15 years ago today, a White Supremacist shot up a Jewish Community Center day care center and injured small children. This is the shooting that caught the attention of Donna Dees Thomases who then went on to organize the Million Mom March in May of 2000. Since that time, thousands of Americans have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. And since that time, about 200,000 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries with Congress taking the back seat instead of driving the conversation that we need to have.
And so , the American gun culture keeps giving us shooting after shooting, mass shooting after mass shooting, and more dead and injured citizens. Americans are numb to the carnage because it is happening too often. People feel helpless to do anything about it since our politicians are so afraid to take the bully pulpit they have and speak out for change.
Let’s take a glimpse at what went on in our country over the past few days if you don’t believe me.
A shooting in a small North Carolina city is the epitome of the American gun culture. A young father, drunk, shot and killed his two young sons and then himself. In reading the story, several things jumped out for me. The man told neighbors he was paranoid about someone breaking into his house. He was constantly shooting guns in his back yard, bothering and frightening the neighbors and often while drinking. Are there laws about stuff like this? Can people shoot off their guns in the city limits? If so, why? If not, why didn’t someone call law enforcement? Should this man have been allowed to have guns? Shooting while drunk just has to be against some law- reckless endangerment? Or is this just an example of the gun culture we have that people are willing to accept this dangerous and stupid behavior?
Now 2 innocent little children are dead. Senseless. Avoidable.
New research (from the Armed With Reason blog) is showing that shootings by people who are under the influence of alcohol are more frequent than shootings by those with dangerous mental illness:
Several studies have established the relationship between alcohol abuse and firearm-related crimes. Just as an individual is severely handicapped while operating a car under the influence, these studies found that similar failures in judgment and impulse control manifest during the operation of a firearm. Research shows that the risk of homicide, suicide, and violent death by all causes is significantly elevated with chronic alcohol abuse. Another studyfound a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and “impulsive” crimes such as assault and property damage.
Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, has conducted two recent studies on alcohol use among gun owners and how it might impact their behavior. In 2011, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — an annual survey of risk-related behaviors conducted by the Centers of Disease Control — for eight states and more than 15,000 respondents, he found that gun owners are significantly more likely than non-firearm owners to have five or more drinks on one occasion, to drink and drive, and have 60 or more drinks per month.
Additionally, in 2015, Wintemute discovered that firearm owners who drink excessively had a history of risky behavior, including higher rates of non-traffic offenses, an overall higher risk of arrest, and greater reported “trouble with the police.” Alcohol abuse, the 2011 study found, also leads to risky behavior with guns: For instance, alcohol intoxication is likely to impair a firearm owner’s “decision-to-shoot” judgment. And while Wintemute didn’t seek a direct link between alcohol abuse and gun violence, he did conclude that of the nearly 400,000 firearm-related deaths between 1997 and 2009, “it is probable that more than a third of these deaths involved alcohol.”
Our country is awash in guns. It’s inevitable that a father who has abused alcohol and is fascinated with guns, will eventually shoot and kill people he loves. It happens. It doesn’t have to but in our American gun culture the unspeakable happens.
This past week-end there were several mass shootings not being talked about by national media. A Texas man who shouldn’t have had a gun got upset when an ex partner changed the locks on the house. That’s a good reason to shoot and kill 8 people right? Why not? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other people. And kill they do. Guns in the hands of guys like this are more than dangerous. Given that this guy had a record and was likely on the prohibited purchasers list, how did he get his gun?
This is the American gun culture.
And up in Vermont, 4 were shot and killed by a disturbed woman upset with the social services department. Have gun, will shoot. 3 were relatives of the shooter. 1 was a Social Worker. From the article:
Sobel was shot and killed after work Friday outside a state office building in Barre. She handled a case for the state Department for Children and Families in which Herring lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter, authorities said.
“I think all Vermonters are as shocked, dismayed, horrified and grief-stricken as all of us are,” Shumlin said. “I cannot remember, in my lifetime, four people being murdered by the same alleged perpetrator.”
The person in the quote needs only tune in to the national media to find out that 4 people are killed by the same alleged perpetrator all the time in this American gun culture.
Arguments about who owns a $20 dresser resulted in a shooting incident in Oklahoma- with an AR-15 for goodness’ sake.
This is the American gun culture.
3 people are dead in a presumed domestic shooting in Kileen, Texas.
This is the American gun culture.
In yet another “officer involved shooting” at the one year anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting, a man was shot and injured in Ferguson. A demonstration turned violent and law enforcement reacted. A young man started running and fired at police resulting in the shooting. This is unfortunate all the way around. Again, where do these young people get their guns? This one was, as many are, stolen. From the article:
On Monday, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch denounced the shootings, saying that “violence obscures any message of peaceful protest and places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm’s way.
“The weekend’s events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing,” Ms. Lynch said in a statement. “But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year.”
And this, too, is the American gun culture. Young people with guns are in our neighborhoods shooting each other, shooting innocent people, shooting at police officers. Young people with guns obtained illegally most likely. Police officers are outgunned on our streets and sometimes overreact to the young people, some unarmed- some armed. And it seems that most of this is happening to black youth.
We cannot ignore this gun culture. It is killing our young people of all colors but mostly young black youth. It is a national tragedy that we are not addressing. It’s an issue of racial injustice and racial disparity. And it is an issue of too many guns accessible to people who should not have them.
Though I am not addressing gun suicides and “accidental” shootings in this post, those, too, are all part of our American gun culture. This is not a culture of which we should be proud. It should be a national embarrassment that we are not addressing like other countries have done in the face of a public health and safety problem.
Is the epitome of our gun culture dead children? Small children being led across a street in a human chain after a crazed gunman tried to kill them? Drunk people firing off their guns in their yards every day? An angry woman shooting 4 people over losing custody of her child? An angry domestic abuser shooting 8 people because of a change of a door lock? Young black kids being shot by police officers? Police officers outgunned on our streets? Stolen guns leading to crime guns used in shootings? Someone shooting off an AR-15 over a $20.00 dresser? PSTD suffered years after being shot at a day care center by a mad man?
What is the cost of our American gun culture?
Where is common sense?