You get over tragedies by addressing them, and that is what I am doing.
Almost 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun every year. Nearly 13,000 people are murdered every year in this country by guns and another 45,000 are shot in a wide variety of criminal attacks; over 17,000 people commit suicide with guns and some 3,000 survive suicide attempts with guns. According to the Brady Campaign, over a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy were murdered. Since the killing of John Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.
Norwegian white supremacist, Anders Behring Freivik, murdered 77 people, over 60 of them by gunfire (the rest by bombing), in mid-July, 2011, and the world was shocked. According to the Brady Campaign, an average of 80 people are killed by guns everyday in the U.S., and it often goes unnoticed.
The statistics are staggering. The United States is saturated with guns of all kinds, and gun-related violence has reached pandemic proportions.
We work, we sacrifice, we nurture, and we send our children to college and university, and all too often they become targets for unstable and disturbed individuals who seek revenge for real or imaged insults; individuals who should never be allowed to own a gun.
So many people are gunned down in this country that what would have been a shocking crime 50 or 60 years ago barely makes the news crawl on CNN. Few in positions of authority appear willing to spend the time or money to stem this epidemic of gun violence. Most politicians are counting on the fact that violence is so much a part of our society that it has desensitized people to suffering, pain, and death. They appear to be right. Elected officials do not pay a price at the polls for failing to tackle this problem. When school shootings happen, politicians and luminaries from all segments of society say all the right things: they meet with the victims’ families, they cry, they appear to exude sympathy and compassion, they wring their hands, and they promise to do something to help prevent future shootings. In fact, however, when push comes to shove and they are given the opportunity to support tightened campus security they do not. For example, in early 2010, then-Virginia State Delegate David Nutter voted against a bill to amend and reenact the Code of Virginia related to crisis and emergency management for institutions of higher learning. At the time Nutter was both an employee of Virginia Tech and a member of the legislature.
Despite the statistics, despite the anguish, despite the suffering, there has been no real public outcry—until Sandy Hook. It took the slaughter of 20 elementary school children and six adults to galvanize the public into demanding that something be done to stop the shootings on school grounds and campuses. But even this public outrage produced only modest results such as calls for universal background checks, proposed laws to make it a crime to buy a gun for someone who may not legally own one, and, possibly, a ban on high capacity ammunition clips. But even with all the public outcry, when push came to shove, the Senate could not muster enough votes to pass a bill for universal background checks. The chances of banning the purchase of semi-automatic and automatic military-style weapons died.
The NRA and gun manufacturers’ propaganda campaign and ability to buy politicians has been so successful that even a rudimentary discussion of gun violence is next to impossible; even the horror of Sandy Hook does not prompt our politicians to act.
Furthermore, no one in positions of authority is ever held accountable for gross incompetence and ignoring the killers’ warning signs. Until people are held accountable for their actions or inactions, there is no incentive for school officials to act to protect our children, their teachers and staff, and members of the schools’ administration. (To be continued)