My 11 Year Old Daughter Needs Real Gun Control in Our Society
First of all, let me make one thing very clear from the start. We have a major child safety, public health, and community safety crisis in our country. There were 32,000 deaths in the US in 2011 from gun violence. That means that each day nearly 100 fellow community members are senselessly gunned down. When you put your child to sleep tonight- know that there are 8 children that died just today in the US from gun violence. We are far and away the most gun violent advanced industrialized country in the world and it is not even close.
Part of our role here at CYFS is to advocate for, protect, and support children and families and communities. We have multiple behavioral health, prevention, diversion, mental health, recovery, court services, and neighborhood strengthening programs that assist youth, adults, and families in all of our communities. We are adding our voice to this critical issue. We ask that you do the same.
Like all of us, I was deeply saddened by the most recent mass shooting killing of 26 innocent victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Unfortunately, I was not shocked which is possibly even more tragic. This is now commonplace in our culture. There have been 62 mass killing shootings in the US since 1982. There have been 25 of these mass executions since 2006. They are on the rise in number and severity. The list goes on and the public uproar ebbs and flows after each one; Columbine, Northern Illinois, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, and now Sandy Hook. See the deadly timeline here.
The media, politicians, and public interest groups all proclaim shock and grief and the need to make changes after each shooting spree which takes the life of countless innocent victims. Sanctimonious speeches are made; wreathes, candles, and teddy bears are laid at murder sites and grave sites; talking heads pontificate, and countless editorials and blogs are written. Yet nothing is ever done.
We now count the days until the next mass murder shooting.
How many will there be in 2013? Who is to blame? Violent popular Hollywood mass media? Video games? The NRA? Our longstanding love affair with war? Our under resourced mental health system? Lobbyist controlled politicians at every level? Bad parenting? Our dogmatic literal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment enacted over 200 years ago?
Well, I would say possibly all of the above, but ultimately all of us. Yes, you and me. We can blame our elected governmental leaders for not enacting better screening, restrictions, tracking, and regulations, but we elect them. We can blame violent popular media- but we continue to buy it and allow our kids to watch it or listen to it at an early age. We can blame our lack of mental health resources, but we continue to allow states and federal government to drain and eliminate resources for children and families. (Illinois alone has cut $187 million in mental health funds in last three years).
At the risk of being treasonous, I would state that the 2nd Amendment is no more a blank slate allowing unfettered possession of any type of firearm weapon by anyone; any more than our 1st Amendment Free Speech rights allows us to say anything to anyone anywhere. People are not allowed to park F-16’s in their backyard, or throw a Surface to Air missile in the back of the pickup for a fun night out on the town.
We need to get a real gun control policy in our society and we need it now. This is insane. And we need to quit blaming others. Demand change and demand it now and it starts with each of us. As a parent, neighbor, friend, community member, and citizen. This is the most advanced civilized society in history yet we have a culture of unthinkable violence that we have allowed to evolve which is truly shameful and a threat to our well-being.
For my 11 year old daughter I just want two basic things:
- Her to grow up safe. We all deserve this for our children and our families and our communities.
- For her to no longer live in a culture of accepted violence. We can do better than this.
What can we do now?
- Strictly ban all military assault and automatic large capacity weapons in existence. Period. End of discussion. No brainer. Before you label me as some left wing, politically correct zealot- let it be known I grew up in a house with antlers on the wall. I ate deer, squirrels, rabbits and other assorted game at the dinner table. Although I ended up preferring shooting baskets to shooting critters- I saw my dad’s hunting activity as benign recreation for him and his lawful right. My dad, a WWII vet, never entered the woods to hunt with an automatic large capacity assault rifle, however. It was sport. He also kept a handgun in the house for protection – again his lawful right. There is no legitimate reason, however, for a regular citizen to have these military style assault guns. They are for the military and law enforcement. Australia banned them and it worked (even though there are constant attempts to discredit the results). The 1994 US partial assault weapons ban which was largely ineffectual and rife with loopholes and exceptions which did not address the existing stockpile of over 300 million guns in our country, was shamefully allowed to expire and not replaced in 2004.Keep it simple this time- just get rid of all the large capacity assault weapons. The New York Times has referred to Australia’s gun laws as a “road map” for the US, saying that “in the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings – but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect.” We can’t go 14 months without a massacre here. It is time for change. A 2012 John Hopkins University study concludes that banning such weapons would have a meaningful impact and that easy access to firearms with large capacity magazines facilitates higher casualties in mass shootings.We have over 30,000 total gun deaths each year. By comparison we had 50,000 deaths in Viet Nam over a 20 year period and we are still scarred and healing from that experience. Somehow, though, 30,000 gun deaths a year of our own making is not a crisis? If we were in a senseless war where we were losing 30,000 of our citizens each year, we would demand immediate action to stop it.News flash- we do have senseless daily and deadly trauma right here in our own US communities. Let’s at least start with banning the military grade automatic assault weapons. No real hunter or sportsman uses one.
- Require universal background checks and better monitoring processes for the purchase of any guns from all public or private sellers. The NRA claims that guns do not kill people- people kill people. Fair enough, kind of (see number 1). Let’s do better screening and not make it so easy for just anyone to walk into Wal-Mart, or a gun show, or go online and buy enough ammo and weapons to wage a small war. Right now we do not require background checks for sales from private or online sellers. Surprised? 40% of gun sales are private and unregulated. 74% of NRA members actually support universal background checks. We all pretty much agree on this one.
- Provide better funding and resources for mental health and family support in our communities. While I could comment extensively about the erosion of our public health and behavioral health safety net – suffice to say we have to do a better job of taking care of each other. This means an honest evaluation of our priorities. The street, homeless shelters, and prisons are not the depository for those needing mental health treatment. We have a public health and well-being crisis. Proactive evidence based mental health treatment for children and adults has to be more accessible and available.
Will this stop all of the mass killings and gun violence? No. Will it have an impact? Yes, if done effectively without lobbyist loopholes and with proper resources it will over time.
What it will also do on a larger scale is start to change our cultural narrative and identity. We have a choice as to what kind of communities and society we want live in and how we want to raise our children. It is time to say enough of the madness. We can stop accepting violence as the norm in our society. It starts with you and me.
Get involved. Get informed. Go to your local neighborhood watch meetings, city council meetings, school board meetings, or PTA meetings. Write to your local newspaper and get involved in local or national advocacy groups such as the Children’s Defense Fund. Contact your lawmakers and demand they take this issue seriously this time. Now.
Here is a good place to start to educate yourself with the Children’s Defense Fund annual, or the John Hopkins Study.
My kid, and your kid, and your neighbor are depending upon you.
We now count the days until the next mass murder shooting. How many will there be in 2013?