Editorial | Gun insanity
The shootings Monday at a suburban Cleveland high school that have now claimed three students’ lives will evoke widespread grief and horror, as they should. They will produce a search for motives and explanations, and there are already hypotheses regarding the teen-age shooter involving bullying, isolation and undetected personal problems. There will be discussion of the role of parenting and social media in such tragedies.
What one can be absolutely certain of in today’s America, however, is that no serious political or public pressure will be brought to bear on the national madness that makes such slaughters not only possible but inevitable: an addiction to guns that is so sweeping that it all but prevents limiting access to firearms even by the millions of disturbed American adults and adolescents.
The numbers that tell the story of a country awash in guns are so staggering that it is incomprehensible that they are blithely ignored.
In a typical year in the United States, about 100,000 people are shot with a gun – more than 30,000 fatally. Since 1968, when a brief period of pressure for gun control took hold after Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, more than a million people have been shot and killed in this country, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.
In a world that often emulates the United States, the American obsession with guns, and its Second Amendment that has been twisted to justify nearly unfettered private ownership of even the most powerful military and police firearms, is rejected by every advanced nation – and with good reason. In the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Trauma, researchers compared gun death rates in 23 advanced nations and found that the American numbers were by far the worst.
The report noted: “Among these 23 countries, 80 percent of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States, 86 percent of women killed by firearms were U.S. women, and 87 percent of children [up to the age of] 14 killed by firearms were U.S. children.”
It is a calamity with no upside.
The National Rifle Association (which manipulates public opinion in order to serve gun manufacturers), its political toadies, the paranoid survivalists and the merely fearful claim that gun ownership protects families and homes. But each year, the FBI reports at most about 200 legally justified self-defense homicides by private citizens nationwide, fewer than 1 percent of the 30,000 gun deaths. There is babble about guns as a defense against political tyranny, but no issue since the Civil War (hardly a model of conflict resolution) has been influenced by officials’ fear of violence by an armed populace.
No matter. There is no political will even to ban assault rifles and rapid-fire guns. Proposals to register guns, just like cars, don’t even get a hearing. States’ rights advocates perversely insist that local and state gun-control laws be superseded by higher authority.
And so, on and on it goes. Two things are certain. There will be another gun massacre at a school. And when it happens, nothing will have changed.