GUNS. GUNS. GUNS.
[Originally written on 25 May 2022, and published here with only minor edits.]
Schools. Malls. Supermarkets. Houses of worship. Concert venues. Movie theaters. Nightclubs. Salons. Parks. Casinos. Family gatherings. Office buildings. Public streets. Workplaces... These are just a few of the locations where gun violence has shattered everyday life. Are we to cower to the notion that no place is safe? Are we to accept that "the mindless menace of violence" is just an ugly part of everyday reality?
One thing is certain: Americans would never accept these grotesque assaults on our public safety, if such assaults were perpetuated by a foreign enemy. So why are we doing it now? Why are we so indifferent when Americans assail other Americans?
I don’t know what the answer is to what ails our society. I suspect that no one person actually does. But that does not mean we do nothing... No one can ignore the number of lives being lost in acts of gun-related violence across this country. Over 45,000 in 2020 - and ten percent of them were children. And with that number, according to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 49,000 more people were killed in gun violence in 2021.
Those numbers are staggering and demand our full attention, but no one can honestly pretend that we can rid our society of guns. There are roughly 393 million firearms in the United States (more guns than people), and the annualized production of new guns stands north of 11 million, with dealers eking out a low profit margin of 10% to 12% per unit. No matter what anyone feels, guns and gun accessories (the latter of which having better margins) make up a $6 billion sector that is not going anywhere.
Even still, something must be done... It is not romantic folley to believe that the ardent opponents in this debate can find common ground on the question of unfettered access to firearms. We are also well-overdue for discussions and policies that prioritize mental health, bolstering spending for more screenings, beds, IOP programs, clinicians, and education. With that, law enforcement and the criminal-justice system must play a role in whatever reforms come to pass, including the broadening of mandatory sentencings for all gun crimes. And this is to say little of our need to strengthen basic concepts like community and civility, while teaching our children more about respect and empathy, conflict resolution, anger management, and service.
Feeling safe in and around our communities is a fundamental freedom enshrined in our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one of us should harbor uncommon fear when taking a jog or stepping into a church. And yet, here we are, normalizing rampant crime and mass shootings... That isn’t right. That isn’t American.
We can do better. Too many lives have been lost for us not to do so. It is in the honor of all those lost lives that we must do it now. Otherwise, our inaction, our unwillingness to sit down and work towards a solution, will only prove right an odious statement made by California Governor Gavin Newsom. While walking with a CBS reporter, Newsom paused at a busy street corner, and he expressed his frustration with our country’s gun issue, adding, without compunction, “The Second Amendment is becoming a suicide pact.”
Indeed, we really can do better.