How Many Have to Die?

I know I just keep posting  about gun violence and how against it I am, but one of two things would have to happen to get me to shut up about it. Either the mass shootings and gun violence would have to end on its own, or our country would have to actually start passing legislation to at least try to deal with it. So far it looks like all the lawmakers in the country are willing to bet the first option happens sooner or later.

Hasn’t worked out too well for them (or us) yet. Just saying.

And that’s depressing. When these incidents only seem to escalate. When terrorist groups get in on the action. (Why blow people up when the FBI is tracking all the chemicals and ingredients needed to make bombs, but you can just go to the store to pick up all the people killing things you could wish for, and the government won’t blink an eye?) When poll after poll shows that the majority of American want stricter gun control laws.

And yet we still do nothing.

So yesterday, I thought of a new approach. As a parent, sometimes I’ll institute a deadline to motivate my kids to get chores done. “If you haven’t done it by 4pm, then there’s no dessert.” We set this deadline well in advance, because history has taught me that my kids will agree to pretty much anything as long as it doesn’t involve them do anything in the immediate future. They agree to it. And then, when it gets closer to 4pm, they typically get the chore done.

We can use this same principle in this case.

I’d like to set a number. (I’d say “let’s pick a population type, but apparently gunning down movie goers, holiday parties, and kindergartners wasn’t enough to motivate everyone, and if dead children don’t do a thing, then I can’t picture a group that would. Unless maybe we reclassified “gun deaths” as “premature abortions”? Would that do it? I ask because there seems to be significant overlap between the people who make laws against abortions and the people who refuse to make laws restricting guns. Think of all the fetuses these people are prematurely killing. Even before they’re conceived! But apparently life is only sanctified when its in a womb. Once you get out of that womb, you’re on your own.)

Sorry. Low blow? I have to settle down or I won’t get to the point of my post.

Let’s set a number. A number of people who have to have been killed by gun violence in this country for us to decide collectively enough is enough. We’re well past that point by my standards, but I get that everyone has different standards, and so apparently we haven’t reached that point yet for enough people in America for us to actually do something. Okay. So let’s pick a number.

There must be a number. A number where anyone in the states would agree that there have been too many gun deaths. Why? Let’s take it to the extreme. There are 318.9 million people in the United States. If 318 million of them were to be killed by gun violence, something tells me the remaining .9 million would agree that perhaps things had gone too far. (I’d like to hope that would be the case, at least.) What if it was just half the country dead? 159 million killed by this time next year? Surely that would get enough politicians on our side.

But I suppose it’s trickier than that. After all, the thing that really gets people’s attention is recent deaths. I don’t suppose we could cumulatively look at gun deaths and wait until the number got high enough. I mean, eyeballing some of the statistics, it looks like we’ve had about 540,000 people die by guns since the 70s, but that doesn’t have quite the oomph it needs to get through to lawmakers.

So maybe the answer is to look at statistics. Taking Wikipedia at face value (because this is a blog post, and I don’t have time to sift through everything), this chart comes in handy. As of 2014, the US was just in 12th place for most gun deaths per 100,000 people. So maybe I should settle down. I mean, Honduras has a rate of 67.18, and the US is only at 10.54. Look at all those other countries worse off than we are. Honduras, Venezueala, Swaziland, Guatemala, Jamaica, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, Panama, South Africa, Uruguay. Way to represent, Americas! Sure, we let a couple of African nations in there, but we almost have a lock on the top 10. (Though maybe we’re taking the Monroe Doctrine a tad far in our solidarity?)

Time out. I know I bang this drum pretty steadily, so I want to take a moment to look at the other side. The arguments used for keeping things just as they are. The single most compelling one I can find is this. Statistics show that gun deaths in the US are actually significantly down over the years, especially since peaking around the 80’s. Back in the day, we used to be at 15.2 deaths per 100,000 people. So way to go America! All those extra guns we’ve been buying has cut our death rate by 1/3. Gun rights activists point to this statistic to show that gun deaths haven’t increased; media coverage of those deaths has.

It’s a valid point. And I’m definitely glad that rates aren’t higher than they are. But then again, since 2000 our rate has steadied out at 10.5 deaths per 100,000. And so I have to ask the question: is that acceptable? Are we all cool with that number? It’s just a price of living in America that for every 100,000 of us, 10 or 11 are going to get shot to death each year?

If this were the price of living in society across the globe, it would be depressing, but also somewhat consoling. America would be no different than its peers. But that’s not the case. Look back at that chart. Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, Poland, India, Spain, Australia. I’m just picking a few of the countries where the death rate by guns per 100,000 people each year is less than 1. 10% the rate of ours.

It is possible to do better. Why is it we take pride in trying to be the best in so many different aspects of life, but when it comes to gun violence we just sort of shrug and change the subject?

So maybe we need gun deaths to creep back up before we actually do something? It’s sort of like me on a diet. I set a weight where I have to admit I’m fat if I go past it. Then when I do, I have to diet.

11 deaths per 100,000? 12?

I guess this is something everyone has to decide on their own. As I’ve said before, I’m already well past deciding. Gun control for me is the single most important point of any political platform for me. Why? Because it’s hard to have a nation when we keep killing each other. Hard to have an economy. Religion. Healthcare. People shouldn’t have to live in fear. That means Hillary Clinton gets my vote for president, since Trump is pro-gun and so is Johnson (the Libertarian candidate). It means I’ll vote for Emily Cain for my representative. She’s not as anti-gun as I’d like, but she’s better than Poliquin.

For things to change, people need to speak up. Strongly and consistently.

And that’s all the energy I have to wade into this topic today. If you’re looking for further commentary, check out my previous posts on the subject. My views haven’t changed. They’ve only gotten stronger.

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