This past week I fell into the social media vortex or more specifically Facebook’s vortex of death for a few minutes each day. It’s easy to get sucked in since Facebook doesn’t honour my preference to see the most recent posts in my ‘newsfeed,’ instead, they insist on changing my settings on a regular basis to ‘most popular’ or whatever they call it. They seem to think that I want to see people talking about guns and murder in a country that is no longer mine. Waking up daily and reading the stories of the children who died and the children coming together brings me to tears. It was numbing.
The vortex of death and guns is not a place that anyone should stay in for too long. It’s an unhappy place for someone like me since I consider myself an optimist. It’s an unhappy place for anyone. Sure I laughed and smiled this week, my life is good and so much to be thankful for including my daily walks with the princesses – my dogs lift my heart watching them scamper and play. Yet every time I logged onto Facebook and read what they put in my feed, my heart dropped. So, since their algorithm has been shoving it down my throat, I’ve decided to write about this topic and I’m going to first shout it out loud -> People with guns have the capacity to kill people, a lot of people in rapid succession. Guns are lethal weapons. There isn’t any question or doubt about that. Guns were made for the specific purpose to harm, maim, and kill.
We can thank the man behind the rapid-fire technology, the inventor of the Gatling Gun, a precursor to the machine gun – Richard Jordan Gatling – for making it easier to kill people.
Gatling’s intention in his creation purportedly was as a ‘ labour-saving device for warfare‘ that would minimize the number of men needed to fight a war, thereby minimizing the number of men exposed to the horrors. I would like to believe that his focused and narrow vision didn’t give him the sagacity to know or even anticipate how much more torment and horror his invention would cause in the end.
A gun is a weapon that has the capacity to kill people, a lot of people in rapid succession, created to harm, maim and/or kill.
Now that I’ve stated the obvious, I want to dig deeper.
Thinking about gun culture in the US and having grown up there, as I write this, I hear a thunderous commanding voice in my head say something like ‘never to be under the threat of tyranny, blah, blah, blah. That mind game is a direct influence of culture and my identity as an American. Like it or not, guns are embedded in American culture.
Under the 2nd Amendment, citizens (who by the way were only defined as white men at that time) have the right to bear arms. The evolution of the lethal metal killing machine wasn’t taken into account. The real intent was for the militia to be armed to fight outside forces – to never be oppressed. Then in 2008, a court case changed everything – District of Columbia v. Heller. Now the focus was not on defence by the militia but on a citizen’s right to keep handguns in their homes, for their own self-defense. Another court case later expanded this law to include things like stun guns.
Purpose and intent were the underlying principles in the decisions and a recurring theme in this article. There were even suggestions for regulations that included:
Bans on possession of firearms by felons
Bans on possession of firearms by the mentally ill
Bans on carrying firearms in “sensitive places” such as schools and government buildings
Laws restricting the commercial sale of arms
Bans on the concealed carry of firearms
Bans on weapons “not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”
Since this can of worms was opened, there have been several cases with varying opinions and outcomes, putting the general public’s lives at risk and in jeopardy. You can read all about the 2nd Amendment here and here.
Now in exchange for some individual’s rights, the general public or more importantly CHILDREN must now fear for their lives on a daily basis since now in many places people are allowed to carry weapons on their person. Restrictions are lax are don’t exist at all. It seems like in most of the memes and propaganda we’re missing the point –
There are 88.8 guns for every 100 people in the US. With more than 30, 000 fatalities annually the United States has the highest rate of gun-related deaths among industrialized countries.
The topic of guns and gun control is a culturally charged political issue, where supporters of gun control and the opposition can’t seem to find common ground. People’s identities as Americans are wrapped up in this issue particularly because guns are emblems. For some people, they are a symbol of patriotism, or even courage since they are associated with law enforcement and the military – both of which represent the archetype of the protector. For others, they identify with guns as symbols of destruction and a thing that disconnects and divides the community. These identities, these cultural attitudes seem to be in opposition. Oddly enough though there actually is some common ground on the issue.
The first group supports gun control and believes that society is less safe without the right to protect themselves. The second group believes guns should be highly regulated and that society is less safe without regulation.
Despite their beliefs and opposition to one another’s ideas, both groups believe that society is less safe.
Both groups believe that society is less safe, still, no one is going to ‘win’ a debate using that argument since they’re both correct from their own perspectives.
When we identify with a belief so strongly, we can become emotionally attached to the need to be right convincing ourselves that our approach is the only and correct way. It’s been shown that when we hold them so close to our identity that we ignore others arguments even when they are backed up with facts and statistics. Being right at all costs impact others and can cause great suffering amongst families, children, and, their communities at large.
Can we hold our children so close to our hearts that their best interests are enmeshed in our identity?
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~Lao Tzu
Are we an identity of left, right or somewhere in-between?
The Collective and The Children
This really doesn’t need to be an us and them issue. It’s a people issue. You are a person, not a political party. Even if you identify with a party, you are not a slave to a list of positions from a party, you have the right to your opinion. Are you able to transcend your own personal individual beliefs and work towards parity, towards solutions – where the greater good comes first? For me, whenever thinking about these provocative social issues, over and over again the question that comes to my mind is – Are we living in cooperation or competition?
Gun regulation is not entirely about safety, it’s about a society’s values as a collective. What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want to love, nourish and protect our children or do we want to put our children at risk each day? By allowing unregulated weapons in mainstream society are we abusing our children? I believe we are since they are now forced to participate in and be subject to “Safety Drills” and, for what? To prevent them from being killed by violent men.
Erik Ravelo‘s’s series entitled The Untouchables includes a thought-provoking piece that directly addresses the subject of firearms and its impact on children.
He asks us to think about how adults can often threaten the basic dignity of children through various beliefs and institutions. The abuser becomes a cross and the child – the victim is crucified on his back. Both the abuser and the child is untouchable since the children must be protected and be kept from these issues and problems and to the abusers who remain free and unprosecuted.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican)
Freedom or Slaves to Fear
Freedom is essentially a state of mind and freedom doesn’t exist when you become a prisoner of fear. A few hundred years ago, guns may have helped to secure ‘Freedom’ for the citizens of its country. Now, however, the United States is not under direct threat from other nations. It is under threat from its very own citizens. Freedom doesn’t exist for concert goers & moviegoers, school children and their teachers, nor for anyone who puts themselves in the viewfinder of a person wielding rapid-fire weapons. It doesn’t exist for children and adults that attend schools on a regular basis. Freedom is essentially a state of mind and freedom doesn’t exist when you become a prisoner of fear. By allowing all forms of unregulated weapons, and allowing people to carry them freely in public spaces, you dismantle the liberty and freedom of your friends, family, and fellow members of your community. Do you want your children to know what it is like to live in a ‘free’ country?
For stories teach us, that liberty sought out of season, in a corrupt and degenerate age, brought Rome itself to a farther slavery: for liberty hath a sharp and double edge, fit only to be handled by just and virtuous men; to bad and dissolute, it becomes a mischief unwieldy in their own hands: neither is it completely given, but by them who have the happy skill to know what is grievance and unjust to a people, and how to remove it wisely; what good laws are wanting, and how to frame them substantially, thatgood men may enjoy the freedom which they merit, and the bad the curb which they need.
– John Milton, The Prose Works of John Milton, Volume II, Book III. (1847)
It’s probably pretty obvious that I don’t like guns, in fact, they make me uncomfortable. I’ve often thought that guns, the whole idea of them was a turning point for humans that was moving humanity – us – in the wrong direction. But they exist and I can’t change that. The truth is you can tell me over and over and over again that you’re right, that guns don’t need to be highly regulated and I will disagree. Because we are not debating IF individuals can own guns, it’s all about regulation.
The real issue now is regulation, not if you can own a gun.
I live in a country that has some of the most strict gun laws in the world. Even though the majority of men here are white, mass shootings or any shootings aren’t a thing here. Are you wondering why? Here’s why – the police don’t carry guns. People don’t carry guns. Sure some exist, hunters use them. But they aren’t easily accessible, guns are highly regulated. If you want to kill someone you better get creative here. The weapons of choice are the axe and knife. Most of the murders here are committed by people living in rural areas and are more likely to be over disputes, not random acts. I am not condoning murder, just pointing out that it isn’t that easy to inflict mortal wounds upon random strangers here.
There are 88 guns for every 100 people in the US in contrast to several countries where the number is less than 1 gun per 100 people – precisely 0.7 where I live.
It’s not an accident that there are more gun deaths in countries where people own guns
Regulating gun ownership and weapons makes a difference. It’s been proven over and over again with people often citing Australia’s success in the reduction of gun ownership and shooting deaths. There, people from opposing views came together to create an environment that expressed their values as a society. What do you want to express? How do you want to live?
Want to learn more about the impact of gun violence in the United States, check out the videos and links below:
Editor’s note: This dataset originally covered 1982-2012 and has since been expanded through 2018. For full context and analysis on this data, see our Guide to Mass Shootings in America . You can also download this data in CSV, XLS, or TXT formats, or click here for the full Google spreadsheet view.
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Read about the Color of Reality, a perfomance art piece on gun violence and being black in America
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