Last week, I was covering an active shooter response event in the EMS department. The speaker, a police officer, opened up her presentation with an editorial cartoon which commented on both the frequency of mass shootings and the mindset of some Americans who think that it will “never happen here.”
“Now, regardless of how you feel about the issue,” she then said, “gun control won’t stop this.” She went on to make the tired analogy that meth is illegal, too, and that doesn’t stop people from buying it.
She’s partially right; gun control will not stop 100 percent of gun violence. But America averages well over 10,000 firearm homicides each year. About 1,500 people under the age of 18 die each year from gun violence, which essentially means that we have the equivalence of one 9/11 worth of children’s deaths every two years due to guns. After 9/11, in which 2,977 people died, we passed mass surveillance legislation and invaded two countries, spending trillions of dollars. Ten times as many people die each year from guns and we give a collective shrug.
“Stuff happens,” as Jeb Bush said.
The UK, Canada and Australia all passed stringent gun control laws after mass shootings. Gun violence dropped in each country as a result. A drop of even 10 percent in gun deaths in America would be a huge success, thousands of lives being saved.
To address some arguments: Yes, drugs are illegal and still available. But the difference between guns and drugs is that you cannot grow guns. You cannot go to a pharmacy and purchase the ingredients for a gun. While a lot of drugs come from foreign sources, America is both the largest producer and seller of firearms in the world. Our house is flooding and we refuse to turn off the water in our overflowing bathtub.
Many say the Second Amendment protects us from tyranny, but this hasn’t been true for a long time. Dr. Ben Carson, GOP presidential rival to Donald Trump, recently said the Holocaust was more or less facilitated by German gun control laws. Without guns, he says, Jews were unable to do anything more than passively dawdle into Auschwitz.
This view is terribly ignorant. There was plenty of Jewish resistance throughout the Holocaust, from the Warsaw Uprising to the Bielski partisans in Belarus, but militias are no match for world-beating militaries. Thousands of Jews and Poles died in the Warsaw Uprising; 17 Germans met the same fate.
That was 75 years ago. Today, we have jets, stealth bombers, Predator drones, nuclear-armed submarines, and so on. If there was a military coup, they could simply have the NSA print out a list of all the members of Facebook 2nd Amendment groups and start the bombing. The 2nd Amendment became obsolete when America decided to spend half of its budget on the military for 70 years.
Another frequent argument is that if guns are outlawed, people will kill each other in other ways. This may be true in some cases, but as it stands, guns are literally the easiest way to murder someone right now. Like a camera, they’re just point and click. Handguns are used 2-3 times more frequently to murder than knives, other guns being a close third. On the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting, where 20 first graders were brutally murdered with a rifle, a man in China went on a knifing spree at a school, with a total of 22 young victims. Gun advocates immediately held this up as evidence of gun control’s uselessness. But none of the 22 victims died. Knife crime may increase, but it’s much harder to walk into a movie theater and stab 82 people, or 49 people on a college campus, and the ratio of dead will never be as high as they are with guns.
Unfortunately, we saw after Sandy Hook that even the most basic efforts toward curbing our gun-mania are futile, with the NRA stranglehold on Congress not looking to subside anytime soon. The NRA has been so successful in painting Obama as a gun-snatcher that preemptive gun sales were sky-high for four years before Obama even mentioned gun control, and that was only after 20 first graders were murdered. Hopefully it doesn’t take many more shot-up schools to finally do the right thing.