For those of you who were around to watch the mad old days of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, you’ll remember the famous line,
“And now for something completely different.”
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. It just appealed to me.
People rarely want to see themselves as others see them, but we really need to take a good, hard, look at ourselves as a nation. It’s morally dishonest for us as a nation to be upset by the recent shooting of children in Newtown Connecticut. As a people we have armed ourselves to the teeth and then we sit around complaining that guns have killed. Come on now. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can be aghast at what happens when people use guns to kill civilians, but we can’t fix the problem without taking some form of action. The problem is we can’t agree on action to take and we haven’t the will to make up our collective mind.
As a nation we have been at war for 210 years. We call ourselves a peaceful nation but we (collectively) keep sticking our nose into other people’s problems — meaning that we love to fight wars that take place in someone else’s backyard.
It’s easy to say that it’s politicians that get us into wars, and that “WE” really are the peaceful people we think we are — but we conveniently seem to forget that “WE” were the ones that elected those war mongering politicians into office.
Don’t get me wrong — I love this country. But I don’t love hypocrisy. And there seem to be a lot of levels on which we simply refuse to accept that we have problems that we ourselves have created and we ourselves must fix.
So often when something like the Newtown shooting occurs one hears cries for gun control as if no one has ever considered a ban on guns before. But the truth is that this nation has been talking about gun control for a long time and those who WANT guns outnumber those who don’t.
Gun control is a perennial controversy, the sort of controversial issue that Gallup tracks on an annual basis. So what has been the result of decades of sustained public debate?
“Americans’ support for stricter gun control laws has gradually declined over the last two decades, from 78% when this question was first asked in 1990 to 49% in 2008, and 44% in 2009 and again this year,” Gallup reported in 2010 survey results. Said the organization in 2011:
A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States other than by police and other authorized people. When Gallup first asked Americans this question in 1959, 60% favored banning handguns. But since 1975, the majority of Americans have opposed such a measure, with opposition around 70% in recent years.
In addition, it reported the revealed preference that almost half of Americans own at least one gun.
That number: 26% – surprised me. The conceited american in me wanted to think that number was backwards, that 74% of americans would be in favor of gun control, but the when you actually ask people — lots of people — not just people you know — that conceit doesn’t don’t hold up.
It’s easy to blame the actions of mentally disturbed people on the instrument they use to commit those acts, but the fact remains that people who WANT to do harm, who want to act irresponsibly, who want to hurt others will find a way. What we have not looked at as a nation, and what we are too embarrassed to look at as a nation is the fact that we are the creators of our own living hell.
Look at the statistics about how guns are being used around the country:
Cities with the highest gun related violence related firearm deaths:
Map based on data from Centers for Disease Control [PDF]
Now look at the map of gun related suicides:
And now gun related HOMICIDES:
Notice anything interesting?
It’s interesting to note that the rate of gun deaths is negatively correlated with states that ban assault weapons, require trigger locks, and mandate safe storage requirements for guns. You can find more information about this in a recent The Atlantic article. This is not an argument I’m highly invested in — it’s a societal problem and one person’s opinion can’t change anything. But it’s tiring to hear the popular whine when it’s a problem that can be corrected — but we just don’t have the collective will to take action.
Guns are a big part of how many americans get their identity. We have been sending generation after generation of citizens into war. We train them in the use of weapons, we teach them to kill. We glorify violence in the media, spending countless hours talking about every shooting atrocity. We glorify violence in entertainment, with death and destruction being far more socially acceptable than nudity and sex. The number of battered spouses and children is horrific. But we still think ourselves a “peaceful” nation.
I just wish we could wake up as a country, smell the gun-smoke and say, “We can be better than this.” Until that happens, I think these maps have helped me decide where I want to RV when we get this house sold.