“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.”
Another shooting, another massacre, another chance to wring our hands over a uniquely American problem that evades resolution, another debate that ends with the next “crisis” in the news cycle.
You can’t win them all in American politics. Despite the fact that more than 90% of Americans polled support legislation to expand firearm background checks (more than 90% of gun owners support such expansions), there are stronger forces at work lobbying to defeat these efforts. E.J. Dionne thinks we need to change the theme:
What’s needed is a long-term national effort to change popular attitudes toward handgun ownership. And we need to insist on protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.
Dionne argues (and he has data to back this up) that owning a gun does not enhance the owner’s safety. In fact, homes with guns are actually less safe, especially when children live in them. Suicide, domestic violence, and accidental shootings (mostly involving children) belie the idea that guns in the hands of ordinary citizens make those citizens (and the rest of us) safer:
The facts were on the side of those who battled the tobacco companies, and they are just as compelling here. When we talk about guns, we don’t focus enough on the reality, reported in the 2015 Annual Review of Public Health, that nearly two-thirds of the deaths from firearms violence are suicides. Yes, people can try to kill themselves with pills, but there’s no coming back from a gunshot to the head. Those in the throes of depression who have a gun nearby are more likely to act on their darkest impulses.
Nor do we talk enough about accidental deaths when children get their hands on guns, or what happens when a domestic argument escalates and a firearm is readily available. The message is plain and simple: Households that voluntarily say no to guns are safer.
Instead of demanding new legislation (which, in this current political climate, is probably not going to happen), the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America calls on all of us to “Be SMART” rather than burying our heads in the sand (again):
Every year, at least 100 children age 17 and under die in unintentional shootings, and over 400 die by suicide with a gun. Many of these deaths are entirely preventable with responsible gun storage. We know we can keep our kids safer by introducing these five easy steps to parenting and everyday life:
S — Secure guns in homes and vehicles.
M — Model responsible behavior.
A — Ask about unsecured guns in other homes.
R — Recognize the risks of teen suicide.
T — Tell your peers to be SMART.
Getting SMART starts by taking a short quiz:
Q: TRUE OR FALSE: More American children live in homes with guns that are unlocked and loaded than kids who play high school football each year.
A: A national survey found that 1.7 million kids in the U.S. live in homes with guns that are loaded and unlocked while 1.1 million American teens play high school football, according to a recent study by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Q: How old are the children most at risk of unintentionally shooting themselves?
A: Toddlers age 2-4 are at the greatest risk of dying from a self-inflicted, unintentional gunshot. Kids age 12-14 are at the greatest overall risk of dying from an unintentional gunshot by another person.
More PediaBlog on firearm safety here.