Save a Child, Give Up a Gun

When I first moved abroad and told Europeans I was from outside of Chicago, the first thing they did was point a finger, pull an imaginary trigger and say, « Bang, bang Al Capone…America so dangerous. »

Thirty years ago the first time my Frenchman and I took a road trip in the USA into the wilderness of Wisconsin, no less, he insisted on carrying a baseball bat in the car. With each new senseless mass murder, our ruthless image as the Wild West grows more prevalent abroad.

I have lived overseas more years than in my homeland, yet remain a proud American. The values we hold so true – freedom, equality, and democracy shaped the person I became. But as tragedy strikes again in the horrific shooting in an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut, and our most innocent victims are massacred, I am filled with questions. As movie goers in an Aurora Colorado theater on opening night of a Batman movie and bystanders in a mall in Oregon are killed by a madman, I question our “liberties”. At what point does the individual right infringe upon the rights of others to live peacefully in society?

Every year just over 30,000 people die in the US from gunshot wounds. Every two years, more US citizens are killed by gunshot wounds than were lost in the entire Vietnam War! When did shopping malls, movie theaters, elementary schools become target ranges?

To someone who lives on the outside looking in, the one fundamental right that remains a part of our constitution, the right to bear arms, no longer makes sense. Fewer guns in circulation equals fewer casualties seems like a no brainer.

As a society, we mandate no smoking in public places, we imprison drug dealers, fine drunk drivers and set limits on products that we know in the wrong hands can be dangerous for individuals health and safety. Yet anyone without a criminal record over the age of 18 can go to the nearest Wal-Mart and purchase hand guns and rifles and order 6000 rounds of ammunition on-line without raising suspicion. More alarming still, gun dealerships out number McDonald’s 9 to 1!

Americans nerves are shot. Reasoning skills may be at an all time low. Minds, even bright, well educated minds like James Holmes, are deranged. We want to add to the mix semi automatic weapons that can shoot rounds of 60 bullets in a minute and that are powerful enough to penetrate 3 bodies at a time.

Tempers flare. Anger escalates. Brains short-circuit.

America-is-violent-graphThe social climate – stagnant economies, high unemployment pressure – is not so different in Europe, yet the homicide rates are much lower abroad except in Switzerland which compares with ours. Switzerland has more homicides per capita than any other European country due to the availability of guns in the home. So much for the image of the pastoral, bucolic mountains valleys. Though Switzerland maintains neutrality, military service remains mandatory. Every man serving must keep a gun in the home by law. Historically, Switzerland wanted to be able to defend itself. In the nuclear age of atomic weapons, that reasoning no longer makes sense for a tiny country bordered by Italy, France, and Germany which would be easily obliterated in seconds.

Swiss logic is as insane as defending American’s Second Amendment, the right to possess a gun in order to form a militia. Militia? You mean gangs.  The right to bear arms made sense when American battled for independence and to conquer the West, but today? Self defense? Hunting? How many bullets does it take to shoot a rabbit?

In Switzerland, a recent gun law to require military weapons to be kept on base (instead of the home) was shot down. Yet the incidence of homicide within homes is growing greater.

Violent films and video games are popular in Europe and gangs and violent crime exist;however, statistically it is a lot less than those seen in America.

Think of the last time you experienced road rage, argued with a spouse or belligerent teenage.

Now imagine the same scene if a weapon was within reach?

Given the intensely competitive, highly charged digital modern society, and the fragility of social structures to prevent human derailment, do these laws really make sense? Stand your own ground. Right to bear arms. Right to concealed weapons.

Today is not the day to question our policy. Today is a day to mourn. To grieve for loss of innocence for a shot into the heart of humanity that rang round the world, for dreams of a nation destroyed in an instant.

But tomorrow America will have to answer some tough questions. Ironically, demanding the right to bear arms will destroy our freedom to circulate freely in society.

Billboards will advertise the next feature attraction …Coming Soon… for consumer safety body scanners (like in airports) used at theaters, concerts, grocery stores, and grade schools.

That image is not reassuring.

If the act of giving up your weapon could bring back the life of an innocent child gunned down at school just days before Christmas, would you be willing to sacrifice your right to bear arms?

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34 Comments

  1. I cannot add anything to your heartfelt post. You are right in every point you make. I had no idea that Switzerland was as insane as the USA. Even 1 of my own family members – true, he is very young and just got out of Afghanistan – says we should arm the teachers and principals! Madness, madness, madness.

    • Oh Lynne, I still teach in a school without walls where students of over a hundred nationalities come together everyday to ponder, discuss, debate, share and negotiate. I would hate to see the day where teachers carry weapons. Hopefully it will never come to that.

  2. Pat, I’m speechless. You have articulated everything I am feeling and haven’t been able to put into words for myself. Only questions. What is the solution? Even if there were tighter gun controls, that doesn’t stop a demented mastermind from gaming the system. Certainly an area to be addressed though. They say the shooter was autistic and spent hours playing violent video games- a whole other discussion on the deleterious effects of all that violence on our children’s minds. Another angle to be addressed. It seems like there’s no quick and easy fix for this problem that keeps escalating out of control. We live in a different world where our freedoms are challenged daily. But I’m with you, today we mourn and feel the deep loss together. I guess I wasn’t as speechless as I thought. Your thought-provoking post is spot on.Thank you for helping me find my words xo

    • Kathy you have raised a valid point…the impact of violent video games which I will address in a future blog. The gun control issue in America is a volatile topic that I hope the lawmakers of the land will reconsider for surely limiting the number of guns in circulation can only be a step in the right direction. May no more innocent victims die in the streets of world’s greatest democracy. Thank you for passing this on.

  3. Pat, I love this,and your last line is haunting. Will share this widely. Thank you.

  4. Kudos to you, Pat for posting this raw truth – a topic that far too many American politicians go out of their way to avoid as it could tarnish their reputations within their constituencies. What more will it take to end this senselessness? Too many crazies + too many guns = innocent victims whose lives are cut far too short. Thank you for the courage to lay it all out there. I too, will be sharing this widely.

  5. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I agree with Kathy, too.

    As a country, we are comfortable regulating anything but guns. You have to sign your life away to buy one box of Sudafed. You have to be licensed to drive a car and carry insurance. You have show identification to buy liquor or get on a plane or enter an office building.

    But when it comes to something that exists only to cause harm or death to living creatures – animal or human – we have succumbed to the insane rhetoric of the NRA. Guns – the more the better – are more important to us than human life. We’ve proven it time and again.

    I’ve been on the wrong end of a handgun and it wasn’t fun (they didn’t fire, thank God). Afterwards, I had absolutely no thought of getting one myself. All it did was firm my resolve to advocate for getting rid of guns.

    If we truly live in a culture where kindergarten teachers should be required to have a gun in the classroom, then that culture is our fault because we have allowed it. And we pay the price every day.

    Europe is looking better to me all the time – except, of course, Switzerland. 😉

    • Vicky – thank you for sharing your powerful testimony. As someone who has been on the wrong end of handgun, your words carry more weight. The fact the you were not compelled to run out and buy a pink pistol after your encounter at gun point speaks volumes to those people who insist they need to carry a gun for protection. I would love to see statics comparing the number of accidental deaths caused by weapons in the home as compared to the number of break ins thwarted by gun slinging civilians.

  6. It’s seemingly always the children who suffer, either from the loss of a parent or themselves victims to the aftermath of guns used for the wrong reasons. It’s senseless! I do think everyone should have the right to protect themselves, but, then, not everyone is worthy of that trust.

    What is the answer? Abolish guns? Stricter gun laws? Whatever it is, something have to be done to prevent another innocent loss of life…too much.

  7. Pat, your piece was so well written. To think of all of those innocent children whose lives were so senselessly taken is just so incredibly sad. That one disturbed individual could have caused such devastation is mind boggling. I don’t understand the mindset of people who advocate for guns. There is nothing good that can come from them.

    • Teri, I have been out of the country too long to make judgment, but surely something can be done to curtail the violence that reigns in my homeland.

  8. As women, as mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters, we are powerful beyond measure. I believe that gun laws will change when women realize this and come together for the common purpose of making our children’s lives safer. I bet if you put a group of mothers together in the oval office for a day, they could come up with a plan.

    • Amen, Karen! Often wonder how different the world would be if women were running it. The gun issue is so emotional…if only people would listen to the voice of reason…which in this case is surely female! Glad to be connected.

  9. Pat, thank you for expressing so well what our beloved nation is beginning to look like to those in other lands. To think that something we’ve taken for granted — the right to bear arms — is being turned into a political football, is crazy, too. This issue should have been resolved before innocent lives were lost. I can understand a hunter wanting to keep a gun. I can’t understand anyone wanting to keep a semi-automatic rifle anywhere in their home! And sadly, this issue also is about mental illness and the deplorable lack of acceptable treatment facilities for such persons. To wait until they do something so despicable that lands them in prison is to wait far too long. All the money we throw at nonsensical problems would do a world of good, were it used to treat people instead. For it’s people who are valuable, not winning.

    • Political football, indeed, Debbie. You have also raised a valuable issue about how as a society we are providing for those who suffering from mental illness and social isolation. Can tragedy be a catalyst for change or will this too become just another horrific statistic in the nation’s record book?

  10. bless you Pat when I heard the news friday I almost became physically sick
    it is incomprehensible how someone could target the innocent for no reason. I sometimes question weather our society is progrssing or regressing.As for changes the lobby system in our goverment will not allow change to occur the NRA and gun rights lobbist will keep change from happening money talks
    I know this is a pessimistic and I would love to be proven wrong, but I don’t think it will happen. I hope you have a blessed christmas . We know there are twenty sevens families in conn. that will not.

    • Yes, Bruce I too felt ill and repulsed. What causes such evil and how can we as a society stop the madness? Surely, a nation as rich, powerful and democratic as ours has the resources and intelligence to amend laws that no longer make sense. Too many innocent lives have been lost. Again.

  11. bless you Pat when I heard the news friday I almost became physically sick
    it is incomprehensible how someone could target the innocent for no reason. I sometimes question weather our society is progrssing or regressing.As for changes the lobby system in our goverment will not allow change to occur the NRA and gun rights lobbist will keep change from happening money talks
    I know this is a pessimistic and I would love to be proven wrong, but I don’t think it will happen. I hope you have a blessed christmas . We know there are twenty sevens families in conn. that will not.

    • Yes, Bruce I too felt ill and repulsed. What causes such evil and how can we as a society stop the madness? Surely, a nation as rich, powerful and democratic as ours has the resources and intelligence to amend laws that no longer make sense. Too many innocent lives have been lost. Again.

  12. One of the most thoughtful, persuasive piece on the right to bear arms that I’ve read.

    In answer to your last question, I’ll play the devil’s advocate. “Don’t ask me to give up my gun(s)or feel guilty because of one disturbed boy’s actions. What he did and my right to bear arms have nothing to do with each other. The anti-gun people/lobby/media are using this horrifying incident to try to take away my right to protect myself and my family.”

    The gun lobby has the most powerful backing in the world – arms dealers, their bankers, politicians, and who knows what other big interests. The slaughter of 20 children and 6 adults has caused an uproar but what happens after it dies down? Will it be the catalyst to abolish the right to bear arms? No. To enforce stricter gun control laws? Maybe some concessions will be made. But as long as powerful interests are involved and people’s paranoia is played on, the right to bear arms may be an issue for a long time to come

  13. Thank you, Pat for such a thoughtful, well written piece. As a former 1st grade teacher I’ve had a difficult time trying to put some thoughts together…you did it for me!!

  14. Thank you, Pat for such a thoughtful, well written piece. As a former 1st grade teacher I’ve had a difficult time trying to put some thoughts together…you did it for me!!

  15. Very sensible article about this subject.

    “Think of the last time you experienced road rage (…) Now imagine the same scene if a weapon was within reach?”

    That is exactly what I am aware of when driving in the US…

  16. Very sensible article about this subject.

    “Think of the last time you experienced road rage (…) Now imagine the same scene if a weapon was within reach?”

    That is exactly what I am aware of when driving in the US…

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