I don’t know how to write this, other than to climb onto my soapbox and plead to the skies to be heard; to have my thoughts acknowledged and recognised – for once not by the people who visit here (because I’m pretty sure most would be in agreement, and if not, the disagreement would at least be respectful) – but by the people who could be instrumental in changing The Way Things Are. I just need to figure out how to get them to open their hearts to my message…
It’s a point of national pride that England never features in any ‘top’ lists, when it comes to fatal shooting statistics. Whether it’s drive-bys, children accidentally unleashing bullets from weapons which were never intended for play, maybe-criminals shot by gun-toting police officers, actual criminals wreaking havoc, or a kid driven to the brink, venting their hurt in a hail of indiscriminate bullets at school, we just don’t have it here.
In light of the recent Oregon shooting (big news, which occurred whilst I was Stateside (feeling all the more poignant for that)) the Huffington Post UK examined the statistics for gun deaths in the naughties, suggesting that at no point between 2000 and 2011 were there more than 100 recorded gun deaths per year in the UK. Compared to never less than 10,000 per year in the US.
Thing is, it’s rarely just the victim who is impacted. If you take into consideration the family of the person whose life was ended by bullets (shall we say an average of 5 each?) that’s 50,000 people. And their friends (Muricans are exuberant, on the whole, so let’s say an average of 10 each) then we’re up to an easy 150,000. How about their colleagues (though given the stereotype that many gun crimes occur in the ‘bad parts of town’ where unemployment levels may be higher, I’ll go with a conservative guesstimate of an average 4 colleagues each) and just like that we’re looking at the best part of 200,000 people impacted by the loss of someone they know (and may well love) to gun crime each year.
If we’re as committed as we say we are to #BlackLivesMatter and #EveryLifeMatters, then we have to acknowledge that the people of the United States are being devastated by gun deaths, because every loss counts, and every person who grieves, counts.
Every life counts.
And whilst it’s easy to sit smugly on the laurels of English law and preen a little that our little island nation isn’t ravaged by a plague of bullets in the same way because our policy-makers have the good sense not to legislate guns into common usage, it’s far too simplistic to do that. There are reasons for the Second Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Supreme Court rulings thereafter. Reasons which we, still nursing an Empirical hangover and in constant incredulity at the latest
stunts pulled legislation passed by our own government, might find hard to grasp.
So yes, the politics matter, even though on the whole, the regulations in place seem set to preserve life, rather than destroy it. And yes, population size and urban density and the ease with which guns can be procured also count. Maybe even the prevalence of gang warfare and pride in the right to bear arms have their places amongst the arguments which always shoot back and forth in the wake of each new (publicised) shooting.
And it matters that schoolchildren in the US have routine gun drills, just in case. It matters that parents panic when they get a text message, their thoughts flying to the latest school shooting, wondering if it’s happened again, to them. It matters that guns are idolised, glamourised, and sold hard to a population desensitised by the overwhelming number of deaths; that the ability to kill is commonplace, and placed into people’s hands more easily than a driver’s licence.
But those things would pale into insignificance if the politicians, bystanders, parties with vested interests, rent-a-mob crowds, and bandwagon-jumpers could all just stop for a moment and feel.
If they could feel the matter of each one of those lives lost.
If they could feel the shock of suddenness; the anguish of violence; the agony of absence; the despair of a future without…and if they could feel that at a minimum rate of 27.3 times per day.
Things. would. change.
If only every life counted.
If only people could find a way to tap into empathy.
Because in the end, it’s the people who matter.
Whatever the laws of state and nation, it’s people who buy firearms. It’s people who have their own justifications for owning them. People who choose to ensure that the guns they own are kept securely. Or not. People who think that it could never happen to them. Or people who think that they will be able to retain self-control at an emotional flash-point. Or people who just damn well don’t think. Even people who obtain guns with the express purpose of harming others. They’re all people.
Leisure. Security. Protection. Profession. Bravado. People.
Panicking. Raging. Defending. Hunting. Enforcing. People.
Falling. Bleeding. Dying. Dying. Dying. People.
And We the People – not just of the United States, but the world over – need to wake up to the fact that every gun death is one too many, and we need to let ourselves FEEL it. Comparing statistics and feeling smug is unconscionable. Pointing out the bullets in another nation’s eye and ignoring the target in our own, is irresponsible. And trying to take any kind of side in this debate, which puts law, or right, or reason, ahead of people, is indefensible. Because until our neural pathways for empathy are back on track, no change will occur, and We the People, as a whole, will remain divided on the matter; arguing semantics whilst more and more lives are lost.
And that is something to grieve over.
Many thanks to Kerri, of Undiagnosed But Okay, for the suggestion to write into the topic of #GunSense – it matters, and too many have been complacent for too long. I hope that there will soon be a majority of voices who demand, together, to be heard, and that the wheels of change can be put in motion. It’s no small ask, but something has to give, and at the moment whether it’s at a rate of 3ish a week, or nearly 30 a day – too many lives are still being taken.
Join in, at Kerri’s blog, and please share this with the hashtags #GunSense and #1000Speak