Friday, December 14, 2012

Sandy Hook - A Tipping Point?

The tragedy at Sandy Hook is unbearable to even think about.

As a parent, I was in tears much of the day. Like everyone else, our television has been set to the news channel coverage, and Facebook and Twitter have been blowing up with nothing but talk of the horrific events of this sad day.

This is not the first mass shooting we've had this year - in fact, it's the sixth. And over the past five years there have been at least 19.

But the heartbreaking deaths today seem to me to have had an effect on Americans that I have not seen from the earlier shootings  - not the shopping mall in Oregon three days ago, not Aurora, Colorado and the movie theater shootings, not Tucson, Arizona with Gabby Giffords, not the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, not Fort Hood, not Virginia Tech, not the Unitarian Universalist Church shooting in Knoxville.

I get a feeling that we are finally tired of 'not talking about gun control.'

For years we have been intimidated and shut down by the NRA and the howls of 'Second Amendment' that have come from those who equate any kind of gun regulation with Big Bad Government taking away every American's gun. And every time there was yet another massacre, Democrats as well as Republicans somberly intoned that "this is not the day to talk about gun control."

My friend Bobby Pickett says, "This is not the day to talk about gun control. Yesterday was."

Well, I think today is fnally that day.

There is still a huge swath of people who insist that the only way to prevent gun violence is - yep, you guessed it - more guns! Guns for everyone. Guns for teachers. Armed guards in every classroom, store, business, church, home.

A commenter on my Facebook page was insistent that the more guns we had the safer we would be and that the reason the attack at Sandy Hook happened was that the teacher was not armed.

As if somehow, a sweet little kindergarten teacher would have morphed into Sharpie McGreenBeret, whipped out her AK in the middle of the Alphabet Song and picked off the bad guy before he had a chance to shoot any little children - killing or incapacitating the shooter without hitting any of the 30 crying, running, screaming little children in the room.

Wait - the shooter had four guns. So maybe each teacher should have four guns too.

And the commenter claimed that it was people like me who lived in a "fairytale world."

He truly believes in the 'vigilante' civilian who jumps to the rescue to save the day with his own gun.

In an analysis of mass shootings, one fact stands out:

Not one of them was stopped by an armed citizen.

Not a few. Not several. Not ONE. Ever.

We are the most heavily-armed society in the world.

We have more guns per capita than any other nation on earth. Yemen comes in second.

So, by that logic, if more guns made us safer we would have the lowest number of gun deaths in the world. Except, of course, for Yemen. We do not have the highest level of gun deaths in the world - but the only ones higher are mostly low income Latin American and Caribbean nations:
According to the U.N., the U.S. had 3.0 firearm homicides per 100,000 in population in 2009. But there were 14 other nations that had higher rates in 2009, primarily in Latin America and the Caribbean: Honduras (57.6), Jamaica (47.2), St. Kitts and Nevis (44.4), Venezuela (39.0), Guatemala (38.5), Colombia (28.1), Trinidad & Tobago (27.3), Panama (19.3), Dominican Republic (16.9), Bahamas (15.4), Belize (15.4), Mexico (7.9), Paraguay (7.3) and Nicaragua (5.9). Three other nations had higher rates in 2008: El Salvador (39.9), Brazil (18.1) and Ecuador (12.7). But among countries like ourselves - so-called 'First World' affluent nations - we are far and away ahead of them interms of gun deaths. One study published in 2011 confirms this finding. The study, published in the Journal of Trauma -- Injury Infection & Critical Care, found that firearm homicide rates were 19.5 times higher in the U.S. than in 23 other "high income" countries studied, using 2003 data. Rates for other types of gun deaths were also higher in the U.S., but by somewhat smaller margins: 5.8 times higher for firearm suicides (even though overall suicide rates were 30 percent lower in the U.S.) and 5.2 times higher for unintentional firearm deaths.
And, no, this isn't a 'liberal study' - it's Politifact, which does not side one way or the other. My point is - if we have the most guns, why aren't we at the very bottom of the list?

But I do sense a difference today.

I think today just might be the day that we talk about it.

And force our politicians to pay attention. That's the only way to get it done.

The will of the people cannot be ignored - if they stand up and make it known. So far we have been intimidated into keeping quiet.

For these precious children - not today.

We will not be silent today.


MrTag1 said...

Well written Alicia. If not now - when?

Alicia Morgan said...

Thanks for stopping by Hooterville, Tag! And here's hoping that we do't back down and slink away like Dems are wont to do. Time to (if I may be so bold) "stand our ground" and insist that we get serious gun legislation passed.

opit said...

Just today I noticed initiatives at Care2 ( the Petition Site ) for gun control. I live in Canada - where a gun registry died after years of bureaucratic snafu and resistance from rural residents especially against edicts affecting self defence from other predators ( sometimes a thing as simple a thing as scaring off coyotes - who love to kill family dogs ). And the petition, now that I think about it - was especially about keeping firearms away from the mentally unbalanced.
It's a heck of a violent and repulsive movie to suggest to anyone : but the Clockwork Orange is Stanley Kubrick's morality tale warning about the limits of psychology and the dangers of Thought Police. is locked until and unless I can satisfy a DCMA complaint : a tough assignment when the Cooling Effects index is unavailable. I'm at for the time being.

Salmo said...

Hunters and conservationists have, for nearly a century, accepted 3-shot magazine limits on shotguns used for waterfowling. How long will it be before we extend comparable consideration to our children?

Bill J. from Austin said...

I don't know if it is true that not one mass shooting has ever been stopped by an armed citizen. Charles Whitman, who opened fire from the University of Texas tower in 1966, may not have been stopped, but he was certainly slowed down by all the Austinites and UT students who grabbed rifles from cars and dorm rooms and returned fire, pinning him down until police could breach the tower door and shoot him to death. There may have been other instances where citizen response was even more decisive, but in any case we know for a fact smaller casualty numbers have been avoided because people were armed. Just this month, this story broke in Columbus, Texas:, and the NRA monthly magazine fills at least a page every issue with reports from around the nation of gun owners who successfully defend themselves and others with firearms.

However, even if your claim about mass shootings is factually correct, that might be because shooters never pick targets where people may be armed. They always go for soft targets - schools, movie theaters, restaurants and such - where the chance of an armed citizen firing back is slim to none. You notice these mass murderers never hit gun shows, police conventions or biker bars. They may be "crazy" but they're not CRAZY.

When gunman George Hennard went on a murderous shooting spree inside a Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, Dr. Suzanna Gratia-Hupp had to cower under a table while her parents were shot to death in front of her eyes because, in accordance with Texas law at the time, her pistol - the legally-owned handgun she might have used to end Hennard's rampage - was locked in the trunk of her car in the restaurant parking lot. 50 people were shot, and 23 died, before police could respond and corner Hennard in a bathroom. In true coward's fashion, he then took his own life, rather than face the consequences of what he'd done. According to Wikipedia ( Hupp's parents were among the first to die. How many of those 23 people might be alive today if she had been armed?

When gunman Colton Tooley carried an AK47 onto the University of Texas campus at Austin in September of 2010, I had to sit with a classroom full of terrified young men and women, knowing that if the gunman found us I was powerless to save them, because Texas law prohibits the carrying of weapons on college campuses. Never mind that, as a military veteran, former law enforcement officer and long-time handgun enthusiast I was fully capable of taking down the shooter. Under law, I would have been forced to sit by and watch those kids get slaughtered, and be murdered myself, because the law that didn't prevent the gunman from carrying a gun on campus forbade me doing so. As it turns out, Tooley took his own life before anyone else could be injured, but that doesn't take away the terror those students felt, or my insistence that leaving us defenseless is WRONG.

It is a fairytale to believe that Americans will ever surrender their weapons. After all, our nation wouldn't EXIST if not for private ownership of firearms, and, all sporting purposes aside, many Americans believe that type of readiness is just as crucial today. Good luck changing their minds.

And who wants to live in a society where only the criminals are armed, anyway? It seems a more sensible response to make certain that if some disturbed individual takes up arms against the innocent, sane people with guns are there to stop them.

Bill J. from Austin