SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE
Only days before the massacre which claimed her life at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Victoria Soto described her first-grade students as “little angels” to a friend and said, “I never want to let them go.”
Last Friday, Victoria was shot dead as she shielded her students from the bullets of Adam Lanza in her Connecticut classroom.
Soto, 27, was trying to hide her little angels in closets and cabinets when Lanza entered her classroom and began shooting. Victoria ran towards the rampaging killer, telling Lanza her students had gone to the auditorium.
Victoria Soto was shot point-blank in the head only feet from her desk. Six of Soto’s little angels were standing by their teacher’s side and were all killed trying to flee.
Adam Lanza was armed with two 9-milimeter handguns and a semi-automatic rifle when he entered Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 9:35 a.m.
Fifteen minutes later, twenty children and six teachers were dead.
Adam Lanza, like so many other young mass killers in this country, used family-owned, legally-obtained guns. He, like so many others, abused the trust that our society places in those who choose to buy the deadliest weapons available.
Adam Lanza packed the firepower of a small army into his car with the intent of driving to an elementary school, walking in, and killing as many people as he could.
According to the most recent numbers available, in 2010 over 10,000 Americans were murdered with a firearm. In fact, in 2010 alone the United States had more gun murders than Canada has experienced since 1987.
In 2010, 14,159 people were murdered inside the United States.
Since 1987, 14,089 people have been murdered within Canadian borders in total.
Compare the United States to larger countries and the numbers are still chilling. China, which is almost four times the population of the U.S., reported 14,811 homicides in all of 2009.
In 2009, the United States had 15,241 homicides. 75% of American murders in 2009 were committed with a firearm, mostly a handgun.
In America, we like to think that nobody beats the United States at anything.
Unfortunately, we’re right.
Not even China, with over a billion people, could not muster up more murders than the United States in the most recent year Chinese homicide statistics are available.
The United States also has the highest murder rate of any industrialized country, by far.
During the same year of discussion, 2009, the United Kingdom had a grand total of 39 gun murders. Guns are illegal to buy in Britain without special licenses, which allow for sporting use only. Not surprisingly, the highest homicide rate in Europe belongs to Switzerland – a country that mandates an automatic, military-issue rifle be in every household.
Predictably, the same can be said in this country. States with tighter laws on gun control have long seen lesser murder rates.
But Connecticut does have tight gun control laws.
Connecticut has a homicide rate below the national average and some of the tightest gun control laws in the nation. It is one of only 20 states with laws in place to protect children against firearms and, now it is home to the deadliest grammar-school shooting in American history.
In America, these mass shootings can happen at any place, at any time.
They don’t just happen in poor neighborhoods, rich neighborhoods or middle class neighborhoods. They don’t just happen in cities or in other states. These mass shootings happen in our movie theaters, our workplaces, our malls, our churches, our elementary schools.
The places we as Americans consider safest have routinely been shattered by the evil intentions of a sick few who seek to add a final exclamation point to their pathetic lives on this planet.
It is always the senselessness of these crimes that leaves our hearts shattered. Time after time, we’re left asking “why?”
The horrible truth of it all is that if we want to be a nation where you can walk into a gun show and buy an AK-47 without providing even a smidgen of identification, we must stop being shocked by the vile acts of violence that now plagues our society.
Since Friday, many Americans have begun lobbying to arm our teachers. That might be an idea worth considering but, as statistics around the world demonstrate; more guns is usually not a successful way to reduce gun violence.
The implementation of a policy requiring an armed police officer at every American school is certainly worth considering but, as recent events in Aurora, Oak Creek, Seattle, Oikos University, Carson City, Tuscon, Manchester, CT and Binghamton, NY demonstrate; public schools are only one of the many venues that these horrific shooting sprees occur.
THEN WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
What is the answer to people like Adam Lanza and Dylan Klebold? What is the answer to people who abuse the freedoms that our government provides to murder our children, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and neighbors?
Americans listen to the same violent music as people in other countries. We play the same violent video games and we watch the same violent movies. What’s the difference then?
There are just more guns in America.
The United States has more guns per-capita than any other country in the world. As of 2010, there are almost 90 guns per 100 people in the U.S.
The next closest nation is Serbia with nearly 58 guns per 100 residents. Iraq comes in at 7th on the list with 34 guns per 100 citizens.
For ten years, Serbia was the home of a brutal civil war which resulted in the first war-crime charges since WWII. Likewise, Iraq has been plunged into armed conflict since the American invasion in 2003.
The United States, however, is not coming out of the depths of civil war or the chaos of a foreign invasion. Instead, we are a stable nation where not much goes wrong…except for the monthly mass shootings.
IS IT AT ALL POSSIBLE?
Is it at all possible that we live in a society where the biggest problem we face is the amount of guns in our communities?
Is it at all possible that the only way to reduce the mind-boggling number of gun-violence victims is to reduce the number of guns on our streets?
Is it at all possible that there is simply no practical use for a high-powered, semi-automatic rifle in conventional society?
Studies show that those who keep a gun in their home for protection are decidedly more likely to use that gun against a family member, either accidentally or intentionally. Regardless of the purpose, the mere presence of a gun anywhere infinitely increases the risk of violence.
Our society has betrayed the trust placed in us by our forefathers. The Second Amendment was written for the sole purpose of being able to quickly mobilize forces in the face of an invading army which, in 1787, was an imminent threat.
Well, that crisis was averted.
The British were routed in 1812 and America hasn’t been invaded since.
The Second Amendment has acted as a shield for those too blind to come to grips with reality for too long. In an age where the single shot musket was a necessary means for survival, the right to bear arms served a practical purpose.
A LOT HAS CHANGED…
A lot has changed since 1787.
The British haven’t returned for two centuries and the vast majority of us don’t need to shoot our dinner in the woods.
Heat-seeking missiles, nuclear bombs, biological weapons and long-range artillery are all very real staples of military arsenals around the world, including right here at home.
With each technological innovation in weaponry, the term “arms” becomes more and more vague.
The National Rifle Association would have you believe that any infringement on the right to bear arms is a violation of our constitutional freedoms as Americans. In truth, the Second Amendment has been infringed upon countless times. For instance, Congress did not think it was blasphemous to pass legislation banning hunters from entering the forest with rocket propelled grenades.
In like manner, Americans can’t exchange their life savings for a heat seeking missile or a nuclear weapon to store in the basement. Why? Because that isn’t what the Second Amendment intended.
The Second Amendment was written for a nation of farmers and hunters when the biggest and baddest gun on the block took twenty seconds to reload every time a round was discharged.
If we truly want to stay sincere to the intentions of our forefathers, no American would be able to own anything more powerful than a single-shot musket or an antiquated pistol.
That, of course, is unlikely to happen.
The gun lobby seems much too powerful in the current political climate of America for substantive change. But, as our country searches for meaning in the purposeless slaughter of 26 innocent souls, and six of Victoria Soto’s little angels, perhaps we can all come together as one to ascribe meaning to the nonsensical crime that occurred on Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut.
If we choose to do nothing in the face of a tragedy that is becoming all too familiar, our guilt as a collective society will only increase with each horrific killing spree.
It is moments like this that decide how a people should be judged.
It is after tragedies like the Sandy Hook Massacre that our most careful reflection occurs.
Over 40% of Americans are gun owners, so statistics suggest that almost half of the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook might have been owners of firearms themselves. Some of those parents, if they exist, might have been opposed to any new gun laws before Friday morning.
All of those parents probably never imagined that their own son or daughter would be murdered out of cold blood in the safest place conceivable.
“NOT USED TO KILL DEER”
For the past 13 years, Tom Mauser has been traveling the country to lobby for tighter gun control laws.
Mauser’s son, Daniel, was 15-years-old when he was shot in the face at point blank range in Columbine High School on April 20th, 1999.
Only days after the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado, the NRA held a rally in nearby Denver and ignored the pleas of victimized families to cancel the event.
Outside the NRA’s Denver rally, Tom Mauser stood by a picture of his slain son and became visibly overcome with grief as he spoke to television cameras and thousands of protesters.
“The time has come,” Mauser said as he fought back tears, “to understand that a Tech Nine, semi automatic, 30-bullet weapon like the one that killed my son is not used to kill deer.”
Since the carnage at Columbine, 13 years has passed and 100,000 Americans have lost their lives to gun murders. And, as unfathomable tragedies like Sandy Hook and add to the statistics of the lost, America still debates what a tech nine is used for and whether weapons like the semi-automatic handgun used to end Victoria Soto’s life should be legal.
Well, it isn’t used to kill deer and no, they shouldn’t be.
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