“I’ve a sadness too sad to be true.” The late songwriter Jesse Winchester once sang this about a girl; I’m feeling this about yet another mass shooting. And while a too-sad-to-be-true sadness is intense, there is more. Surely you feel it too? Anger. Great frustration. Richard Warnica writing for the National Post describes it this way: “The savage ball of human misery unleashed by the attack won’t go away.”
Why? In the US, as far as gun control, even though the Vegas incident is the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history, expect nothing to change. Let’s face it, then President Obama was not able to get anything passed after 20 six- and seven-year-old children died at Sandy Hook school in 2012. Children. And then there’s Gabrielle Giffords, a poster person for gun control if there ever was one, having almost died in a mass shooting in 2011 in Arizona. I guess Giffords, a former Democratic Representative, and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, have had some success changing gun laws at the state level (note that firearms are easily transported across state lines), but Bill Theobald writing for USA Today says their efforts – through Americans for Responsible Solutions and partner the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence – are “dwarfed by the primary proponent of gun rights, the National Rifle Association.”
The groups Giffords and Kelly work with have paltry annual budgets, in the few million-dollar range. The NRA’s annual budget? Two hundred and fifty million dollars.
So the cost of human life comes down to money, power and passionate defense of the Second Amendment. Being Canadian, I thought it was high time I looked up the Second Amendment. Here’s how it 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.”
Hmmm. When I first read this, I thought well, the authors are talking about the “Militia” having the right to “keep and bear Arms”. According to Cornell Law School, this language has created considerable debate and there are those, like me, who read it this way, calling this “the collective rights theory”. Others, though, read “the right of the people” and feel it creates an “individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States” to “keep and bear Arms”, thereby rendering gun control unconstitutional.
As far as the right to keep and bear arms, there was a turning point for two countries – the UK and Australia – after mass shootings in 1996. They both instituted gun amnesty – a buy-back program in which hundreds of thousands of guns were surrendered – and either banned or highly restricted gun ownership. Guess what? There’s been one mass shooting in the UK since and in Australia, where gun deaths continue to decline, I uncovered about five, of which one was a family issue and one gang-related, making them slightly different than a random mass shooting.
What did the US do in 1996 with regard to the right to keep and bear arms? I think you’ll find this both interesting and enlightening. The Dickey Amendment, named after Republican Jay Dickey, was inserted as a rider into the federal government omnibus spending bill, mandating that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” Say what? “Americans are more likely to die from gun violence than many leading causes of death combined,” says businessinsider.com. Heart disease and cancer rank the highest, each with a one in seven chance of contracting, but it’s now estimated that Americans have a one in 370 chance of dying from assault by a gun, which puts it higher than riding inside a car, van or truck, drowning, fire or smoke. “It meets the definition of a disease,” says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a gun violence researcher, yet there’s no funding for research.
Some other stats:
*according to CNN, gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than other high-income countries and while the US is < 5% of world population it holds 31% of global mass shooters
*studies by German Lopez at Vox show that, as above, the US is <5% of world population, yet it possesses almost 50% of the world’s civilian-owned guns
*from bbc.com: “So many people die annually from gunfire in the US that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.”
*also from bbc.com: “The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime.”
*from theguardian.com: 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days: America’s gun crisis – “Data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive reveals a shocking human toll: there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – every nine out of 10 days on average.”
Obviously tired of the same political responses to gun control as I’ve been hearing, Robyn Urback, writing for CBC News noted, “It’s not the time to talk about gun control in the US. It is too soon. We must wait a reasonable amount of time after the last mass shooting, but not too much time as to run into the next mass shooting.”
Here’s what guitarist Caleb Keeter from the Josh Abbott Band had to say on Twitter about gun control the day after witnessing the Vegas shooting firsthand:
“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life.
Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with (Concealed Handgun Licenses), and legal firearms on the bus.
They were useless.
We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think that we were part of the massacre and shoot us.”
He goes on to say that the rounds were so powerful, members of his crew got shrapnel wounds from standing near a victim. “We need gun control RIGHT. NOW,” he wrote.
Don’t even get me started on “bump stocks”, the device that enabled the shooter to fire off 400 to 800 rounds per minute as opposed to 45 to 60 rounds. “Republicans have indicated a willingness to consider regulating ‘bump stocks’,” says washingtonpost.com. “A willingness to consider”???!!!
Here’s another stat for you. According to CNSNews.com, in 2011 gun owners in the US outnumbered hunters five to one. So, what are the guns for? Sport? Protection? Crime?
I think of those innocent people at that festival in Vegas, enjoying live music outdoors, a thing I can relate to because I’ve done it many times. Now some are gone, some are injured and facing major health challenges and many are traumatized by loss and what they witnessed. Personal stories emerging prove there is way more good in the world than bad. Heather Gooze holds Jordan McIldoon’s hand for hours, even though she is in danger, even though he has died, because she doesn’t want him to be alone. Off-duty firefighters perform CPR and triage victims right there, on the festival grounds. Iraq war veteran Taylor Winston finds keys in a truck and twice rushes the critically wounded to the hospital before ambulances are ready. Husbands shield wives, fathers shield adult children. It goes on and on.
We know good outweighs bad. Why, then, is it necessary for individuals to possess and/or have such easy access to so very much fire power?