My youngest recently graduated from elementary school. I live in a town in the Boston area called Newton, which is 144 miles away from Newtown in Connecticut. The difference between Newton and Newtown is one letter. I am in a state of shock, grief and rage over the slaughter of innocent children and teachers yesterday. This was preventable.
Gun homicide in the United States far exceeds that of any other country on our planet. It is 30 times the rate of Britain and Australia. The frequency of massacres with automatic weapons is increasing; this past August we were horrified by the killings at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, in July a gunman with automatic weapons opened fire at the Batman premiere in Colorado leaving 12 people dead, in January 2011 there was the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Gifford and others, and in 2007 a murderous rampage at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. The United States has the most lax gun control laws of all developed countries, and as a result incidents of gun related violence and death far exceeds all other countries on Earth. Gun-related homicide is directly related to the loose gun control laws.
The Independent Voter Network reported:
With a gun being the weapon of choice in so many of the homicides in the United States, consider other countries, with stricter gun control laws, and how murders involving firearms there are much lower.
Japan – In Japan, most kinds of guns are illegal, and almost no one owns a gun. Japan is known as one of the strictest gun controlling nations in the world, with only 0,6 firearms per 100 people. In 2006, there were only two homicides caused by guns in Japan. In 2008 there were 11. The country has nearly eliminated murder by firearms.
United Kingdom – The rate of private gun ownership in the United Kingdom is 6,72 firearms per 100 people. In 2009, only 18 people were murdered with a firearm. Within the last 14 years, the year with the highest number of gun caused homicides was 2004, with 52 people killed.
United States – The United States is ranked at No. 1 for civilian gun ownership in comparison with all other industrialized countries. There are approximately 88.8 firearms per 100 people in the U.S. In the past 14 years, the year with the greatest number of homicides caused by a firearm occurred in 2006, when 10,225 people were killed by the use of a gun. Annual firearm suicides within the United States are high as well. In 2005, 17,002 suicides were committed using a firearm.
Apparently the ante keeps needing to be upped, so that we finally initiate appropriate action. It’s exactly the same with climate change. We needed the devastation of Hurricane Sandy to even begin to erode our denial. It reminds me of the ten plagues that had to be visited upon the Egyptians before the Pharoah finally freed the Israelite slaves and allowed Moses to lead them out of Egypt: the Nile turned to blood, then came Frogs, Lice, Flies, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness and finally the Death of the First Born. We have had the BP Oil Spill, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the extinction of myriad species, the melting of the Polar Ice, Drought, Forest Fires, the unprecedented rise in the incidence of Autism, Cancer, and Diabetes, the contamination of our food supply with factory farming and GMOs, and after repeated shootings with automatic weapons, yesterday the slaughter of our little children.
We are at a most unique and perilous juncture in human history. Either we will wake up from our trance and take on these literally life or death issues with the urgency that they demand, or face the tragic consequences of our paralysis. Each and everyone of us must act now in our own ways, speak out and put pressure on our leaders to take immediate steps to more tightly regulate the process of acquiring guns and to save our planet from ecological disaster.
Hillel was a famous rabbi in the first century BCE most known for this aphorism,
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, then who am I?
And if not now, when?”
There is no time to delay any longer.
Hillel is also often quoted as saying:
“Whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Many worlds were destroyed yesterday. I don’t know how these families will go on to find joy and meaning again after the loss of their children and family members. Life will never be the same again for the survivors; it will always be before and after that terrible day.
Jay Bookman, an Atlanta based columnist made the following suggestion,
“It is reasonable to propose that the legal ability to purchase and possess deadly firearms be linked to training and testing on the responsible use of such weapons. That would be a regulation of people, not of guns. Such proposals would nonetheless be fought bitterly by the NRA because they would reduce gun sales, and the NRA is in many ways nothing more than a front for its gun-industry sponsors. Such laws would in no way infringe on constitutional rights as outlined in the Second Amendment and Supreme Court opinions.”
Additionally, it is my opinion that careful assessment of the legitimacy of the perceived need for a weapon and psychological evaluation are reasonable minimum prerequisites.
I pray that this tragedy will finally bring the shift in consciousness that will result in the necessary legislative changes in gun regulation, so that the nightmare in Newtown will at least have contributed to reducing the probability that this will ever happen again.