Ever since Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head and several people were killed while she was rapping with constituents at a shopping mall I've been wondering why there hasn't been any mention of gun control. I wonder the same thing about the killing of Trayvon Martin.
I thought maybe I was missing some under-the-radar political action in the name of stopping gun violence in this country so I went online to see who was doing what to stop the madness. The answer is no one. There were no postings dated beyond the 1990s other than a few statistics. That silence and the absence of calls for gun control legislation speak volumes, mainly about the NRA and its powerful lobby, which might as well be pointing a pistol straight in the face of every legislator in the country.
Here are some startling statistics I found: Between 2000 and 2010 there were a total of 147 deaths from school shootings in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control Safe USA website on youth violence, the average number of school-associated violent events with multiple victims increased from one event per school year in 1992 to five events per year six years later. Between 1992 and 2001, shooting was the leading cause of violent deaths in schools; in 2001, 17 percent of high school students carried a weapon to school, including guns, in venues where research on the issue was underway.
Just since 2011, thirteen shooting deaths have occurred in schools in seven states. One of these deaths was a suicide and one shooting was committed by an adult; the other 11 were kids shooting other kids.
Clearly gun violence is at epidemic levels in the United States. It claims over 30,000 lives a year and for every person who dies from a gunshot wound, two others are wounded, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And still, "gun deaths and injuries in the U.S. usually occur quietly, without national press coverage, every day."
The shootings at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech, which left 15 and 32 people dead respectively, did not go unnoticed. Nor did the tragic killing of Amish school girls some years ago, although fewer people remember the women who were gunned down in an aerobics class in 2009. And yet, some states want to legalize carrying concealed weapons, even in schools. Where is reason in the face of such insanity?
Not all gun violence is carried out by kids in schools, of course, and we are not the only country with gun-related tragedies. The recent school shooting in France was the act of an anti-semitic adult just as the horror of the camp shootings in Norway was perpetrated for political reasons. But as the killing of an innocent young African-American man named Trayvon Martin reveals, there is an urgent need to curtail gun ownership and use in this country.
How likely is that to happen in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions? In 2008, for example, in District of Columbia vs. Heller, the Court struck down a DC law banning individuals from having handguns. Two years later, in a similar ruling, the largely conservative Court overturned a lower court decision in McDonald vs. Chicago which had banned handguns in the home for self-defense.
And how likely is gun control legislation in the face of the NRA which states on its website that "the NRA's national campaign is designed to get America to pull the trigger on registering to vote"? What do you do to defeat a massive , well-funded organization that prides itself on bumper stickers reading "If the First Amendment doesn't work, the Second Amendment will"?
Nevermind that the Second Amendment, ratified in 1791 when life was entirely different in a new America than it is now, states only that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (italics mine).
The last truly significant federal gun law, passed in 1994, was the Assault Weapons Ban. A subsequent bill designed to subject handguns to the same restrictions as machine guns died in Congress. Now attempts to close the so-called Gun Show Loophole languish. There is no pending gun legislation in the present 112th Congress.
How many more shootings -- at schools, shopping malls, camps, gyms, neighborhoods -- will it take before we come to our senses? When do our representatives in Congress tell the NRA enough is enough, and mean it? When do we stop talking about Trayvon's tragedy and Gabby Giffords' courage and start showing some of our own?