Suddenly I Don’t Feel So Safe…..

Heartbreaking. Yesterday in Chicago, a fifteen-year-old was shot dead–evidently caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out. Just the week before, she’d been thrilled to participate with her school’s band in the Presidential inauguration. Like the children at Sandy Hook in Newtown, she was an innocent child who had her whole life ahead of her.

As we ate dinner last night, the television news reported on two other shootings. It also covered a portion of the Congressional hearing on the administration’s proposals for background checks and restrictions on the sales of large “magazines” that allow a shooter to rapidly fire multiple shots without reloading–including, poignantly, halting testimony from Gabby Gifford, the Congresswoman shot in the head in Phoenix while meeting with her constituents. The cost of her miraculous survival was on full display–this formerly vibrant woman is now partially blind, able to form words only with great effort, partially paralyzed.

A colleague shared with me an article from Slate, featuring a graphic and an interactive map of all the firearms deaths since Newtown. You can access it here. As of a couple of days ago, the toll stood at 1440. Just since Newtown.

Can we craft laws that will eradicate all this violence? No. Will background checks eliminate the ability of criminals to get their hands on weapons? No. In a country with a toxic gun culture and an estimated 300,000,000 guns, we aren’t going to be able to wave a policy wand and make it all go away. But surely, we can make it incrementally more difficult to kill and maim, to destroy lives and terrorize law-abiding citizens.

The survivalists (one of whom, the news just reported, has killed a school bus driver and abducted a young boy) and the paranoid see every modest measure to protect the public as part of a plot to disarm them. Newtown has had one salutary effect: it has pulled back the covers and given the American public a good look at that worldview, as expressed by Wayne LaPierre and his fellow crackpots at the NRA, and most of us–including responsible gun owners–have been understandably appalled. (Until now, like many other Americans, I had considered the NRA simply another lobbying group, rather than a cult. I was wrong.)

It shouldn’t take another Newtown, or the death of another promising 15-year-old, to shake well-intentioned lawmakers out of their complacency. As for those elected officials whose inaction has been purchased with NRA support, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will no longer vote for a candidate who accepts campaign contributions from that organization.

Just because we can’t wave a magic wand and make everyone safe doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take reasonable measures to reduce the violence and mayhem. And “reasonable measures” do not include arming kindergarten teachers. It’s past time to stop the crazy.


  1. As President Obama so aptly put it; we cannot stop all senseless gun deaths but if we can prevent a small number of them it is worth every effort we make. These politicians and the NRA never consider that banning assault rifles, high count gun clips and background checks on all legal gun purchases my save their wife, daughter, mother, sister, brother, father, son or even themselves. Their eyes and their minds are filled with $ signs, not the blood shed by thousands of innocents daily. The number of deaths since Newtown is appalling and should be an embarrassment to this entire country and a warning to those who fight any form of gun control. I keep wondering why my uncle, Don Davis, hasn’t spoken out or been interviewed – possibly because in years past he lobbied FOR gun control. We are all vulnerable to being in the crosshairs of gun sights every day. So are the politicians and and brainless NRA supporters. Be afraid, be very afraid each time you leave your home; of course we also need to be afraid inside our homes. We are all vulnerable!

  2. I still think they should MAKE the folks in Washington LOOK at the Crime Scene footage and still photos of those children with their heads exploded from the high velocity bullets. They could (and should) do that in closed session. They should be making an informed decision. Those guns and that ammo are ONLY intended to kill humans..quickly. There is NO reason for these type of guns to be out in the general population. Make them SEE what they are allowing. It will probably NOT change but at least they will know the hell they are setting loose on us all.

  3. Houses of worship already aren’t the safest places to be, as horrifying incidents have taken place in and around churches, synagogues, and mosques. Laws will soon be on the books which allow licensed gun owners to ‘tote them guns’ right on into the sanctuary. And they need to do that because…why…? Texas and Oklahoma (and several other states where the gun is every bit as sacred as Mama) will bring new meaning to “starting a riot in church”.

    This whole Second Amendment thing still boils down to comma placement, as with Lynne Truss’ “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”. For 100 years, we understood that the militia, followed by that pesky comma which was intended to clarify things, were the ones to whom the Amendment was referring. Then, someone spotted a way around that explanation, and here we are today.

  4. I failed to mention that former Rep. Gabby Giffords was truly amazing as she spoke to the hearing yesterday! She was indeed! Thanks, Gabby, and others who’ve managed to survive being shot.

  5. You make some excellent points. On one, however, I must disagree. Wayne LaPierre is not a “believer” in the survivalist mindset. In 1999 he stated he supported full background checks. He changed his patter when gun manufacturers began to dump money into his roganization. I do not believe a change of position based on lucre is a conversion to an ideology. The change of tune is mrely an expression of greed. His message is vile, but also superficial. The outcomes—gun deaths—are qualitatvely the same. But it is important to know the history of a spokesperson’s views.

  6. It’s disheartening that on one hand you believe compromise needs to be made on changes, and then you go on a bigoted, stereotypical rant against people who also want to solve the problem, but perhaps have a diferent way of looking at things.

    What we’re dealing with are two distinctly different issues: gun crime in this country and these workplace and school shootings. Of course, there are firearms in common, but the causes, effects, and motives are radically different. Gun crime in our country, if we put a profile to it, is a black male with a criminal history killing another black male with a criminal history, normally with a small or medium caliber low quality handgun. I understand people are scared of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles and everything else, but if we actually want to solve the problem we first have to identify it.

    It’s very brave of you to even mention our toxic gun culture, and just to give you a heads up you may receive a lot of angry mail calling you a racist for being stout enough to point to the generational culture issues in our major cities.

    Part of the problem is the gun control crowd wants to act on zeitgeist-type problems, when the reality is thousands of people are killed in this country every year by a radically different set of circumstances. The solution is to pass more laws, without hiring more people to enforce them, and operate under the assumption they will be judiciously applied. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, I know for a fact that lying on an application for a gun permit in Indiana is a crime, and in Marion County it is NEVER prosecuted. Furthermore, I have witnessed numerous examples of convicted felons somehow slipping through the application process and receiving a permit. Even then when their falsehoods are exposed they aren’t held accountable.

    The gun control folks are long on theory, but extremely short on application. If you would like to vilify the NRA, that’s fine but don’t expect it to solve anything. One man’s noble cause is another’s “special interest group.”

  7. Just a quick note of correction Professor. Gabby Gifford was shot in Tucson about two miles from where I live. Not Phoenix.

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