For the first time all year, Americans have not woken up to a fresh instance of gun violence. Mark it in your calendars, today is the first day of 2013 in which no one has been shot to death (Update: Spoke too soon, folks. Around 12:35 today, the call went out that the U.S. Capitol is in lockdown and an officer has been injured after reports of shots fired). In what seems to be a growing trend (but what statistically is not), news outlets have had ample opportunity in 2013 to cover the tragic aftermath of criminal shootings.
In October alone, we've already had 39 reported deaths from gun-related crimes. Considering that we're only on the third day of the month, October isn't looking so hot.
Whether you're pro gun control or you believe it's every American's right to bear arms, those numbers are pretty universally appalling. And, it would seem that most people agree, because even in the midst of a crumbling government packed with jerks, gun violence is still a hot button issue.
So, with the country actively taking a lot of different, wildly varying stances on the issue, we thought it was high time to look at some of things people are doing on a local level in an effort to make some sense of this monumentally divisive topic.
Ok, before we proceed, a disclaimer: the intent of this article is not to condemn or condone a stance on gun control. Both sides have lots of studies that claim to have definitive proof that gun control will either curb or enable violence. Most of these studies are dumb and poorly thought out. Remember when tobacco companies claimed to have definitive proof that cigarettes were the best thing since sliced bread? We're just saying, stats can say anything a skilled mathematician wants them to say.
So, there's no definitive proof that gun control would work, just like there's no definitive proof that issuing guns to every American would stop gun violence. Statistics are not the answer to gun violence. Conversation is the answer to gun violence.
Regardless of your personal stance on gun control, most people can agree that America has a gun violence problem. What we can't agree on is whose mess it is to clean up.
Here's the easy answer: it's everyone's mess.
In a new article from the Washington Post, one pastor, Henry G. Brinton, calls on Christians to step reshape their ideas on gun violence, to create "a new consensus on the proper place of firearms in our society." While Brinton does seem believe in the right to keep and bear arms, he claims that it is our responsibility to double our efforts to keep guns out of the hands of children and the mentally infirm. Whether you're religious or not, that's a hard stance to disagree with.
A panel of experts held in Oklahoma last night echoed this sentiment, calling gun violence "a public health issue" and asking citizens and the religious community to speak out against the gun culture in America. An emergency room physician on the panel claimed that "guns kill more American children than cancer." Given that there have already been 155 children killed this year as a result of gun violence, this statistic doesn't seem too far from the truth. And more education is never a bad thing.
A meeting held Wednesday night in Springfield, Massachusetts - a town that has seen 3 shooting-related deaths in the last 2 weeks - called for people on a local level to reach out to their community to mentor children and educate the public on ways to avoid further acts of violence. They specifically called for educating potentially at risk teens on ways to improve their situation without picking up a gun. Again, that's a hard one to take issue with. No one can disagree with letting underprivileged youth know there's a big, open world beyond their neighborhood.
These are just three examples of communities speaking out against the rising tide of violence being reported on in America. While the specifics of their plans may differ, their motivation and their general outlook is the same. The goal is to stop violence, not to take the guns out of our hands.
These communities are out to increase knowledge on the dangers of guns, to help the American public take this issue seriously and see it from a personal perspective. It's sometimes easy to forget that real people are motivating those statistics in the first few paragraphs. Thirty-four isn't just a number; those are actual bodies sitting in a morgue right now.
While we work to curb the violence, a growing concern among many is America's short attention span. The more inundated the public is with tales of gun violence and the urgent pleas of citizens that something must be done, the more likely the average person is to just get bored with the whole topic.
We sincerely hope that's not the case, but only time will tell.