I’m sure we’ll continue to see and hear more in the coming days about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and that our thoughts will stay with the families and neighbors mourning the 27 victims of our country’s latest mass shooting.
It’s important to remember that this shooting, while it may be especially horrific because of the number of very young victims, is hardly an aberration in the US. I found these pieces especially helpful for getting a picture of gun violence in this country:
Gary Younge, “A day in the death of America”: This 2007 Guardian (UK) article on gun violence in the US tells the story of an ordinary day in this country, and encapsulates the kinds of gun deaths that occur here on a regular basis: a toddler shoots himself accidentally with his father’s gun, a 19-year-old is shot and killed by muggers, a 14-year-old is killed by a bullet while sitting on a friend’s porch — and that’s not even half of the day’s gun death toll.
Cliff Schecter, “Gun owners vs. NRA leadership“: In this Alternet article published days after the Aurora, Colorado shooting, Schecter higlights five key issues on which the majority of National Rifle Association members have different opinions from the organization’s leadership.
Celeste Monforton, “Gun violence is a U.S. public health problem“: Also in the wake of the Aurora shooting, Celeste wrote a post on this blog comparing the US gun-related fatality rate to other countries’ rates, and highlighting public health experts’ perspectives on the issue of gun violence.
Ezra Klein: “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States”: In this Wonkblog post, Klein lays out some facts on US gun violence, including “15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States” and “of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened from 2007 onward.” He also has a great response to the charge that those who write about the problem of gun violence in the wake of mass shootings are inappropriately “politicizing” a tragedy:
When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.
… If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing. If terrorists were detonating bombs in port after port, you can be sure Congress would be working to upgrade the nation’s security measures. If a plague was ripping through communities, public-health officials would be working feverishly to contain it.
Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not. “Too soon,” howl supporters of loose gun laws. But as others have observed, talking about how to stop mass shootings in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings isn’t “too soon.” It’s much too late.
There does seem to be a discussion happening about how to prevent more such tragedies in the future. Whether it leads to meaningful change and succeeds in preventing future mass shootings, or reducing our country’s terrible gun-related fatality rate, remains to be seen.