds of ammunition with the AK-47
- Anarchists Brian Church, Jared Chase, and, Brent Vincent Betterly were arrested in Chicago in apparent plot to bomb Obama headquarters, and the mayor’s home
- A 9 year old boy killed in a drive by shooting in Wallace, North Carolina
- Jake England, and Alvin Watts shot 5 black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a racially motivated shooting spree. Three died.
- A gunman killed seven people in a rampage at Oikos University, a California Christian university. The suspect, One Goh, was angry because administrators refused to grant him a full tuition refund after he dropped out of the nursing program.
- An abortion clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin was bombed.
- Frederick Thomas and Dan Roberts pled guilty to conspiring to buy weapons illegally for a terrorist plot by a fringe militia group to detonate explosives and shoot government workers in Atlanta, Georgia and other cities.
- Five anarchists arrested in Cleveland for trying to blow up a four-lane bridge across the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, Anthony Hayne, Connor Stevens, and Joshua Stafford were arrested.
- A gunman opened fire on a crowd of mourners at a North Miami, Florida, funeral home, killing two people and injuring 12 others.
- Two people were killed and seven wounded at a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when a gunman entered the hospital with two semiautomatic handguns and began firing.
- Three people were wounded when 23-year-old Andrew Joseph Dennehy allegedly opened fire outside the Tulsa County Courthouse on the afternoon of March 6. Dennehy was shot by a police officer at the scene, but not killed.
- A 6-year-old girl sitting on her front porch was killed by a stray bullet in what appeared to be a drive-by shooting in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago
- Fourteen injured in a mass shooting at concert in Tempe, AZ.
- The Offices of Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis were firebombed
- Three students were killed and two wounded in a shooting spree that started in a school cafeteria in Chardon, Ohio, as students waited for buses to other schools. Police have charged T.J. Lane, who was 17 at the time, as an adult.
- Multiple gunmen began firing into a nightclub crown in Jackson, Tennessee, killing one person and injuring 20 others.
- Five people were killed in at a Korean health spa in Norcross, Georgia, when Jeong Soo Paek got into an argument and opened fire inside the facility.
- Amine El Khalifi arrested for plotting to carry out a suicide bombing on the United States Capitol.
- Three teenagers were shot dead in an ambush in Philadelphia, CBS reported at the time. The 30-year-old suspect opened fire on four teens in a car, killing three and injuring one.
- Ray Lazier Lengend arrested on five counts of criminal possession of a weapon, five counts of arson one considered a hate crime for a series of molotov coctail firebombings in NYC (including a mosque).
- Anthony Graziano, and Aakash Dalal were arrested following an investigation into the firebombing of a Rutherford synagogue, Congregation Beth El, and the home of Rabbi Nossom Schuman
- Dallin Morgan, and Joshua Hogan were arrested in Utah for allegedly planning to bomb their high school assembly and make their getaway in a stolen plane.
- Sami Osmakac arrested in plot which involved bombing nightclubs, detonating a car bomb, using an assault rifle, wearing an explosive belt in a crowded area, and taking hostages in the Tampa Fliorida area.
- Bobby Joe Rogers firebombed the American Family Planning Clinic in Pensacola, Florida with a Molotov cocktail; the fire gutted the building.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people is true on a very superficial level. But, guns certainly make it easier to kill and to kill more people, and automatic weapons make it easier to kill even more people.
The defense of the second amendment as if it is the most important part of the Constitution and cannot be reinterpreted is hypocritical coming from the same people who don’t seem too concerned about the loss of habeas corpus, and other much more basic constitutional protections. And, when that amendment was written, having a rifle gave you some parity with any government that might try to institute a tyranny. If we are going for parity today we would have to allow private citizens to own some pretty massive weapons. What purpose does it serve for private citizens to own semiautomatic and assault weapons?
We know that many individuals in our society are under stress. There are a lot of people who have lost jobs, lost their retirement savings, lost their homes, see a changing demographic around them (white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants becoming a minority), the list goes on and on of pressing social issues stressing people out. Our social service system is overwhelmed. Many people don’t have basic health insurance, let alone access to mental health services. Even many veterans with PTSD are homeless and not receiving the mental health care they need. Add to this mix the unbelievably easy access to weapons, even assault weapons, and it should surprise no one that such senseless violence is happening with more frequency.
It is past time to have a national conversation, and to insist on at least attempting to solve some of these problems.
Here are a few practical things you can do now:
The United Way of Western Connecticut has set up a fund to benefit the victims and families of the Newtown shootings. In response, UWWC, in partnership with Newtown Savings Bank, has created the Sandy Hook School Support Fund that will provide support services to the families and community affected by this senseless tragedy. To donate to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, you can send a check to:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470
RESOURCES TO HELP CHILDREN WHO ARE AFFECTED BY TRAGEDY
The National Disaster Interfaith Network has a guide with resources for helping cope with tragedies such as this http://www.n-din.org/ndin_resources/tipsheets_v1208/24_NDIN_TS_Children.pdf
National Association of School Psychologists has a guide: A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope: tips for parents and teachers http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx
If you would like to send a card offering condolences and support, you can send to Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickerson Drive, Newtown, CT 06482
If you wish to contact your elected representative about gun control, you can find their information here http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Roots Action has a form you can use to send a letter to your elected representatives asking them to enact serious national gun control now http://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=7039
There are petitions on http://www.whitehouse.gov
— to make mental health a national emergency issue https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-mental-health-national-emergency/DLwvxxzJ
— to Immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/immediately-address-issue-gun-control-through-introduction-legislation-congress/2tgcXzQC
America’s Gun Violence Map http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/20/gun-violence.html
Five lies the gun lobby tells you http://www.nationofchange.org/five-lies-gun-lobby-tells-you-1355582027
Grief, Guns and Guts, Hasan Zillur Rahim http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/grief-guns-and-guts/0019565
Harvard Injury Control Research Center: Homicide and Guns http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html
Here’s how U.S. gun violence compares with the rest of the world http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/12/14/schoo-shooting-how-do-u-s-gun-homicides-compare-with-the-rest-of-the-world/
How America is Filling up itself and the World With Guns, Juan Cole http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/how-america-is-filling-up-itself-and-the-world-with-guns/0019567
How many killings will it take for the US to get serious about gun control?, Amy Goodman http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/09/how-many-killings-serious-about-gun-control
I am Adam Lanza’s Mother, Liza Long http://gawker.com/5968818/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother
Lesson from South Africa for US gun owners, Catherine Marshall http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=34656
Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States, Ezra Klein http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/
Where is God in a time of tragedy? A religious response to Sandy Hook, Omid Safi http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/where-is-god-in-a-time-of-tragedy-a-religious-response-to-sandy-hook/0019566