I’m a native of Connecticut, born not all that far from Newtown, where Friday’s unbearable school shootings took place.
This means absolutely nothing, of course, other than, as I watched the story unfold on the news, I flashed back to being a tiny 5-year-old kindergartener in my own little Connecticut town and making a visit to the local firehouse, situated just down the road from my school. I never really forgot that day because, for a little kid, it was pretty exciting stuff to walk to the firehouse with my classmates, see the firetrucks and talk to the firemen, who seemed so incredibly big and strong and brave.
The firehouse down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary School is where students were rushed in the wake of the shootings. It’s also where Newtown parents rushed on Friday, and where they were re-united with their children. Most of them, at least, because the Newtown firehouse is also where the parents of 20 children were given the news that their child did not survive.
I’m the mother of two boys and like so many parents around the world I held my boys a little bit closer last night as my tears fell and my heart broke for the families of Newtown. My boys, who are a bit older than the children at Sandy Hook School, watched the story unfold alongside me and were filled with questions.
At first they were fairly disconnected from what was happening, asking questions like old-school hard-boiled beat reporters: Who did it? Why did he do it? Did ‘they’ kill him? How many are dead? Then President Obama came on, could barely keep himself composed, and I think they suddenly understood the magnitude of what had happened. My 11-year-old was so filled with the need to say something about what had happened that he started a blog. You can read it here.
I was all over social media as I watched the story unfold and quite quickly gun control was being hotly debated. Before going further I’ll state for the record that I am a firm supporter of gun control. I’ve held a gun – a pistol – exactly once, when I was barely out of my teens. It was cold, heavy and unwieldy. I squeezed off one shot at a firing range and that was enough for me. The power, the recoil, the feeling of no control – no, I never wanted to go near a gun again.
When I thought about what I was going to say in this post I was preparing to rant and rave, as I did on twitter last night, about the stupidity of the arguments put forth by gun advocates. I may still do it at some point but right now I only have a few things to say, along with some statistics for you to ponder.
First, the argument that if everyone had guns this somehow wouldn’t have happened is complete and utter bullshit. Why? Because the young man behind the shooting allegedly used his mother’s (legally registered) guns. He also shot his mother dead. So if we use the argument that if we all have guns we can all protect ourselves then we’d have to assume that the mother should have been able to defend herself against her son with the weapon of her choice, as she apparently had a number at her disposal – by some reports at least six. But she didn’t – or wasn’t able to – defend herself so that argument doesn’t stand up. Out the window it goes.
Then there’s the argument that the teachers should have been armed. Really? We want kindly Mrs. Applebee packing heat as she teaches the three R’s to 5-year-olds? You’re kidding me, right? Teachers across the country stalking the halls of their schools, armed to the teeth? Yes, I’m sure that would work out really well, for a variety of reasons. First, we all know that there aren’t any nutters masquerading as educators, so no worries that the threat could come from behind enemy lines, so to speak. Second, all those teachers will obviously be highly trained sharp-shooters so no children would be in danger of being caught in the crossfire when the school turns into the Ok Corral, right? Third, are you bloody well kidding me? Teachers scribbling lessons on the blackboard with guns tucked under their cardigans or into the back of their trousers? Picturing this fantasy scenario is enough to make me consider homeschooling – and I am no advocate of homeschooling. Next thing you know, someone will suggest that the students should arm themselves. Oh wait, someone already did.
Then there’s the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was added to the Constitution, as part of the Bill of Rights, exactly 221 years ago today. 1791 was a long time ago and there were good reasons to add the amendment at that time, when America was barely out of diapers. The highly divisive Revolutionary War had ended less than a decade prior, the country was crawling with people who didn’t support the Revolution – or those behind it – and to the Founding Fathers it was important that the citizenry be armed and ready to face any threats which might threaten the fragile sovereignty of the nation, at a time when there was no regular army or National Guard. Makes sense to me in the context of the times.
It might also behoove us to remember that muskets are a whole different ball of wax than semi-automatic rifles. The Founding Fathers, I’m absolutely certain, were not able to imagine, even in their wildest dreams, how weaponry would advance in the next couple of hundred years.
I’m no legal scholar so I’ll leave the legal interpretations to those who are but I will say, before leaving you with some statistics, that we might want to pause and not only thing about the fact that we’re not living in 1791, when the nation was newly formed and the ink on the Constitution was barely dry, but that we’re also living in a time where it’s patently obvious that the gun problem in America is completely out of control and the result is that today, just ten days before Christmas, 20 children are dead.
Here’s some stats.
– An estimated 250 million guns are in civilian hands; less than five percent of owners are believed to adhere to local, state or federal gun laws
– On the same day as the Newtown tragedy Michigan passed a law allowing concealed weapons in daycares and schools.
– 31, 593 people died from gun violence last year
– 66, 769 survived gun injuries
– Over one million Americans have been killed by guns since 1968, the year Robert Kennedy Jr. and Martin Luther King were assassinated
– U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates. The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher
– Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States
– There are five times as many deaths from gun assaults as from knife assaults, where the rates of assault with knives and with guns are similar
– 153 people in America were shot on 14 December, 2012.
– The National Rifle Association has spent $13.9 million opposing gun control laws in the past 5 years
– There have been 61 mass murders involving firearms in America since 1982
– An estimated 17 Americans were killed by terrorists in 2011
– There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine
– The Brady Law, requiring federal background checks on gun purchases, was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. Nearly 50% of gun sales slip through the gaping loopholes: private sales, gun show sales, website sales.
– Federal Assault Weapons Ban allowed to expire in 2004; attempts to revive it have been defeated repeatedly
– Just one shoe bomber caused us all to take off our shoes at airport security. Countless shooting deaths have little impact on gun control laws
Imagine if access to health care – including mental health care – was as easily attainable as guns?
For further reading, here’s an interesting history of gun laws in the United States.
And remember: these are the names of those murdered. Note the birthdates.
– Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
– Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
– Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
– Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
– Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
– Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
– Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
– Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
– Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
– Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
– Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
– Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
– James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
– Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
– Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
– Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
– Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
– Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
– Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
– Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
– Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
– Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
– Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
– Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
– Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
– Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female