In 1968, I was shaken to learn that a friend’s brother was murdered in front of his home, a couple of doors down the block from my home on Carroll Street in Brooklyn. He was the first person I ever knew to be killed by a gun. I joined the ranks of millions of Americans who have been touched by the violence of guns. That same year Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated, killed by a person with a gun, just like my buddy’s brother, taken well before their time.
My personal experiences with gun violence would not end in 1968; that was just the beginning and each time afterwards the effects were more chilling than the next. I am not alone in knowing more than one victim of gun violence; with 12,000 gun related deaths per year there are few Americans whose lives have not been touched or altered by their use.
Deaths by guns can be broken down into two groups: people who are victims of homicide and people who commit suicide. This week, two more Americans were gunned down randomly; this took place as they walked through a suburban mall Christmas shopping like millions of others this time of the year. Law enforcement ended the killing in Portland before it escalated into another massacre such as the one that took place in Colorado this past summer or from any other of the mass shootings that have taken place in America over the last 20 years.
The list goes on an on, one after another. At first it seemed that schools were the main target of mass shooters, but now anyplace has a chance to become a killing field. Malls, restaurants and theaters all have had shootings of mass destruction.
In 2005, 11,346 Americans were killed by firearm violence and another 477,040 were victims of a crime committed with a firearm. In 2008 over 12000 people were killed in America by gun violence compared to 11 murders by guns in all of Japan. Japan has some the strictest gun control measures of any industrialised nation and their lack of violent crime is evident in their crime statistics.
To get the total picture of the effects of guns on the American society you must look at the other deadly gun related statistic, that being the number of gun related suicides. Violent gun related crime only accounts for about 40% of the total number of Americans killed each year by guns. 46 people a day commit suicide with a gun, many in the medical field are calling the escalating gun violence and suicide rate a public health crisis that has reached epidemic proportions.
Year after year Americans die by gun violence, and year after year the National Rifle Association insist guns do not kill people, people kill people. It’s an irrational explanation for the thousands upon thousands of people who die at the hands of a person with a gun every year.
The NRA has succeeded in its fight against any form of restrictions placed on gun owners at the state and local level. In recent news, an Illinois federal appeals court by a 2-1 vote threw out Chicago’s and Illinois conceal carry laws. The NRA has won other battles, most notably in the District of Columbia which had its hand gun control law struck down. Court after court has sided with the largest gun lobby in the country, using the 2nd amendment as their only needed weapon against any reasonable gun control. The NRA has even suggested there is no good time to talk about reasonable measures that can keep guns out of the hands of criminals or those who are suffering from a mental disorder that makes them dangerous to others or themselves.
The thousands upon thousands of victims of gun violence and their families are wondering when will be a good time to talk about the epidemic plaguing our country. First a school, then a theater and now a mall…what is next? When and where someone pulls out an automatic weapon and starts shooting is anyone guess, the NRA has the American people playing Russian Roulette whether they like it or not.