Here's a thing on guns!
In 2011, 323 people in America were killed with rifles (assault or otherwise, the FBI doesn't specify) while 1,694 were killed by knives and 728 were beaten to death with fists and feets. Handguns were responsible for 49% of all US murders in 2011. I'm beginning to think we'd be safer if we only had assault rifles. Handguns killed around 6,200 people in the US in 2011.
Gun murders are down 50% in 20 years, another 20% in just the last 8 years, and lower than at any point in the last 40 years.
On the down side, nearly two-thirds of gun-related deaths are suicides. Having a gun in the home significantly raises the suicide risk, because shooting yourself is a lot easier than slitting your wrists. Instant, and no looking back or changing your mind once it's done.
A Harvard study of firearm suicides looked at the 15 states with the most guns (39 million people, 47% gun ownership) Vs the 6 states with the fewest guns (40 million people, 15% gun ownership) - the states with the most guns had 9,749 gun suicides as opposed to 2,606 in the states with the fewest guns.
In total, 14,809 suicides in the states with the most guns and 8,056 suicides in the states with the fewest guns.
To see guns as a problem isn't totally wrong, but it may be short-sighted and a failure to see the bigger picture.
To see assault rifles as a problem is...utterly unfounded.
Not viewing guns as a symptom of a greater problem is as foolish and short-sighted as thinking guns are the entirety of the problem.
The problem is obvious. It's staring us in the face and it afflicts everyone in one way or another. Be it directly or indirectly, you've seen it, faced it, and most likely ignored it completely because it's so very difficult to understand.
Mental illness is the problem. Mental illness is the entirety of the problem. Guns are a symptom of that. So are scars on kids' arms, diaries they leave behind, things they say, things they write, the way they act. Guns are a final symptom of a problem that has been ignored because it's happening right in front of plenty of people who choose to ignore it rather than face the reality that a friend or a loved one is mentally ill. Parents don't want to admit their children are mentally ill. Wives don't want to admit their husbands are mentally ill. We ignore the coworker who seems a little bit "unbalanced" or "off-kilter" or "just not quite himself lately."
It's a lack of humanity that leads to this. There are symptoms before anyone picks up a gun, either to turn it on himself or to harm others. Those symptoms are evident at some point to someone - but no one did anything about it.
You can look at mass shootings in history. Adam Lanza showed symptoms to the people close to him. So did James Holmes. Charles Whitman sought medical help before murdering his wife, mother, and 15 other people while injuring another 32 at the University of Texas in 1966. His own doctor thought nothing of his headaches and violent mood swings. His suicide note requested they examine his brain to see what was wrong with him. They found a tumor compromising a part of the brain involved in emotional regulation.
There's a discussion we should be having, but we aren't. We're busy arguing extremes with opposite extremes.
On one side, you have people who make money off the firearms industry. On the other side, you have people who've been deeply, personally victimized by crimes involving guns. I mean Gabrielle Giffords and the parents of the Newtown children. Clearly, the people who stand to make the money from the guns are not the ones to listen to. Neither are the people who've been directly and permanently scarred by gun violence. Neither of these parties can view the debate objectively. One side has a very large monetary stake while the other side has an even larger emotional stake.
It's right now that the 90% of us in the middle need to stop watching politicians play this game in the senate and the house and eventually the supreme court. We need to hold accountable our senators and congressmen. We need to force them into have the discussion we need to have and address the state of mental health in America.
Not only that, we need to hold accountable every political commentator trying to treat this like sports. If it's somebody on Fox News acting like Jim Rome or somebody on MSNBC acting like Skip Bayless, or some talk radio host putting on a Smith & Wesson hat and perpetuating the problem every day of his life - this is something we can easily impact. We can hold these people accountable. We can call bulls&*t on their bulls&*t and tell them this isn't Around the Horn. This is high-stakes real-life and it even outweighs football.
We can strong-arm them into not treating this like a football game where one team wears red and the other wears blue. It wouldn't be hard to do. Just start asking the question. Instead of picking a side on Facebook, ask the question. Instead of regurgitating what pundits say on TV, ask the question. Call them, write them, tweet them, facebook them. Just ask the question. They'll be forced to answer it because we'll just keep asking us.
This gun control issue is, effectively, like going to the emergency room after being shot. You're bleeding to death. The doctor is concerned your blood pressure is low. It's low because...you're bleeding to death. Rather than stop the bleeding, he gives you something for the blood pressure. You're still going to bleed to death.
I like to think you'd call your doctor out on that one. Someone standing there would. One of the nurses. Your family. An EMT. Someone with some sense.
That's what they're doing to us, and we just nod along because who are we to question our doctor? We're the ones who will bleed to death if we don't ask that question.
You're being lied to and you know it. You're being misled and you know it. Do you want to pick a side to fight on when no one is right, or do you want to stand in the middle, with 90% of your fellow Americans, and steer this ship in the right direction? All you have to do is ask that question. I'm going to. Every chance I get. Anybody who bothers to listen.
This goes for people on either side of the argument. There is a clear problem. It's obvious what it is. If you're pro-gun, your side of things refuses to acknowledge that problem. By doing so, the NRA is doing you a disservice and failing to be basically socially responsible.
If you oppose guns, you can hopefully see they are a symptom of a much larger problem we should deal with before we continue this debate. Failing to address a problem as large as the mental health crisis in America is also a complete lack of basic social responsibility.
Clearly guns are not the whole problem. Susan Smith didn't have a gun. Neither did Andrea Yates. That video of the lady in Texas running over her husband, then backing up over him, then running over him, then repeating that a few more times? She was not driving a gun.
Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, Dennis Rader, even Lizzie Borden - none of them were known for using firearms, but you know them all for brutally murdering people.
The Manson Family used guns, but they preferred to stab, cut, bludgeon, beat, and brutalize people in a far more personally physical manner.
Chris Benoit didn't have a gun. He strangled his wife to death with an electrical cord and killed his son with a wrestling hold before hanging himself with the cables on his Bowflex.
The Unabomber never shot anybody.
No one at the Boston Marathon was shot.
Mental illness will find a way. A gun is a highly effective tool. Modern-day pistols and rifles and shotguns are all real genuine marvels of engineering and design. They're highly functional, incredibly reliable tools. They're an unfortunately easily accessed, easily accessed tool that can be dangerous in any hands. But even without guns, mental illness has always found a way and it always will.
The gun conversation needs to continue. It needs to be a conversation, though. This shouting match will get us nowhere. No one will be happy. We'll all just hate each other a little bit more.
Joining together, though, and addressing mental health in America is the kind of thing that shows us how much we have in common with the people we disagree with. It gets us talking rather than arguing and that's the key to it all.
Start with, "Why aren't we doing anything about this?" "What about mental illness?" "Isn't mental health the real issue we're facing?"
Once those questions can't be ignored, we move on to the next round. "Why do these people feel like outcasts?" "Why are these people so deeply depressed and disconnected?" "How can we help these people?"
Before you know it...progress! Let's just try it and see. I guarantee it won't be any worse than what we've been doing.
I got some of this valuable information and some of these awesome statistics from a couple of fantastic sources you can view for further reading: