Once I was asked, “What is the most dangerous country I’ve lived in or visited?” The answer should have been obvious considering that there was a military coup in Thailand while I was there, and going off trail in the countrysides of Cambodia where so many landmines still remain was unthinkable during my visit.
And yet, my answer is always the US.
Almost every day, I hear or read about a shooting death(S) somewhere in this country. It’s rare that I can get through a local evening news without seeing a report of shooting death or an incident of gun violence somewhere in the city or in a city nearby. According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control National Center for Injury Prevention & Control) website, there are approximately 37 gun related deaths EVERY DAY in the US, 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries, and most disturbingly, 1,520 of the gun deaths were among people under the age of 18* … CHILDREN!
Sadly, these gun-related deaths and incidences have become just numbers and statistics to us, and most Americans are conditioned to shut them off as they have become merely an abstract image like the latest Hollywood action flick.
As citizens of a developed modern country, we go about our daily lives in a dogmatic comfort of believing that we are somehow immune from the horrific events: wars, genocides, poverty and only-god-knows what else that engulfs the world. We are lead to believe … and so many of us are willing to believe that gun violence and gun-related death are an “urban problem”, something that happens only in “poor neighborhoods” and among gang members.
Of course, the news outlets, the media and Hollywood certainly likes to sell that image, and make us believe that if we enclose ourselves in the bosom of suburban (gated) communities, private schools, and in an homogeneous society, somehow we’d be protected from the realities of life. So, isn’t it ironic that so many of these mass shootings in the last decade, Columbine High School massacre, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the 2011 Tucson shooting, occurred in these so-called safe and idyllic suburban areas.
When an unimaginable tragedy occurs, we as human beings try to make sense of it all. With every incident we wonder “How could this happen?”
Like telling a patient with brain tumor that taking an aspirin will alleviate the pain, the media is all too quick to provide random answers. Blame it on the Neo-Nazi Rock music, the futuristic movies where everyone wears black trench coats, the mentally ill … and the list goes on, while the violence continues.
However, one and ONLY common thread that links all these tragic incidences, including the latest shooting in Aurora, Colorado is GUNS! And that all the perpetrators had (easy) access to obtaining them.
To be honest, I’ve never really had a strong opinion about gun ownership. I was neither for nor against it, and growing up in Texas, I thought that owning a gun was as common as having an A/C, which I also come to realize is not a “common” thing for everyone to own. However, over the years, there have been too many gun-related violence and mass shootings all over this country, and especially in the last decade, it seems that not a month goes by without hearing about a mass shooting somewhere … in some idyllic suburban neighborhood, at a school, in a mall, and now, even at a theater.
No matter how “gated” we think our lives may be, or try to protect our children by censoring every song with explicit lyrics and movies with violent theme, the fact and the ONLY fact that remains is that we … America needs stricter gun control laws to prevent any and all individuals from being able to purchase firearms at their whim.
I’m well aware of the supposed conflict this will impose on the Second Amendment. However, I ask myself as a citizen of this country, “Are we going to just wait to become the next victims of a mass shooting or any gun-related violence for that matter?” And as a mother, I shudder at the thought of the day when I’ll get a phone call that so many mothers of the children in Columbine, Virginia Tech, and yesterday, in Aurora have gotten.
I’ve always known that what makes America great is our desire to grow, to evolve, to become something better than we were. We, as a country, have always welcomed change, and although we make (and have made) our share of mistakes, and time to time, have been on the wrong side of the history, what makes this country great isn’t that we stick to these wrong decisions but that we try fix them and that common sense always seems to prevail.
I hope that common sense WILL prevail in the matter of implementing stricter gun control laws, and I look forward to the day when mass shootings and gun-related violence become a thing of the past like racial segregation.
* “WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports”. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved 2006-11-10.