Friday, June 06, 2014

I'm Not Even Shocked

I'm not even in shock this morning. I'm not even particularly enraged, although I imagine I'll get there as "gun nuts" reply to this post in their unholy crusade to arm every man, woman, and child in America. For the purposes of this post, I'm defining a "gun nut" as anyone who belongs to the NRA, supports the NRA, or who doesn't support the NRA because it "doesn't go far enough," and believe me, I'll hear from a few of those. Yes, it's name-calling, but something seems to be broken in these people's heads, and the term "gun mentally ill" is just too polite for this topic.

Yesterday afternoon a man with a gun walked into a building on the Seattle Pacific University campus just across the ship canal from our preschool and shot four people, killing one. Had he possessed an automatic weapon, the kind gun to which gun nuts believe everyone should have free access, surely more people would have died, but when he stopped to re-load, a good guy named John Meis armed with pepper spray subdued and disarmed him.

Although this high profile incident hit closer to home than any so far, it's not the first mentally ill man with a gun tragedy in my part of Seattle in recent years. And I'm certain it won't be the last. It's gotten so you sort of expect to learn about one of these things every couple weeks, kind of the way you hear about severe thunderstorms or hurricanes or tornados or earthquakes, natural disasters that we really can't do anything about except hunker down until they're over. And this is precisely how gun nuts want us to respond, as if this uniquely American phenomenon is something that just happens, so get used to it . . . And, oh yeah, buy a gun.

The thing is, outside of war zones, the US is really the only nation on earth where this sort of thing happens with mind-numbing regularity. That's because other nations have imposed common sense gun regulation, making it much, much more difficult for mentally ill people to get their hands on one. In other words, they haven't treated this like some sort of natural disaster, but rather as a matter of public health, a disease if you will, and while they may never wipe it out entirely, they've certainly figured out how to make it rare.

After a couple of days, we'll start hearing from the gun nuts, like we always do, about how the SPU campus' "gun free" policy is the reason this happened, just as they did with Sandy Hook with their insistence that armed teachers would have saved the day. They envision shootouts between white-hatted good guys and black-hatted bad guys, a clear fantasy, and one of the main reasons I have no problem labeling them as "gun nuts." Of course, the first reports from witnesses were that there were "two shooters" at SPU yesterday, so that means at least one good guy would have been targeted by at least some of the other good guys. As a reality-based human being, I cannot imagine a scenario in which a hail of bullets fired in haste in a chaotic situation would have resulted in a better outcome than a single brave man armed with pepper spray. No, it's quite obvious that if the gun nuts had their way, each of these tragedies would simply be bigger, more spectacular blood baths.

But, you know, as horrible as they are, these high profile mass murders (or attempted mass murders) are not the real problem with guns in America. Over 30,000 people die as a result of gunshots in America each year, with 2,500 of them being children. That's right, every day, year in year out, seven children die from being shot, almost all of them at the hands of a so-called "good guy" with a gun or because a so-called "responsible gun owner" was temporarily irresponsible and left his weapon around for children to find. 

Gun injuries cause twice as many deaths (among children) as cancer, 5 times as many as heart disease, and 15 as many as infections.

This epidemic is preventable. We know how to do it: there are examples from all over the world. If anything else was killing children at this rate, we would be moving heaven and hell to find a cure. And in this case, we already know what to do, but "gun nuts" are fighting against it. Indeed, they are actively working to make it worse. They are actively working to make life more dangerous for children who are already being slaughtered by guns at a rate of 7 a day. Did you know that in many states, legislatures are even voting on bills that would make it illegal for a doctor to even ask a parent if there are guns in their homes? Across the country gun nuts are working to make it illegal to ban guns on college campuses, public schools, or even preschools. Gun nuts are actively working to propagate this epidemic. This is why I call them nuts.

Depressingly, support for "gun control" in America has once more slipped below 50 percent since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, but when asked about specific measures a different picture emerges. Over 90 percent of us favor background checks and measures designed to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Nearly 80 percent of us favor requiring gun registration, and a good 60 percent favor banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity clips. Gun nuts and their enablers at the NRA are in opposition right down the line, despite the fact that these kinds of laws have been highly effective in reducing gun deaths, and especially mass shootings, in every other civilized nation on earth. And in case you're thinking that this doesn't apply here because America is "exceptional," the states that have stricter gun control laws also have lower rates of gun death.

As a democracy, we should be able to take these common sense first steps in addressing what is a horrific public health issue. Sadly, the gun nuts stand in our way.

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Annie Hosking said...

I find US gun laws extraordinary and horrifying and nonsensical. How can a county tolerate so many deaths, accidental or deliberate? Makes no sense to me.

RobynHeud said...

I'm curious as to the mental health programs in these other countries too. I agree with you that serious gun reform is needed, but when the mental health program in our country, which would help identify those people most at risk, is so stigmatized and out of reach financially for so many, that needs to be addressed right along with gun reform. And leaving a mental health doctor (or anybody for that matter) with no real recourse when they encounter someone who may potentially be a threat is part of the issue too. How many of these recent cases have we heard that the psychiatrist tried to warn someone but who's responsible or the steps that can be taken is so convoluted that no one ends up doing anything.

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