We Are Better Than This

January 14, 2013

Essay

(A mother of a rant)

At some point in the early mornings, A. usually crawls into my bed in the still-dark-out, wanting to snuggle.  This morning is no exception, and he cuddles up next to me.  We drift for a while like this, on a quiet raft of early morning.

I am lying there with my eyes closed but my mind is awake, running through the conversations I have had lately with my pro-gun friends.  What I have come to realize is that some of them are not arguing for the right to keep their guns.  We (I) have stated over and over that we are (I am) not interested in taking that right away from them.  What I have come to understand is that they are arguing their right to not be inconvenienced.  Gun ownership should be as convenient as, say, eggs at Wal-mart.  And this stuns me.

The Second Amendment (Source: Wikipedia)

There are several versions of the text of the Second Amendment, each with slight capitalization and punctuation differences, found in the official documents surrounding the adoption of the Bill of Rights.[5] One version was passed by the Congress,[6] while another is found in the copies distributed to the States[7] and then ratified by them.

As passed by the Congress:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.[8]

The original hand-written copy of the Bill of Rights, approved by the House and Senate, was prepared by scribe William Lambert and resides in the National Archives.

I must be missing something and I am no constitutional law expert, but the very first words of the Second Amendment, “A well regulated militia” says to me that our founding fathers had enough foresight to realize that handing out guns with few restrictions was going to be bad policy.

I had to do some research on this piece, and sure enough, that phrase has basically been swept under the rug in the latest interpretations of law because it is inconvenient.

Advocates of open gun policy seem to be arguing that they do not want to suffer even a moment’s pause, can’t be asked to take proficiency or mental competency tests or even willing to close the gun show loophole, and it says to me that their right to convenient gun ownership is more important that the consequences of having such lax attitudes toward our most lethal of scenarios.  “I tend to err on the side of Freedom.” said one.

And in that very moment, as all of this is running through my head, of why his freedom to convenient gun ownership takes precedence over any common sense or responsible legislation,  who I can write, who to reach out to and how to be most effective in helping change the laws and hold up a mirror to these attitudes, my youngest, still drowsing next to me, turns his little face toward me in the dark, and presses a tiny kiss to the tip of my nose.  A tiny kiss in the dark, before he turns away again to return to deeper sleep.

And I lose it, right there.  I start to cry.  Quietly.  A week’s wait, a little inconvenience, is somehow more important than keeping guns away from our children and our mentally ill.  Precious, sweet child who I would protect with the very blood in my veins.  I can hack a copperhead to pieces with a shovel in the backyard on a summer’s morning, but I cannot protect you from the self-serving attitudes of a few men.  I accidentally let out a sniffle.  He turns and whispers “What?” almost instinctively, still half-asleep.

I cannot fathom how we have come to such a place in our culture.

In my life, I have known and loved hunters and gun enthusiasts who were all, without exception, responsible gun owners.

The furor to which the gun debate is heating up and it seems to me that a collective deep breath should be drawn, the guns put away, and we come to the table to have a conversation.

We cannot allow ANY access to firearms by children, or the mentally ill.  There have been 130 school shootings since Columbine. To those of you unwilling to relax your grip on your semi-automatic, I ask how many school shootings will it take? How many children will be lost until you come to terms with the fact that America has a gun problem.

We regulate cars, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco – anything at all that might hurt us, except for weaponry, shockingly.

The following articles and statistics have been shared with me from various sources, and I freely share them with you, in hopes that if you are a responsible gun owner and sense that something needs to be done, that you wish to appeal to other gun owners, that other countries must be doing something correctly because they do not have the gun violence and school shootings and mass murders that we do.

We should NOT have to worry about our children’s safety because of someone else’s firearms, how they are stored, and who might have access.  Period.

Japan’s gun laws are of course truly amazing.
“The contrast between the United States and Japan could not be starker. If the United States has the loosest gun laws in the developed world, then Japan has the strictest. Most guns are illegal, with onerous restrictions on the few that are legal. Police also have far broader search-and-seizure powers. But the country also has a remarkably low rate of firearm deaths. In 2008, when the United States experienced over 12,000 gun-related homicides, Japan had only 11, or fewer than half as many killed Friday in Newtown, Conn. That same year in the United States, 587 were killed just by accidental gun discharges. In 2006 in Japan, a nation of 128 million people, only two were killed by guns.” — Max Fisher

Australian program to buy guns back to get them out of circulation led to 60% drop in homicide by gun.

Marion Wright Edelman after the shootings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Would this have happened without a semi-automatic gun and high-capacity clips of bullets?

World murder rates

“How did we get to the point where 85% of the children in the world that are killed with guns are killed in the United States?”  ~ Captain Mark Kelly

States with Strong Gun Laws and Low Rates of Gun Ownership Have Lowest Firearm Death Rates

Here’s the ranking.

Causes of death in the United States 2009
Motor vehicles 34,485;  poisoning 41,592 (!!), guns 31,347.  In 2009 suicide (59.85% of all gun deaths) is about double the murder rate (36.7%), and accidents are actually only 1.8% of the total.)

Death by murder or suicide when there is a gun in the home versus when there is no gun in the home (publication 2004, data older).  No data on the likelihood of suicide is for people who do not have a firearm in the home. Links to tables in the article:

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929/T2.expansion.html

The figures given are odds ratio, which doesn’t just mean multiples of increased likelihood.

Twelve Facts about guns and mass shootings in the U.S.
“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,” they found. And in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally.

The Geography of Gun Deaths

“What about politics? It’s hard to quantify political rhetoric, but we can distinguish blue from red states. Taking the voting patterns from the 2008 presidential election, we found a striking pattern: Firearm-related deaths were positively associated with states that voted for McCain (.66) and negatively associated with states that voted for Obama (-.66). Though this association is likely to infuriate many people, the statistics are unmistakable. Partisan affiliations alone cannot explain them; most likely they stem from two broader, underlying factors – the economic and employment makeup of the states and their policies toward guns and gun ownership.”

States with Toughest Gun Laws (from the Brady Campaign)

Gun enthusiasts like to claim that keeping a gun handy protects them and their family from violent intruders.  The study by Wiebe shows that having a gun at home is associated with an increased risk of dying by gunfire, so gun ownership does not appear to be protective of violent firearms-related killings.  But the Wiebe study was also able to compute the likelihood of dying by violence other than gunfire.  They found there was no relationship between owning a gun and homicide by means other than a gun.  In other words, having a gun around is not associated with a decreased risk of homicide of any sort.  The study could find no empiric evidence that owning a gun confers some protection on a household from homicide.  To my knowledge, there is no peer-reviewed study published anywhere that provides evidence that guns or gun ownership protects individuals from death or injury.  If anyone reading this knows of such a study, I hope they will tell me so I can go read that study. […] It is estimated that 40-45% of American households own a firearm, and that 30-35% of American adults own a firearm (http://www.justfacts.com/…).  According to the Small Arms Survey in 2007 (http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/…), the US leads the world in firearms ownership with 88 firearms per 100 persons.  Our closest competitors were the countries of Yemen (54.8 firearms per 100 persons), Switzerland (45.7 firearms per 100 persons), and Finland (45.3 firearms per 100 persons).” — Hugh Jim Bissell

Causes (circumstances) of death by murder
In 2009, 2101 murders were a result of felony crimes (e.g., done in the context of both professional and amateur felonies like rape, narcotics, gambling, burglary), but 6975 were crimes of passion (arguments, brawls), and 5000 produced bodies dead of bullet wounds with cause unknown.

We are better than this.

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About Melissa Hassard

"I am always doing things I can't do. That's how I get to do them." -- Pablo Picasso

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10 Comments on “We Are Better Than This”

  1. janechese Says:

    very moving video. I heard an analogy recently how people can get killed in a car accident but it isn’t the car that kills people it is the person driving them.likewise guns don’t kill, but the people who use them. Then I ask myself, “What is the purpose of a car?” vs “What is the purpose of a gun?”. I do not understand why people think they “need” a gun. Some say it is their right. My right is to choose NOT to have one.

    Reply

  2. theblackandwhitedragonfly Says:

    Reblogged this on theblackandwhitedragonfly and commented:
    Necessary thoughts !

    Reply

  3. Mark Says:

    As an Australian I’ve never fully understood the gun culture of the US but this post gives me an idea as to just how deeply ingrained it is, and how hard it will be to get rid of. Do you foresee the attitude changing in your lifetime?

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Dear Mandy, Thank you for your comments. | An Open Letter to an NRA Defender | Melissa I. Hassard - March 28, 2013

    [...] 173 in 2009.   I have amassed a LOT of information on worldwide gun violence statistics and posted them here, Mandy, so that you can read them at your [...]

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