The website motherjones.com has a guide to mass shootings in the United States of America, offering a glimpse into the shooting incidents,their location, the victims and the shooters themselves. The website offers statistic on the locations of the shootings, the weapons that were used, and whether they were obtained legally or illegally.
According to the website motherjones.com, “Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings* across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-five of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006, and seven of them took place in 2012.”
I lead off with the issue around mass shootings because they have occurred in our country and have been featured heavily in the news media after they occur. No one event is ever the same. The victims and suspects are all uniquely different regardless of the similarities between them. The one thing that they all have in common is that everyone; the guilty and the guiltless, are all human.
The commonality that also always extends from these incidents is the discussion of gun control and gun law, which are two separate issues, often grouped as one thing. What generally happens is that the issue of gun control and gun law become apart of the national political stage. Government officials from local to federal government weigh in, special interest groups like the National Rifle Association and their opponents weigh in to get legislation moved or un-moved in their favor.
The latest mass shooting that occurred in our country that has lit the spark to this ageless debate was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Connecticut. This shooting was similar to the others in that it featured a lone or “possibly” multiple gunmen and of course victims of that individual’s violent rampage. What was drastically different from this killing spree than others in recent memory was that the victims were mostly children in the first grade, at the tender age of six. Their innocence is unmistakable and there is nothing in the mind of any rational individual that says this was right, no big deal, or acceptable. We’d all say that who ever was responsible should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law (barring the killing of themselves as Adam Lanza did on the day of the incident). That is my stance on it, as I work with children 6-18 years of age on a daily basis and know that their lives are precious. Precious to our society, and most certainly to the people who love and care for them.
I entitled this post, Gun Control: The Second Amendment Was Not For Hunting for three reasons. The first reason is The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution [which] is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The second reason is the incidence of murder that occurs every year in my country, The United States of America. The last reason is to remind everyone of the human condition and how people have behaved violently throughout history.
The amendment 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.” Essentially the second amendment comes from very old ideas of the fear of a corrupted government, that the newly forming government could quickly become corrupt, and that citizens should be able to overthrow their corrupt government. The other party believed as Noah Webster did that,”Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe.” The compromise was the second amendment. You can read more about the forming of the amendment here.
So I write reason one above about the second amendment to remind people that the amendment has nothing to do with hunting or sport shooting, which often comes up as a topic of discussion revolving around gun control. The second amendment of the US Constitution contained in the Bill of Rights was not written as a hunting or sport-shooting measure. It was a fierce ideology of the men who wanted to establish a free state where the people had a voice and say in the due process and laws of their society. It was put in place as part of the balancing of power and the reason why the United States of America has no king; and why there is on the books a separation of church and state, freedom of press, and the right to assemble peacefully in defiance of government.
The second reason is to remind everyone of the culture of violence that plagues this country year after year. I live and grew up in Newark, NJ. In 1996, Time Magazine ranked Newark the most dangerous city in the country. Last year in 2012 there were 115 murders in Essex County (21 cities). 92 of those murdered occurred in the city of Newark. Many people know well of the negative reputation of the city of Newark, NJ. But Newark, is no isolated city in the United States with a high murder rate and a crime problem. Newark itself, and the state of New Jersey have very strict gun laws.
This is not the only source I’ve used, but if you go to the website disastercenter.com, you can see that they have been tracking crime rates in the United States since at least 1960 up through 2011, and I’m sure they will report on data once the FBI releases the numbers for 2012 as cities across the country submit their reports. But if you take a look at the list, you can see that between 1960 – 2011 the lowest tally of murders in the USA was 8,530 in 1962 and the highest tally was 24,700 in 1991. I took these numbers and plugged them into an excel spreadsheet, divided them by the 52 years of data and came out with an average number of murders per year across the country of 17,480. That’s a very high number when you consider that the United States is a developed country and still considered to be the wealthiest nation on the whole of the Earth.
The final question is if we have a gun problem, or do we have a people problem. Some states like California, Illinois, and New Jersey have very strict gun laws, requiring many steps for people to legally acquire guns. In some cases, people feel that it is a waste of time to even try because of the headache and long wait. Yet, cities like Compton, Chicago, and Newark still see high murder rates. I am of the mind that people kill people and guns are simply a means to an end. History can tell many stories of mass murder and war from Hitler, to the imperial might of Ancient Rome, and the conquests of Alexander the Great. And war may be viewed very differently, from a theoretically perspective, but regardless of the weapons; many people are killed. Further, like these mass shootings, war is a planned act to willfully, within one’s right mind, to mortally wound another human being. Murder is the same, it is not murder unless it was willfully intended by an individual within their right mind.
This debate will rage on now, and most likely long after I’m dead. But what I’d like to see is a departure from the second amendment being looked at as if it were intended for sports and recreation to hunt and catch game. If it were, then we should restrict all possession of guns, because a bow and arrow have long proven to be an effective means in more than one culture to put down deer and other large game. Cows are slaughtered with machetes, pigs are gutted with knives down the belly, fish are hauled in nets, and chickens gets their necks cut with meat cleavers. Gun law and gun control has everything to do with the culture of our society.
Until next write…
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