Season of Peace
Remembering those who've lost loved ones due to America's gun violence epidemic
It’s official: the holidays are here. People are busying themselves with the last few days of Christmas shopping, maybe picking out gifts for Kwanzaa, making plans for the New Year and most importantly getting ready to celebrate life with family, friends and loved ones. But as many in the nation are preparing for this joyous time of celebration, there are people who are grieving the absence of loved ones who should be celebrating with them. The sad reality is that while many will immediately read that and think about the victims and families in the shooting in Newtown, Conn., there have been far too many other lives lost across this country due to gun violence. Not only will the families of Ana Marquez-Green, Noah Pozner, or Victoria Soto of the Sandy Hook shooting be left to fill the void, but so will the families of Heaven Sutton, Lloyd Morgan Jr., Trayvon Martin and many others.
There are some who feel this latest tragedy was somehow different, and while the circumstances in shootings are rarely alike, the truth is the deaths of all those victims are the same. Each one of them shot and killed when they shouldn’t have been. Whether accidental or intentional, the pain and suffering their families feel is the same, and likely to a greater degree during this holiday season. There will be no request of toys or electronics, no unwrapping of gifts with elation; there will be no ringing in of the New Year for any of them. Yes, the details may be different, but the resulting absence is the same.
When people hear stories of a child like Heaven Sutton or Lloyd Morgan Jr. being killed, there’s sadness, but for some, it wasn’t motivation to act. It is almost as if people see gun violence as an unfortunate part of life that working-class urbanites have to contend with. What people are coming to learn is that gun violence isn’t a black or Latino problem, it isn’t an urban problem, and it isn’t a mental health problem.
Gun violence is an American problem.
Among countries with similar economies, the U.S. has the highest rate of gun violence. PolitiFact has calculated that the rate of homicide by a firearm in the U.S. is 15 times the rate of countries like Great Britain, Norway, Australia and Japan. According to Time magazine, we also have the dubious distinction of having the most mass shootings, 15 in total, when ranking the top 25 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years, and that was before Sandy Hook. The only other country with two mentions is Finland.
The Supreme Court has decided that individuals have the right to bear arms. However, in their 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the court stated, “[t]he adjective ‘well regulated’ implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training.” That discipline and training is not being applied, and the cost is human life. Gun lobbyists and proponents will argue that gun violence on the street is the precise reason we need more guns and gun owners. However, we already have the highest rate of gun ownership with 88 guns per 100 people and the result is also that we have higher rates of gun violence than other affluent countries. While that statement may not be a statistical correlation, we have an opportunity to make a change for the better.
Gun violence is a threat to us all. No longer can we go to the movies, to the grocery store, the mall, church, a hospital, school or even just sit peacefully in our homes without there being a possibility, however remote, that someone could decide to pull out a gun and start shooting. Before there is a right to bear arms in this country, there is the right to life granted long before the Constitution or Bill of Rights. That first and inalienable right is being snatched away from too many. While we all search for answers, President Barack Obama has committed his administration to addressing gun violence. Setting a January deadline for recommendations and appointing Vice President Joe Biden to lead the task force, we know that this is now a national priority. Even some pro-gun legislators are recognizing that certain guns don’t belong on streets. No average citizen needs semi-automatic weapons or large-capacity magazines. No mentally unstable person should be able to go to a private gun show and buy a gun without the seller knowing what the person’s mental capacity is.
While many of us celebrate during this season of peace, let us imagine what it would be like if gun violence didn’t exist and make it our new year’s resolution to come together and work on making that a reality.