During this past week a three-year-old boy in Rock Hill, S.C., killed himself when he was playing with a loaded gun in his house.
He wasn’t the only one in Rock Hill to die from a gunshot. In July, a man killed himself after shooting his wife, her son and the son’s girlfriend. The following month, someone killed a 30-year-old woman; someone else that same week killed a 27-year-old man.
Rock Hill, a city of about 66,000 is not unique.
About 2,700 children are killed every year from gunshot violence; about 60 percent of them are homicides, the rest are suicides or unintentional deaths, such as that of the three-year-old. Every year, another 15,000 youth are wounded from gun fire. Overall, about 33,000 die from gunshot violence; 76,000 are injured from gunshot violence, according to data compiled by the Brady Center. The names, faces, and lives of everyone killed or injured just blend into tables of statistics.
Articles in the Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection and Critical Care reveal an even greater problem. The rate of gun violence leading to death is about 20 times greater than the combined rates of the next highest 22 first world countries. More than 1.7 million American homes have unlocked and loaded guns; the probability that one of those guns will be used in a murder, suicide, domestic dispute, or unintentional shooting is about 22 times more likely than if there was no gun in the house, according to a study led by Dr. Arthur Kellerman, dean of the School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science.
The leadership of the NRA doesn’t want anyone anywhere for any reason to mess with its militant stand to allow Americans to own and use guns. They wrap themselves within the cloth of the Second Amendment to advance their arguments and pander to the masses, never understanding that there are limits and exceptions to most of the amendments.
The paranoid conspiracy-clad leadership, along with their allies and followers, believe civilians need weapons to protect themselves against possible government invasions. That scenario is in the netherland of impossibility, but even if true, anyone with a semi-automatic rifle has little chance against an army of tanks, drones, and missiles.
The NRA leadership says, apparently not recognizing the absurdity of their statements, that President Obama is coming for your guns. He hasn’t done so in seven years; he won’t do so in his last year in office. But the fear the NRA and its allies spew is more than just blustering rhetoric; it is based upon profits. Every time there is a mass shooting, the gun industry sends out that message. Dealers sell more guns to frightened Americans. This benefits the gun manufacturers, which create more guns to meet more demand, leading to more donations by manufacturers and the public to the NRA and fellow gun lobbyists, and which finds its way to politicians who puff out their chests, claim to believe the Second Amendment is absolute, develop acute panic attacks when all reasonable measures to limit guns are presented, and become part of the reason why there are so many guns and so many gun deaths in the United States.
Technology exists to mass produce “smart guns” that won’t fire unless they’re in the possession of the owner. The NRA opposes this. Technology exists to code every bullet, which would help law enforcement to better identify who might have killed or wounded 110,000 people every year. The NRA also opposes this.
The NRA leadership claims the solution to gun violence is better psychological evaluation. But, their paid-for politicians generally don’t like social service programs, especially those that are funded by the taxpayers. More important, the NRA leadership, all of them conservatives, can’t explain how mass psychological evaluations don’t violate the Constitution.
However, 72 percent of NRA members want stronger background checks before anyone can legally buy a gun, according to a poll by the Center for American Progress. Overall, about 83 percent of Americans want stronger background checks.
After every mass shooting, whether in schools, malls, or theaters, Americans cry, and politicians send crocodile-tear condolences to the media, which then amplify their words, as if they all care about the victims. But, the gun manufacturers, the NRA, the politicians, and the media don’t care. They just go through the motions of pretending they do.
In Texas, a paranoid state senator, proudly sporting a perfect score by NRA criteria, this past week said he opposed having Syrian refugees admitted into the United States because they might buy guns and commit acts of terrorism. He said it was too easy to get guns, but he has also spent his political career opposing responsible gun control measures.
This past week in Minneapolis, police arrested three White supremacists who shot five Afro-Americans at a peaceful protest rally; each of the shooters was carrying a legally-purchased gun. In New Orleans, 17 people at a park were injured by gunfire; witnesses identified one of the shooters as having a silver-colored machine gun. In Biloxi, Miss., a man pulled a concealed 9 mm. gun and killed a waitress who asked him not to smoke in the restaurant. In Colorado Springs, police arrested a 57-year-old man who used an AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle to kill three people and wound nine others. One of those killed was a police officer; five of the wounded are police officers.
Next year, when we gather with our families to celebrate Thanksgiving, those of us still alive might wish to give thanks that we weren’t killed intentionally or accidentally by someone wielding one of the 300 million guns that Americans cling to as if they were the essence of their own lives.
[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and the author of 20 books, most of which fuse history and contemporary social issues; his most recent book is Fracking Pennsylvania. He readily admits to being a mediocre trap shooter.]