What we talk about when we talk about guns

What we talk about when we talk about guns

It seems like every time a horrific tragedy transpires, the same motions occur. A tear-stricken President addresses the nation; the Left calls for stricter gun restrictions; the Right argues for more armaments; and then, within two weeks, we forget about it until the CNN special.

Gabrielle Giffords is still partially blind and paralyzed in her right arm.

After the Jovon Belcher tragedy, Bob Costas disgressed during NBC’s football broadcast to acknowledge the previous day’s events. During his monologue, Costas quoted from a local sportswriter who noted, “If Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Perkins would be alive today.”

According to the American Journal for Public Health, access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide more than five times compared to no access. Costas focused on calling America to discuss the gun culture permeating our psyche. Then the paradigm shifted. It was no longer about what Belcher did, but whether it was appropriate for Costas to make remarks at halftime about guns. He was called exploitive and naïve for thinking this was the right time and venue. Gone was the focus on Belcher; Costas became the story.

Zoey Belcher is instantly orphaned.

This is the world in which we live where a stance on a serious issue like gun violence causes a bigger story than the actual issue; the same world where, on a peaceful December day in Newtown, tragedy unfolded before our eyes. Twenty first grade children and six adults gunned down in their classrooms. Again, a tearful President addressing the nation, vowing to stop senseless violence. Again there were those arguing for gun control. The NRA remarked that schools needed to have armed patrols to be safe, despite the fact that Columbine and Virginia Tech were already “well protected.”

20 families are still waiting for their children to come home from school.

Perhaps this time things will be different. Already the NRA is losing support for their stance, and the Second Amendment has stopped becoming so black and white thanks to the power of the First. Maybe we won’t forget and move on.

To have this conversation, here are the bare facts: 99.8% of all U.S. firearms will not be involved with any criminal activity. According to Mother Jones Magazine, since 1982 in the United States, 61 mass murders were carried out with firearms. Nearly all of them were committed with weapons obtained legally. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center concluded there is substantial evidence that more guns mean more murderers. States with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths. According to the Journal of Trauma, a gun in a home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting.

Ryder Spillman is resting in peace.

One cannot limit these mass murders to numbers, however. This is a multi-faceted problem encompassing with mental illness, media sensationalism and the influence of violence on young men. Yet there is one aspect that we can bring under control – gun control/access/safety. There will be those arguing guns do not kill people but people do, just like we tend not blame spoons for obesity or disallow cars because drunk drivers kill people.

To that end, could we just take away the means by which a man can kill 20 children in less than four minutes without having to reload? An AR-15 assault rifle (used in Aurora, Oregon mall and Newtown shootings) is not for sport or protection. It is designed to cause maximum damage in minimal time. While we do not take away cars because people drive drunk, we do enforce stricter blood-alcohol levels, educate people on the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving, hold bartenders who serve overly intoxicated people responsible, and enforce DUI checkpoints. We have reacted to this potential harm, and stepped up measures to reduce its probability. We might not always be able to stop the bad people, but the least we can do besides our #prayfornewton is to take away the bad people’s means. While some argue the government will overstep its bounds with any gun control, it was not the founders’ intent that a “well regulated militia” carry a rifle that fires 76 rounds in 30 seconds. In the weeks to come, as laws are debated in Congress, one question prevails: are the lives of 20 innocent children in Newtown, the 19 dead in Arizona, and the approximately 11,000 Americans who will die by firearms in 2013, worth having that last “piece” in your collection?