For the last few nights I’ve been sleepless. I have debated over and over again inside my head whether or not I should write about an extremely controversial subject on my blog. About a topic that divides and tears America apart and makes the rest of the world just shake their heads at us: Gun Control.
After much thought, I decided that as a mother and as an American citizen, I could no longer be silent and just share my beliefs over Facebook with my friends. Instead, I would put together an emotional piece on why I believe we should have gun control and why we must put more pressure on institutions such as the media, our mental health care system and society as a whole to change the deep-rooted, dark culture of violence in America.
It is an overwhelming topic. In fact, often I don’t even know where to start. So I am going to try to lay out my feelings and beliefs now and see if we can have a real conversation about guns and our love/hate relationship with violence in this nation. Whether you agree or disagree on my beliefs, it is up to you. But until we start having a real, honest dialogue about what is happening in our country nothing will change.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, firearms (excluding BB and pellet guns) were used in 84,258 nonfatal injuries (26.65 per 100,000 U.S. citizens) 
- 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000)
- 21,175 by suicide with a firearm,
- 505 deaths due to accidental discharge of a firearm,
- 281 deaths due to firearms-use with “undetermined intent” for a total of 33,169 deaths related to firearms (excluding firearm deaths due to legal intervention).
- 1.3% of all deaths in the country were related to firearms.
- In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.
- Despite widespread concern about the impacts of gun violence on public health, Congress has banned the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting research on gun violence.
*Above content from Wikepedia. I cross-checked every statistic and source for accuracy.
Is this the world we want for our children?
Perception versus Reality:
So why is it that people are more fearful of being killed in a terrorist attack or traveling to a “dangerous” country when there are more deaths by gun violence right outside our backdoor? Obama recently urged media to compare the number of deaths by gunfire each year to the total number of deaths from terrorism. The results were surprising. From 2004 to 2013 316,545 people died by firearms in the US. During that same period, the number of U.S. citizens killed overseas by terrorists was 277, while another 36 were killed in domestic acts of terrorism (Star Tribune Editorial “Placing the Blame on Another Mass Shooting”). My question is: Who is our government spending all our money on to fight? Yes, terrorism. What are we doing to fight our own mass killings in the US. Not much.
The media plays a strong role in creating a perception of fear. Violence and fear sell. Ever since 9/11, the media has played on our fear and anxiety to mess with our minds and get us to watch it. Wasn’t it after 9/11 that CNN and other media sources such as Fox News (the real fear news) began their “BREAKING NEWS!” flashes with 24/7 round the clock coverage of the attacks? Media is smart and has figured us out.
There is also the strong notion that owning a semi-automatic gun is our “right” as Americans. It is in the Constitution isn’t it? My right to own as many and whatever damn well kind of gun I want is my right per the Second Amendment, they say. Well, here is what the 2nd Amendment says:
“The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
A well regulated Militia? What?
What about our freedom as the Americans who don’t want people having these guns?
Many argue that even with gun control people will still be able to buy guns and mass shooting will still happen. I am not naive. Of course those who want guns to kill people will get them if they choose. Think about how easy it is to buy drugs. Yet at least if we had some more control on the kind of guns people were able to buy and who was able to buy them it would at least be a little bit more difficult.
Although I believe gun control can help it will obviously not solve the problem of mass killing or homicide. If someone wants to kill another human being, they will just use something else.
Can you believe that these weapons were easily available to a lunatic who went into an elementary school and killed children? Yet, even after Sandy Hook, one of the most disturbing mass killing imaginable what has changed? NOTHING.
So what is it really that we need to change?
We have a love/hate relationship with violence.
We live in a culture of violence. Violence is so embedded into our daily lives in America that it is not going to disappear anytime soon.
Take a moment and think about how many violent images do we see a day? On TV, movies, in the paper, on the internet, in video games, in music, in books, and in real life.
Do you go to the movies and watch the latest thriller where people are being blown away like no tomorrow? I am sure you do. I do too. We all do and that is the problem. Killing and violence is so engrained in our lives that it doesn’t even make us flinch when we see it unfold on screen, only in real life. But once it does happen for real, do we play into CNN, Fox News and the internet and watch it all unfold? Yes we do.
I’m not blaming us. I’m on your side. I’m just trying to take a step back from what our mentality is and our culture of violence and think about how we got to this point.
Let’s face it. Violence Sells. Death sells. Pick up any newspaper, turn on the TV, or take a peak at what a teenage boy is playing on his phone. Killing and Death. There is so much gratuitous violence around us every single day that we become immune to it and are numb. In fact watching a violent killing movie seems like nothing anymore.
I understand there are many, very complicated interrelated factors that drive the United States to be one of the most violent nations (that is not currently active in a civil war) in the world. But we can change this tragic reality. Our culture of violence must change.
Sure not everyone who plays violence video games and watches violent movies 24/7 will turn around and become a mass shooter however the ones out there that are already unstable and on the fringe could slip through the cracks and continue.
Gun control laws must change but that won’t solve the problem and stop the killing. Our entire mentality and culture of violence is what must be changed and it involves a massive cultural transformation that often seems hopeless and impossible.
We must have a better way for treating and helping mentally ill people yet also those on the edge of going off the deep end. Meaning the ones who seem to be “normal” yet are a violent, angry time bomb deep down inside.
Finally, we must put pressure on media to stop glorifying violence. I believe this is the most important thing that must be done but will prove to be the most difficult. How do we get media and society to end the love affair with violence when it sells and people want it? That I do not know. But I’m not going to give up the fight.
I am an optimist and perhaps I’ve gone to far on this blog post. It may be unreasonable, highly emotional and darn right angry. But I believe that only as a society working together we can change. It is our world. We must make it the world we want to live in.
We need to start a conversation about what we can do. To begin, I will leave you with this question.
So what can we do? How can we change this culture of violence in our society and live in a safer place?
P.S. I am lending my voice to something I feel quite passionate about. Disagreeing with me and stating your opinions is wonderful! That is called a conversation. But I will immediately delete any comments that attack me for my viewpoints.
Worth a Read:
New York Times article 10/3/15: “How they Got Their Guns”: Criminal histories and documented mental health problems did not prevent at least eight of the gunmen in 14 recent mass shootings from obtaining their weapons, after federal background checks led to approval of the purchases of the guns used.
The New Yorker, “The Simple Truth About Gun Control” “There are complex, hand-wringing-worthy problems in our social life: deficits and debts and climate change. Gun violence, and the work of eliminating gun massacres in schools and movie houses and the like, is not one of them. Gun control works on gun violence as surely as antibiotics do on bacterial infections.
Star Tribune “Placing the Blame on Another Mass Shooting” (10/02/15)