Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I know it takes a person to kill someone with a gun; that these strange, heavy, metal objects don't take on a life of their own and shoot away, undiscerning of the tragedy that unfolds; that these frightening metal objects are not, in and of themselves, killers. I get that. I really do. But the fact of the matter is that on average 30,000 Americans die every year at the end of a gun, whether by accident or intentionally through homicide or suicide..

Jane Smiley recently wrote a piece that I found particularly moving, and boils down to the very simple fact that guns kill. Gun deaths are by no means the most common deaths in the United States, and fall way below heart diseases, cancers, car accidents. Gun deaths are not even, of course, the only means of homicide or suicide. People are bludgeoned to death with baseball bats and frozen turkeys, poisoned by arsenic or Polonium 210, intentionally run over by cars or flown into buildings, hang themselves, overdose on aspirin, jump off buildings and bridges. But guns are the one thing that have no other purpose than to kill. Ultimately, they are made to kill. We can couch this in terms of self-defense, in terms of an inalienable right to bear arms, and some have even begun to argue that if any of those kids in Norris Hall had been allowed to carry guns around on campus, that maybe fewer people would have died on Monday. And maybe this is true, for Monday. But if more people carry guns, and the temptation is there to act on angry or terrified impulse by drawing those guns, whatever the intention, what about all the other days?

I would feel safer in a society that had no guns at all than one in which everyone carried a gun. I know that neither of these extremes is possible, but when an object exists for the sole purpose of death, how can anyone argue that more of it is better?

"Firearms are the second leading cause of traumatic death related to a consumer product in the United States and are the second most frequent cause of death overall for Americans ages 15 to 24. Since 1960, more than a million Americans have died in firearm suicides, homicides, and unintentional injuries. In 2003 alone, 30,136 Americans died by gunfire: 16,907 in firearm suicides, 11,920 in firearm homicides, 730 in unintentional shootings, and 232 in firearm deaths of unknown intent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly three times that number are treated in emergency rooms each year for nonfatal firearm injuries."
- Violence Policy Center

No comments: