Note: I wrote this post ten years ago. Just feel how easily it could have been pulled from today’s news.
If I were a groundhog in the US, I would consider going back in my hole. Otherwise, I might get shot. In my newspaper yesterday, the first day of February, there were four stories on gun deaths that were headlined or sub-headlined under the category “Briefly” which notes news nuggets or updates. As these stories were under this category, it shows how routine gun deaths have become in America. Since we lead the civilized world with 80% of the gun deaths of the top 23 wealthiest countries, the comment about routine is on the mark.
So, let’s at least honor the deceased by mentioning these four stories. I will give you the headline then a brief synopsis.
Teen accused of killing his grandmother appears in court – Seventeen year old Clayton Eli Watts and two others are accused of killing Watts’ grandmother Jimmie Diane Paul. The victim was described as a bubbly woman who cared for others. One of Watts’ neighbors said “he was such a good boy.” I add this as it appears often in these stories and goes back to a post I wrote ten days ago – “How do you know who the good guys are?”
Police: Teenager shot by fellow student at GA middle school – A student opened fire at his middle school Thursday afternoon, wounding a 14 year-old in the neck before an armed officer working at the school was able to get the gun away (I know this is not a gun death, but could have been). Access to guns. Access to guns Access to guns. If you have guns at home, lock them up. Responsible gun owners know this and realize its importance.
Phoenix office shooter found dead of apparent suicide – A man who shot and killed a call center CEO and wounded a lawyer where they were meeting to discuss a contract dispute was found dead early Thursday of an apparent suicide. Arthur Douglas Harmon, age 70, died of an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound ending a 24 hour man-hunt. I will let you draw your own conclusions as we don’t know what went through his head. Yet, I am troubled by the fact a man would bring a weapon to a contract dispute. Again, this goes back to our need for civil discourse. This is not a movie or video game – you should not kill someone who disagrees with you.
County prosecutor killed near North Texas courthouse – An assistant district attorney (DA) was shot and killed near the courthouse where he worked. A masked gunman shot Mark Hasse, the DA, multiple times in the parking lot at 9 am as Hasse was headed into work.The killer is still at large. The police are searching through the DA’s cases for clues as to who may have done this apparent targeted shooting.
These are four stories that appeared yesterday. I would ask you to do a test over a week’s worth of news. Tally the number of gun shootings and deaths that occur in the paper over a week. If these occurred on February 2 – Groundhog’s Day – the critter would have gone back in his hole. This is the bigger context for why our country needs to do something. I said it over the summer after Aurora in “Another day in America: a sixteen year-old kills thirteen year-old friend.” If you do not care about the adult shootings at least care about the kids – per the same study which I cited the 80% statistic above, it is not the worse one for the US. 87% of all children gun deaths of the top 23 wealthiest countries are in the US. And, there have been over 119,000 children and teen gun deaths in America since 1979.
As a parent and citizen, I find these numbers shameful for America. Countries around the globe think the US is the wild, wild west. Guns have always been a part of our fabric, but due to market segmentation and money, gun ownership has become a wedge issue and something that has gone way beyond the intent of the Second Amendment. Since Constitutionalists like to cite the purity of the Second Amendment, then we should use the context of when it was written to say the following:
If the Second Amendment need not be reviewed in the context of today’s time and must be viewed in the context of the time of our founding fathers then it could be argued that women nor African-Americans of any gender have the right to own a gun. The constitution was written for a free white male society, so if we want to be literal about the Second Amendment, then we need to be literal about everything. So, women and African-Americans you are not afforded the same rights as white men and cannot own a gun.
My point is all laws have to be reviewed over time. Slavery was wrong and after a painful war and 100 ensuing years, African-Americans were afforded the same liberties as others. We still have issues, but the Civil Rights Act remedied constitutional shortsightedness. The same could be said about Women’s Suffrage. It took almost 150 years for Congress to remedy the slight to women on voting rights. The Second Amendment served a purpose, but the NRA and its more strident followers seem to believe what they think it intended need not be reviewed and reconsidered. The current context does not preclude the duty to rethink our laws and their applicability.
Last night on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Sam Harris who has angered both sides of the gun control issue said basically gun ownership should be more like getting a pilot license. You should have to go through a thorough background check and be trained before you get one. There should be no exceptions. I agree. The police want us to register the bullets so crimes can be solved more easily. I agree.
We also need more training in schools and by parent(s), teachers, clergy, Sunday school teachers, mentors and other adults, that civil discourse is needed. It is OK to argue, but do not feel you are being treated without respect if someone disagrees with you. We need to openly discuss how to argue and advocate for your position. Gun deaths are occurring more often due to access to guns following heated arguments.
We also need better access to mental health treatment and remove the stigmas. 20% of people will need mental health assistance or medication during their lifetime. 10% of any employer’s health care members are taking medication for a mental health issue. I have noted before my concern over weapons on college campuses where depression has a higher propensity. Kids get away from parents and think the world is their oyster and realize they have to work hard to succeed and not everything is as imagined. All it takes is one impulsive, bad decision married with gun access and a student’s life is over. Not off the subject, but there have been studies that show the presence of a gun heightens suicidal tendencies.
We need to look at the violence of movies and video games. There is a correlation in our society, but is it causal in any way? Is it causal when other factors are present? I do not know, but this something we need to look into. I go back to the late 1970’s when gun deaths started ending crime shows as it tied up the bad guys in a neat fashion. Now, everyone is slaughtered by guns. Yet, as I have pointed out to my kids, have you noticed the good guys always shoot straighter than the bad guys in the movies? It does not work like that in real life. The bad guys can shoot as well.
We need to think about where we want to restrict guns. Guns should not be around bars or restaurants or any venue where alcohol is served. Period, end of story. Guns, testosterone and alcohol do not mix. Someone will get needlessly killed when these three ingredients are mixed. We have already seen an increase in fan violence without guns. It gets back to the civil discourse where arguments ensue over sports teams, usually with drunken patrons. At a NC State University football game two years ago, a drunken man was endangering others by driving fast around a parking lot. After being confronted by two good Samaritans, the drunk driver, went home, got his gun, came back and killed the two good Samaritans. Access to guns. Access to guns. Access to guns.
So, for all of us groundhogs and our groundhog children, please let’s address our runaway gun problem in America. It is shameful to be number one on the list of leaders in gun deaths. Most responsible gun owners agree.