This morning a young man in his twenties pulled up to a Connecticut elementary school carrying no fewer than four firearms and murdered 26 people (at last count), including his mother and 20 children under the age of 10. As a parent, I am utterly destroyed (I must have snuck in on my son’s nap about four times—in between sobs—to just stare at him and feel grateful). As a citizen, I am enraged. People, we need to talk. Today, right this second, as emotions are raw, as faces are covered in snot and tears, we need to talk about why this happened, how we could let it happen and what the hell we’re going to do about it—all of us—starting today.
We need to talk about why we have guns in the first place. Seriously, why? They serve no civil societal purpose other than to kill
another human. People who buy them for protection are doing so to protect themselves from other people with guns. Hunters don’t need access to assault rifles. People don’t need concealed weapons permits in Starbucks. Good lord, they don’t need them at schools or daycare centers (WTF, Michigan?) Why is our society so obsessed with arming itself around the clock?
We need to talk about who is being killed. Let’s start with the timely topic. ABC News estimates that there have been 31 school shootings in the U.S. since Colombine in 1999. According to a Children’s Defense Fund study, 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns in just two years (2008-2009). That breaks down to “one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years.” The circumstances of these shootings don’t matter. They were killed by guns, period.
The presence of a gun in the house raises the risk of death, assault and suicide by 50 percent. In the U.S. women in particular are at a higher risk of homicide or assault by a weapon than in any other developed country in the world. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Americans under age 40, and more than half of those suicides are carried out with guns. All these deaths, none of them for protection or hunting and gathering.
We need to talk about why Washington won’t fix gun control laws. According to research by Mother Jones, there have been at least 61 mass murders in the U.S. since 1982. More than three-quarters of the guns used were obtained legally. Time and time again the Supreme Court strikes down cases that seek to limit or ban handgun ownership. Why? No presidential administration has the balls, it seems, to attack this issue and make changes that can save lives—thousands of lives, children’s lives. Why? In his address after the shooting, President Obama said, “We’re going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent tragedies like this.” Yes, Mr. President, we are. Get. On. That.
So start talking—to each other, to your local, state and national government officials, to the media, on the blogs, everywhere. This is a time of mourning for us all, but it’s also time to face—and fix—this problem.