I wrote the following post about nine years ago. With the twice weekly mass shootings in the US, with Mississippi and Michigan being the latest sites of multiple gun deaths or injuries, on top of the daily killings around the country, this piece sadly and disappointingly still holds meaning and needs to be heeded.
A common refrain echoed in a couple of recent comments on blogs regarding gun deaths is the line from Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who said “the only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I have asked this rhetorical question before, but let me ask it again – “how do you know who the good guys are?” Just using a few examples as to why I pose this question, note the following.
There is a man on trial in Jacksonville, Florida who killed an African-American teen in a gas station because of an argument started over turning the volume of the radio down. There were several young men in the car and the alleged assailant’s wife was inside paying for items from the convenience store. No weapon was found in the car or at the scene from the African-American youth, yet the man said he saw a weapon. So, someone is dead over playing music too loudly. I would wager that people have come to his defense to say he was a good person.
A couple of months ago, a retired police officer shot a man in a theatre (who was with his wife) for talking on his cell phone. He apparently was speaking to the baby sitter while he and is wife were on a date. So, someone is dead over talking on a cellphone in a theatre. Like the above, the punishment does not fit the crime of talking in a theatre. I have already heard footage of how the retired police officer was such a good person.
Last year, George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watch person, was acquitted of killing an unarmed African-American youth. What bothers me about this acquittal is Zimmerman was told not to follow this person by the 911 officer when he called 911 to report the person. Yet, he followed Trayvon Martin and now Martin is dead. People talk about what a good person Zimmerman was and how he was so vigilant on the neighborhood watch.
Then, there are the countless deaths that occur every day in America. Our significant gun death problem is not the result of horrible mass shootings. No, by far, our gun death problem happens everyday. People get in arguments at home, in restaurants, in bars, at games, at concerts, etc. and make impulsive decisions and a life is ended because a gun was present. Plus, the number of suicides increase because of impulsive decisions when depressed and easy access to a weapon. Then, you have the accidental shootings by minors who find a weapon. This past week, yet another occurred when a two-year old shot his seventeen month old sister.
There are two tests you can do to validate these kinds of deaths. First, look in any paper for about a week and count the number of gun deaths. Second, and more troubling, Google “six-year-old shoots four-year-old” and count the number and pages of stories over the last few years. I cite this statistic in earlier posts, but according to the Journal of Acute Trauma and Medicine, looking at the wealthiest 23 nations, for every 100 gun deaths, the US has 80 of them. For every 100 children and teen gun deaths, the US has 87 of them, with the remaining 22 countries totaling 13. I view this as a problem.
Gun deaths are due to a variety of factors – lack of civility, predisposition to act, drugs, mental health issues, poverty, entertainment violence, but make no mistake they are also about gun access. Guns do not kill people, that is true, but people with access to guns do. I am not advocating infringing on Second Amendment rights, although that argument is an overplayed hand that applies little this day and age. But, I am advocating what Americans have noted in surveys – we want elongated background checks and longer waiting periods. And, the police have long advocated the codification of bullets, so crimes can be solved more quickly. Finally, lock the guns away, preferably unloaded. Full stop.
But, it has to be more than this – we must deal with getting more civil with each other and not letting simple arguments lead to a death. We should also deal with these other issues, especially the mental health one, but lack of civility needs to be addressed. The other related issue is what I call a “predisposition to act.” From Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” he notes the story that Bruce Springsteen captured in his song “American Skin” (or sometimes referred to as 41 Shots). A man who did not understand English very well was shot 41 times trying to get his card out of his wallet. The police involved were confirmed to have a predisposition to act toward this person and fired their guns in haste. They also fired 41 times on one person.
Getting back to the three stories above, these good guys with guns were emboldened to act. They had a predisposition to do something that ended up with three people dead. Three people who need not have been killed for their so-called transgressions. Having access to a weapon will compound an impulsive or irresponsible judgment call. This is one reason why allowing guns in bars is about the most inane idea possible.” Morons in the News” on the various morning radio shows are filled with impulsive decisions that ended in death over stupid or drunk arguments. Guns, alcohol and testosterone are an unhealthy mix.
So, when someone next raises the comment about the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, ask the headline question above. How do you know who the good guys are?