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How Do We Prevent The Next Trayvon Martin Tragedy? Gun Control

Guns Kill Thousands of Innocent Victims Each Year. It is time to Put A Stop To These Senseless Deaths.

I wouldn’t call it an obsession exactly, but the killing of Trayvon Martin has occupied much of my attention lately.  Perhaps it is the senseless waste of a young life, or the fact that yet another parent has needlessly lost their beloved child, or the incontrovertible racist undertones, or the role unbidden fear played in his death (or all of the above) that has nurtured my mania. But while I have spent an inordinate amount of time reading news articles and watching one too many news videos on the case, not once have I confronted a meaningful discussion about gun control. 

Let’s be clear, it is highly likely Trayvon Martin would be alive today if George Zimmerman did not possess a handgun. Think about it. Two individuals come upon each other in the night. It’s dark and drizzling. One is shrouded by the hood of his sweat shirt, the other is hyped up by his role as community policer. They each have their own long list of anxieties and fears which eventually leads them to a confrontation. Without a gun, it’s a shouting match or maybe even a scuffle. With a gun, we know the ending.

The equation is simple: no gun, no death. 

Let’s do a little more math while we are at it. The Children’s Defense Fund released a report last week (to little fanfare, I might add) noting 2008 and 2009 studies which revealed that in the United States:

  • One child died every three hours due to guns (5,740 deaths to be exact);
  • One child was injured every 31 minutes due to guns (34,387 children injured to be exact);
  • The leading cause of death amongst male black teenagers was due to guns;
  • The likelihood of a black male teenager being killed by a gun was 8x higher than for white teenaged males;
  • And, black teens were 25x more likely to be injured (or killed) by a gun during an assault than their white peers.

Guns play a vicious role in the lives of all children, but they are particularly noxious for black children. It makes sense, and is necessary, that we are discussing the role of racism in Trayvon’s death. But don’t the statistics above call us to ask at all levels what can be done to avoid these tragedies? I know the right to bear arms is built into our constitution, but at what cost? Does supporting that “inalienable right” justify yet another senseless death? 

As it stands, nearly 45% of American households own firearms, that’s 4.3x higher than Italy, 10x higher than Greece, and 30x higher than Norway (where, by the way, the country has repudiated gun ownership even despite the horror of last summer’s murderous rampage.  Of those American households harboring guns, 67% of the them said they do so for security purposes. Really?  Seems to me these are just accidents waiting to happen.

I remember a neighbor of mine telling me about a play-date her son had recently been on. He was nine-years-old and had spent the afternoon at a new friend’s house. Turns out much of that afternoon was spent playing with the handgun the kid’s parent’s kept in their nightstand. 

“It never dawned on me to ask the mother, Do you keep guns in your house? And if you do, are they locked up?” my visibly shaken girlfriend said. 

I was shocked. In my “Mayberry” world, no one owns guns. You don’t need to because you know your neighbors and we all watch out for each other. So I decided to take an informal poll of my actual neighbors. Turns out, many more than I imagined do own firearms. Sure some of the guns were hunting riffles, but a surprising number of them were handguns, owned for security. 

In one conversation, a father said the recent break-ins helped him rationalize his decision to have a handgun next to his bed. “I want to be sure I can protect my family,” he said in all earnestness. 

The rash of burglaries is deeply concerning. There’ve been seventy one since January 1st and last year we had a total of 149 in Our Fair City. We haven’t seen numbers like this since 2007. That was just before Police Chief Lynne Johnson made national news when she told her officers racial profiling was justifiable.

Now we have our new police chief, Dennis Burns. He’s working hard to do the sensible thing, reaching out and telling us he needs our help to protect our neighborhoods. He’s reminding us to “Lock It or Lose It” and encouraging us to join our local Neighborhood Watch program. All good ideas, in theory.

It makes sense to lock our houses before we leave and getting to know our neighbors reaps a myriad of benefits including helping to keep a look out for each other. But while paying careful attention to the goings on around our city streets could be immensely helpful, I worry we are laying fertile ground for nurturing the fear that will create the next gun toting George Zimmerman.

We can’t eradicate fear or, much as we might want to, racism, but we can get rid of the weapons of violence that create victims as a result of fear and racism.  So while we sport our hoodies in an effort to demand justice, let’s not cover our eyes to the one solvable issue at hand: guns kill.  We can prevent thousands of needless deaths by removing them from the equation. 

The truth is we have to, because we don’t live in Mayberry anymore.

Volodymyr Butsky April 04, 2012 at 02:44 PM
@1? Me and every gun owner I know have firearms not because we afraid that something will happen to us, but because it is a smart thing to do. It is like a seat belt in a car for us. Me having gun does not impact you in any way period. You do not have ANY logical argument to show that my right to own and carry firearm impacts you in a negative way. As you already know, other states implemented a lot less restrictive laws allowing citizens to carry concealed guns for self protection. CA is keeping its very arbitrary and restrictive gun laws on the books. You may not realize that most of these laws were introduced in CA as measures to keep blacks and other minorities under control (think Black Panthers in 60s). You can read about it here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/sep/5/a-one-sided-look-at-guns/ In a lot of gun restriction laws were passed for pure ideological or racial discrimination reasons so no wonder that these laws never actually achieve officially stated goals of public safety. So how do you feel about supporting it? The problem with anti-gun rights argument is that we already tried almost every measure (short of total disarmament) people like you propose and there is nothing to show for it. NOTHING! This is why anti-gun-rights movement virtually does not exist as a grass roots phenomenon and pro-gun-rights movement does.
Volodymyr Butsky April 04, 2012 at 02:47 PM
@1? (continued) You support arbitrary and restrictive CA gun laws and oppose AZ ones. You stated that you are afraid of regular citizens with guns in AZ. But why? Did anyone ever threaten you with a gun? Is it a common practice in AZ to pull a gun at people if something does not go your way? You know that this simply does not happen... CA, having much more restrictions on my civil rights than almost any other state, did not manage to achieve any positive lead in violent crime rate compared to other states. It is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Why is that? It is simply because gun control laws do not work and what really affects crime rate is not the laws restricting law abiding citizens from carrying guns for protection, but poverty and opportunity to improve life. Also one more thing - majority of violent crimes committed with guns are done by people who by law cannot have guns, but it does not seem to prevent anything. To summarize: there is no any evidence at all that gun control laws produce any measurable effect on violent crime. There is clear positive correlation (it may or may not be causation) between relaxed concealed carry laws and reduction of violent crime. So what do you have to convince me to give up my civil rights and side with you in supporting CA arbitrary and capricious anti-gun laws?
Volodymyr Butsky April 04, 2012 at 03:54 PM
@1?: From what you described I can guess that in both cases a crime was committed. It is not like in AZ it is ok to shoot without really good reason in a middle of a city. Am I right? And you were traumatized by witnessing these crimes personally so now you believe that whole AZ is unsafe but CA is safe because of restrictions on gun rights. Did I capture it right? Here is a reality check: AZ is statistically safer than CA. Really... http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank21.html Despite AZ being poorer than CA and having less natural resources to run their economy they managed to curb violent crimes better than CA. Could it be because they have more respect to peoples' civil rights? Just a thought... In general there is absolutely NO correlation between strict gun laws and violent crime rate. Gun control laws do not have any results to proof their usefulness. You still did not produce any valid argument for supporting restrictions on my civil rights. Without that it seems that your are supporting civil rights restrictions based on your emotions only.
Volodymyr Butsky April 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
@1?: You right to be safe is as valuable, but there is no valid connection between your safety and my right to own a gun. I did not threaten you. Criminals did. And please don't use "statistical freaks" like Loughner to prove your point. For every Loughner there are thousands of cases where guns saved lives (there are so many of them, it is hard to pick one, but here is a sample for you http://thearmedcitizen.com/), but you consistently ignoring them preferring to over analyze freak accidents. So if you disarm law abiding citizens, a lot of these self defense cases would end with victims being killed or worse. You point about "1 is too many" here is misleading and invalid - disarming citizens will produce even more deaths. Other countries like UK or Australia tried an experiment of total disarmament and and their violent crime rate climbed up, not down! What makes you think that it would be different here? Please do not play with numbers I gave to you. These numbers are per 100,000 and not total numbers! So your argument about less people living in AZ simply makes no sense. I hope now you understand what these numbers mean and that my point is valid and yours is not. This discussion seems to be like so many others where anti-gun-rights people consistently ignoring facts and keep pressing their cause despite huge logical problems with their views. But good news is that more and more people can see that and think for themselves. This is why your point of view is loosing.
Volodymyr Butsky April 04, 2012 at 06:23 PM
@1? "Even one freak accident is one to many, human life is too valuable." Agreed. The question is how to prevent it without causing even more deaths. The suggested approach of limiting civil rights does not seem to work or at least so far nobody managed to produce ANY evidence that gun control works. So lets try to find a real solution instead perpetuating failed gun control measures.

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