I hope both my friend and foes will forgive me, but I can’t let the recent shootings here in Denver pass without comment, so I’m going to be unusually serious for a moment.
In case you haven’t heard yet — I can’t imagine that’s possible — a crazy gunman who styled himself after The Joker in Batman used an Ak-47 assault rifle to kill 12 people and injure 58 others at a midnight showing of the new Dark Knight movie. It’s one of the worst shootings in U.S. history, and a scant, unlucky 13 years since the Columbine shooting spree here left 13 people dead.
I know many people disagree with me, but I believe America has a serious gun problem. A problem so serious, that I’m going to argue we’re at civil war.
I also know that many champions of the 2nd Amendment feel the solution to our gun violence is to liberalize our gun laws, allowing us all to carry weapons for self-defense in case we’re attacked by a nut or the Nazis, or both.
But I don’t want to return our nation to its revolutionary roots, or even to the legal free-for-all represented by the Wild, Wild West. I don’t want to live in Dodge City and risk re-enacting the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral every time I go to the movies.
Here’s why I believe we have a problem, and what I believe we need to do about it:
The U.S. has the highest rate of private gun ownership in the world, according to GunPolicy.org. It’s estimated we now own roughly 270-300 million guns, nearly one for every man, woman and child.
We bought more than 14 million guns in 2009, more guns than are carried by the active armies of the top 21 countries in the world combined, according to FBI stats quoted in Ammoland Gun News. The magazine estimated we also bought billions of rounds of ammo to load those guns. Americans buy about 56 percent of the guns made worldwide every year, and own roughly half of the world’s private arsenal of 650 million guns and more weapons than the 225 million guns held by law enforcement and military forces, according to a 2007 report by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.
America has the highest rate of gun-related injuries in the world among developed nations, according the 2002 academic study “Gun Violence: The Real Cost.” There were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
America also has the highest rate of gun-related deaths among its peers in the industrialized world, according to an academic review by the National Academy of Science. Our rate of gun-related deaths is eight times higher than it is in countries that are economically and politically similar.
About 9,000 people were murdered with guns here last year, according to the FBI. Our overall firearm-related death rate is the world’s 12th highest, just behind Mexico’s — home of the infamously brutal drug wars — and countries like South Africa, Columbia and El Salvador, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
But stats aren’t the issue here.
I’m just sick and tired of living in a country where people can’t go to school or a movie or work without worrying whether they’re going to get mowed down or blown up by some gun-crazed nut, frequently a religious or political fundamentalist/conservative of one sort or another. It’s frightening and depressing, and on an emotional level I feel like we’re out of control, especially if more and more ordinary citizens are going to start packing heat when they’re at the mall.
America has a serious gun problem. Our love of guns is irrational, and our fear of government oppression or a Japanese, Russian or Nazi invasion is even more irrational given the size and power of our military force, which is unparalleled.
Look at the issue from a global perspective: Some 7,500 people have died in battles so far this year in Syria, leading the United Nations to declare that it’s engaged in a civil war. But we murdered 10,000 of our own, and shot tens of thousands more.
As far as I’m concerned, we’re also at civil war.
And as far as I’m concerned, it isn’t reasonable for everybody to carry a sidearm to keep the violence in check. Cowboys and settlers tried that more than 100 years ago and abandoned the idea because it led to lawlessness and frontier justice, which wasn’t justice at all, just wanton, destabilizing violence. And nobody will ever convince me that any civilian needs to own an AK-47 assault rifle, a 100-round magazine clip, and 6,000 rounds of ammo. That’s insane, as recent events surely demonstrate.
So I don’t know about anybody else, but I don’t want to live like the Hatfields and McCoys.
Those heady days of America’s youth are gone, thankfully, and it’s time for us take the next step in our maturation as a nation. The only reasonable solution to our problem is to repeal or radically re-write the 2nd Amendment, make guns and ammo much harder to get, and implement the strictest-possible gun controls. They work in Europe, and they’ll work here.
That’s what I believe. And if you don’t like it, you’ll have to pry my smoking, hot pen from my dead, cold fingers to stop me from saying it. Or writing it, whatever. Stop being so picky.