On December 8, 2012, Joseph Loughrey accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old son, Craig, in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania gun store. On December 11, bullets fired by Jacob Roberts took the lives of Cindy Yuille and Steven Forsyth in an Oregon mall. Many were likely spared when his weapon jammed. Three days later, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, it was Adam Lanza’s turn. His gun worked perfectly.
Three moments in time during one, agonizing week in America. Thirty-two people dead. Twenty-one of them children. And one, inescapable conclusion.
None of us should own a gun.
Arguments to the contrary simply do not hold water. Not the Constitutional ones. Not the self-protection ones. Not the hunting or collection ones. And to insist otherwise is either selfish, delusional, or both.
Demanding the right to own a gun for recreation purposes fulfills a “want,” not a need -a rationale roughly equivalent to that of a two-year old child. Deaths by firearm, be they deliberate, accidental, or collateral, exponentially exceed the number of lives hypothetically saved by armed homeowners and carriers of concealed weapons. And if an outspoken minority truly believes that the best way to respond to their distrust of government is by arming themselves to the teeth, then we have far more serious problems in this country than we think.
Care to experience the great outdoors, bond with your children and demonstrate a healthy respect for life? Take your kids on a hike and bring along a camera instead of a shotgun. Appreciate antique rifles and pistols? Visit a museum or a library. Concerned about your family’s safety? Start a neighborhood watch-group or volunteer to work with at-risk youth. Don’t like the direction the United States is headed? Then think long and hard about whom you vote for or get involved in politics, yourself.
Many feel that laws monitoring background checks, gun registration and firepower are enough to save us from ourselves. Others view the Supreme Court’s razor-thin (5 to 4) decision on the Second Amendment as a fait accompli, and derive comfort from the Court’s tacit approval of prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.
But the truth of the matter is that all three of these notions are fatally flawed for one, irrefutable reason. Simply put: it is impossible to forecast anyone’s state of mind from one day (or one year) to the next, making the prediction of who is -or who will be- a “responsible gun owner” subject to the same rules as Russian Roulette. This cold, hard reality -one we’ve chosen to ignore for decades- is the Elephant in the Room. And he has a gun.
Our nation loses 30,000 mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters to gun violence each year. That’s the equivalent of three Sandy Hook massacres per day.
Stay with that thought for a moment…Think about where you were and how you felt when you first heard the news about Newtown…Now imagine two more equally horrific shootings unfolding within hours of that nightmare. It is almost impossible to comprehend that much pain.
If we truly want a safer and saner society, we need to make profound changes in our priorities and in the way we live. For starters, we must foster communities that emphasize the value of caring for one another -a way of life that cultivates trust rather than fear; collective purpose rather than individual entitlement. Inherent in such a purpose are remedies for many of the issues that contribute to the violence that is endemic to our homes and to our streets: from the scarcity of available, comprehensive mental heath services, to the prevalence of poverty and its accompanying despair -a lethal combination that can, perversely, make violent crime seem like an attractive option for the most desperate among us.
We all want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm, which makes embracing the fantasy of having control over the circumstances in our lives all the more alluring. Owning a gun contributes to that deadly illusion, their very presence assuring that the next ghastly headline is just around the corner. By design, they are instruments of death.
And there’s already far too much of that to go around.