With the killing of 20 first-graders and six of their teachers slowly disappearing from the public view as time goes by, there are still reminders, roughly thirty times a day, that keep us focused on the gun violence this nation is plagued with.
It may be hard for many to regurgitate that awful episode at the Sandy Hook elementary school, but there are 26 reasons that I still find make it difficult for me to sweep this under the consciousness of my daily life. I’ve listed them here below.
Thirty a day is the rough estimate of people who have died since the massacre at Newtown, Connecticut at the hand’s of someone with a gun. This comes from data accumulated by the combined efforts of Slate.com and the Twitter feed @GunDeaths.
This number is likely low because based on the information from this source not every gun crime is reported to them, especially suicides, that make up as much as 60 percent of gun deaths. One report that has a full year’s recording of murder and suicides comes from the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Centers for Disease Control that says “the nation averages 87 gun deaths each day as a function of gun violence, with an average of 183 injured.” Based on the feed @GunDeaths and Slate are providing then, this would bear out the 60% rate of suicides by gun. I want to focus here on those 30 people a day who are shot and killed by others.
Two who have died through gun violence since December 14th were 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago and on the same day, 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland, Jr, a school bus driver in rural Alabama. Hadiya, who recently participated in the Presidential inaugural celebrations and was a promising student at King College Prep school in Chicago’s South Side district, was likely killed by a gang member who confused her and her friends as members of a rival gang. Charles suffered his fatal wounds defending the children in his care from someone who clearly had mental health issues.
Gun violence victims Hadiya Pendleton and Charles Albert Poland Jr.
January 28th exceeded the average for gun violence so far this year. Thirty-three other people died from firearms the same day Hadiya and Charles did.
Data from 2011 shows that there were 12,664 murders in the U.S. Of those, 8,583 were caused by firearms. Keep in mind too that these are the murders, not the suicides by gun.
Now can anyone find data that tells us how many lives were saved because someone had a gun or what government overthrow was thwarted because we have an armed citizenry? There are 89 guns in America for every one-hundred people. Thirty of those will end a life today.
Only by banning guns at the level other industrial countries do like Japan, Great Britain and Australia, can we shrink this number significantly. Not because people will stop resolving personal issues with violence but because they will be less effective with other means. Guns, with their speed by which a bullet takes a life, is vastly superior to any other tool of murder. What else would you expect from something that is designed solely for killing, unlike other means used by killers.
Someone once commented to me that a madman could get in his car and run through a crowd of people and kill as many or more than someone with an assault style weapon. This of course assumes that everyone struck by such a vehicle was critically hit or doesn’t try to avoid the attack vehicle. In one instance however, where such a tragic event occurred, 29 people were struck by a car without inflicting a single fatality. Watch it on this video at your own discretion.
How many people would have escaped fatal wounds had someone stood back and opened up on this same crowd with 30-round clips in a semi-automatic weapon? The incidences at Tucson, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado suggests that some will definitely not avoid being killed.
Gun violence is more deadly too because it’s often indiscriminate with its victims. Gang killings reflected in drive-by shootings hit and kill more than the adversary who’s the target of such an attack. 5-year old Nizzel George of Minneapolis is just one case where this happens too often. In Hadiya Pendleton’s case it was one of mistaken identity.
Had her attacker and that of Charles Poland had some other weapon to use in their assaults, odds favor both victims surviving their attack and would likely be alive today. But it is unrealistic to believe that a total ban on guns will happen in this country in the foreseeable future. Only time and intense education about guns will help such a transformation occur. The easy access however by which people who pose a threat to society can purchase a weapon is only a part of the gun violence in this country.
Serious and persistent efforts to address mental health issues and gang violence needs to coincide with reducing the availability of deadly assault weapons. People within these group are more likely than the general population to be impacted by the nature of violence in the U.S. that is played out in the cinema and on video games. These are also people who are easily frustrated and convinced that working within the system is a futile effort. Such was the case of an elderly man who shot the couple in the apartment above him because their dog’s droppings kept landing on his balcony.
Most people understand that resolving issues peaceably is the norm. But there will always be those who will over react and feel that only by taking someone’s life can any sense of self-identified justice occur. Guns have always made it easier to carry out such acts. At least thirty of us will find that out today from the hands of another.