Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
There are only two sacrosanct figures in American life: Jesus and the handgun. To their adherents, both are acmes of good and righteousness. Yet the latter American deity generates more suicides than homicides, and, of the murders committed by guns, those used in domestic disputes are the run-away kill-stat champions over violence perpetrated by the NRA bogeyman “criminals.”
Many of your more rabid spokespeople for the gun industry cite their “God given” right to carry a firearm under the Constitution. Aside from the obvious critique that the Constitution was the first political social contract not proclaimed by Divine Right, would Jesus own an AK-47 for protection? If so, the likelihood that he, Mary, or his apostles would die not on the cross, but by gun wounds of his own making would go up exponentially.
Every day, someone in this country dies at the end of a gun, not in a “stick-up” but in some domestic dispute gone wrong.
I told you about those undeniable statistics last week.
Two weeks ago, in the wake of the Newtown shooting, I tried to start a “real” discussion about the gun in American life.
In the media we keep having this discussion about assault rifles and magazine clips and rounds per minute in the wake of the Newtown shooting tragedy because killing a bunch of innocent young kids outrages us, but, as I mention in my last t2P piece, most day-to-day American homicides involve one or two rounds issued from a sanctified handgun at oneself, a loved one, a friend, a neighbor.
The National Center on Domestic Violence reported in 2011 that 2,000 homicide victims a year are killed by their “intimate partners.”
Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide drew a blip of attention, but it was hardly unique.
In the absence of FBI data on murder-suicide rates, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) white paper developed tracking of news stories appearing on the Internet in 2011. They found that 12 murder-suicides occur each week in the United States, 89.5% of them committed by men. 69% of those were committed by what the VPC terms “family annihilators.”
55% of the victims of murder suicides were children under the age of 18.
There are also the deaths by fear and senseless rage. The Florida case of George Zimmerman, who pursued and shot Trayvon Martin for being black in the wrong neighborhood, drew national attention, but the day-to-day of racially-related attacks continues. Another Florida man shot and killed a black teen for playing the music in his car too loudly.
So why can’t we have an intelligent discussion about legislation at the state and county level that allows police to stop the majority of gun-related homicides in the United States?
The answer is because the gun lobby and the NRA own most state-houses. The lopsided wins by minority Republicans in Red states has slammed the door shut.
What we need is simple. Legislation to give police officers the ability to remove guns from the hands of people who are temporarily or permanently incapacitated in their ability to control their rage or depression, which are, by and large, the major sources of gun crime in the United States.
Police are called to a home on domestic disputes repeatedly. They are often aware of weapons in the home that can and do get used later if tensions do not deescalate. They can already cite the person making threats for assault. They should also be able to remove the gun from the home, and cache it temporarily until a judge can evaluate the situation, order mandatory counseling, or, in the case of repeat domestic violent offenders, revoke their permit to own a weapon.
Judges should also be able to compel someone who has a mentally-ill family member or person domiciled in their home, or someone with a history of violence, depression, etc. to store their firearms at a shooting range or similar secure location rather than in their home. FBI statistics and a study by the Department of Justice show that the NRA/gun-nut chestnut about keeping the gun for personal safety is a myth.
Violent burglaries happen 26% of the time when someone is home. Of those, 65% of the offenders were known by the person being robbed. The highest rates of these kinds of burglaries were in “homes” where the head of household was aged 12 to 19, usually female, and black. Most can’t afford a gun, and, because of transient living situations, can’t pass the background checks of most states that are geared to cater to the living situations of more white, affluent Americans.
Domestic attacks in suburban white neighborhoods, usually the places where the gun-obsessed live, are incredibly rare.
So, do we program our laws to cater to the paranoia of a few, and the enrichment of the multi-billion dollar handgun industry, or do we find ways to let the police take the gun out of domestic violence situations long enough to make an impact on this most fatal of social diseases?
It is unlikely that Jesus Christ would have owned a handgun, or believed in them. The love and care for our fellow man that he preached dictates that we do more to end the deadly mix of depression, anger and handguns. State legislatures need to address these leading sources of homicide in America.
My shiny two.