Mass Shootings Are Just One Symptom Of America’s Gun Epidemic
I went to a concert the other night. My first since the Las Vegas shooting. It was indoors, at an old venue on the cusp of the Great Salt Lake. Formerly a hotel, its great wooden rafters stood exposed overhead. A grand staircase with the original wooden banisters stretched to the second level, where concertgoers crowded against the railings, peering down into the raucous crowd below.
Within five minutes I had noted the location of every single glowing red EXIT sign in the building and scanned the crowd for suspicious activity.
And I wasn’t alone. The tension in the air was palpable. Normally, the crowd would have been a crush of people. This time, we hung back, warily giving each other distance. We’d been scanned and searched at the entrance within an inch of our lives, but it gave little comfort. This is America in 2017, a Trumpian era of unfettered gun rights and blazing hostility. No one is naive enough to believe that security theater will keep us safe.
This is what it is to be in the public eye in the United States today. To be afraid that gathered in significant numbers, we become targets for our fellow citizens. It is to understand that there is no way to protect from the threat of violence, no group that is safe from the reach of a high-powered rifle and an unlimited supply of ammunition.
Except, that fear, while understandable, misses the real dangers of living in the United States today. Standing shoulder to shoulder with a seething mass of humanity that night, we faced dangers much more likely than a homicidal shooter or a triggered terrorist.
The Majority Of Gun Deaths In America Are In Fact Suicide
It’s likely that someone at that concert would eventually take their own life with a firearm. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America and over 50% of those who decide to take their own lives do so with a gun. Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in America are in fact suicide.
For teens in the United States, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) indicates suicide has become the second leading cause of death. And yet, we’ve struggled to address how to keep guns out of the hands of those who are mentally ill or clinically depressed or conduct even minimal background checks on a national level.
Women Are Much More Likely To Be Killed By Their Partners
In that crowded venue, there were probably dozens of women who bore the marks of abuse and domestic violence, hidden carefully under long sleeve shirts or foundation and concealer. Half of all women killed are murdered by romantic partners, with 93% of homicides of women committed by a current or former intimate partner. Women are 11 times more likely to be killed by a firearm in America than any other developed nation in the world.
One of the most common denominators among mass shooters, who are predominately men, has been a history of domestic violence and battery. Take for instance this shooting, which happened in my neighborhood just a few months ago.
A mother and her six-year-old son died in the middle of the street, gunned down by a man who had become increasingly agitated at her efforts to break off a relationship. She’d attempted to file a restraining order against him and warned police just a few days before the shooting that she was being stalked.
And yet a majority of states in America do not restrict access to firearms for those who have committed domestic violence or are under a restraining order.
A study from the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence found that restricting access to firearms during cases of domestic violence reduced the murder rate among intimate partners by as much as 25%. Despite this, primarily across the South and Midwest, access to guns remains alarmingly easy for people who have already demonstrated an intent to harm.
For Young, Black Men, America Is A Dangerous Place
Half of all gun-related homicides that occur in the United States are young men, aged 15–34, and nearly 2/3 of that age group are black. If you’re a person of color, you face not only increased police brutality and racial targeting but an epidemic of violence that arises from poverty and drug abuse in this country.
This problem is severely compounded by the high rates of mass incarceration among black men, creating a cycle of violence and crime that becomes increasingly difficult to escape.
In Some States, Gun Deaths Are Outnumbering Fatalities In Traffic Accidents
You would think it was much more likely that I’d be killed in a traffic accident on the way to the concert, right? Wrong. Not in my state. Not anymore.
Gun deaths now exceed traffic deaths, not only due to high rates of suicide but also increased access to guns that inevitably results in gun-related accidents. Remember that saying that you’re more likely to slip and fall and die in the shower? Yeah, that’s not true anymore either. Gun violence officially makes the list as the 16th most likely cause of death in America. Since odds are 1 out of every 370 people will be killed by guns in the United States, at least two or three people that I attended that concert with will die as a result of gunfire.
Most alarmingly, unsecured firearms kill nearly 1,300 children a year in the United States.
But as we know, the deaths of children is not enough to shock this country into rehab for gun addiction. Fed propaganda by the NRA, America has gone deaf to the pleas of the majority. Most in the United States simply want common sense measures to address background checks, secure firearms, and restrict access to guns among the mentally ill and violent among us.
Dear @GOP No more thoughts and prayers-We need votes and action Sincerely, The majority of Americans who support common sense #GunControl
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, I’m reminded that the real dangers we face are not public gatherings like concerts or crowded subway cars. It’s the Senator whose vote has already been bought, it’s the husband who chases and threatens when he’s angry, it’s the parent who forgets to lock up their gun. The danger in this country is one that no amount of security will solve. Police and security officers can only enforce the laws we make. It’s the politicians who refuse to take the simplest measures to save the lives of their constituents who are the real danger to America.
Top 5 Senators who have accepted the most money from the N.R.A.
Top 5 Representatives who have accepted the most money from the N.R.A.
The concert ended with a cacophony of noise and we tumbled out into the brisk night air. The parking lot was a mass of chaos, with erratic lines of cars feeding into larger lines that were clogging into a congealed mess of traffic. There was no helpful leader, making decisions and waving people through. It could have been a disaster.
And yet there was patience. The majority let others in front of them, took turns, practiced courtesy. There was a tactic, unspoken understanding. We all had a right to go home that night, safe and warm, back to our lives and families. But we had a shared responsibility too — to make it out of that parking lot unscathed, without denting bumpers or causing damage. And we did it because, at the end of the night, we all owe each other at least that much.
We are a nation of law-abiding people with a Constitution that supports the right to bear arms. But under no circumstances should that right be extended to those who mean to do harm. We have viable legislative means to prevent gun violence in this country and we should use them. Out of courtesy and kindness and because we owe each other at least that much.