Guns are who we are
With every act of mass murder or domestic terrorism we ask ourselves, as Americans, what can we do about this? How can we end these needless deaths at the hands of mostly single shooters?
And every time there are the inevitable calls for more gun regulation, better background checks, or improved mental health testing. And equally frequently, we will do nothing to change the American crisis of homicide.
How did we get to this point, where we can identify a problem with guns but accept no solutions at all?
In part, we are here because of history. We are a nation founded in war, war by mostly farmers and shopkeepers fighting for independence. Our Constitution recognizes the intention of keeping an armed civilian militia, embracing the idea of civilian resistance to force by an enemy.
Then too, our history as a nation includes the violence of a civil war that killed as many as 750,000 American men in battle. And World Wars that took so many American lives. After WWII we sent our young men to Vietnam, then Afghanistan and Iraq. We have, in our lifetimes, seen a great deal of violence, and so many deaths of our best and brightest.
And along the way to the latest mass murders that confront our news all too frequently we have complied some daunting facts about guns and violence in America.
In a recent article by Nicholas Kristof and confirmed for accuracy by Politifact, more Americans have been killed by guns since 1968 than in all American wars. It is important to note that the gun deaths numbers include all violent deaths not just homicides. Historically, suicides out number homicides in America almost two to one. But the numbers of gun deaths exceed 1.5 million since 1968, a startling statistic about guns and violence.
Consider another comparison provided by the Centers for Disease Control and others: deaths by terrorism in America over the last decade are 24; deaths over the same period by guns in America are 280,024.
While the numbers tell a story of incredible death by firearm, they do not tell the whole story of America and guns. Yes, we are a violent society, we are also a society where firearms are a foundational ingredient of who we are.
Ours is a culture where most owners of firearms will never do anything more dangerous than a very few leaving a loaded weapon unlocked and inviting a home disaster.
Most gun owners will be responsible, will use their weapons for sport shooting, target shooting and, in a few instances, for self-defense. And most gun owners will keep their weapons safe and secure.
But we should also know this about ourselves: We are not about to take away American guns, register the 300 million plus weapons not in America, or restrict the right to bear arms.
Public polling almost always supports better regulations of guns, at least by Independents and Democrats, while Republicans steadfastly reject better gun regulation. Yet polling aside, there is no impetus strong enough to force legislators to act on gun regulation.
In truth, as a society, we have softly and silently accepted that some innocent people will continue to die by gun violence.
Our presidents will always speak for us with each new tragedy, noting the needless loss of treasured loved ones. We will expect such tribute as the least price we can pay for who we are as a people and how we regret innocents lost.
We will kill them softly.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.