This is another week in which I wrote something that will be saved for publishing another day. When I work with clients, sometimes it becomes apparent that there is an emotional issue we need to work through before we can focus on anything else. The term we use for that is clearing. Sometimes the client needs time to be in that moment…to be angry, sad, concerned or even celebratory…before they can focus on next steps toward their goals. So as this week unfolded, I realized I couldn’t just publish what I wrote last weekend. And honestly, it has taken me all week to process my emotions.
Americans are absolutely right to be outraged at the toll of guns. Just since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than all the Americans who died in wars going back to the American Revolution (about 1.45 million vs. 1.4 million). That gun toll includes suicides, murders and accidents, and these days it amounts to 92 bodies a day.
We spend billions of dollars tackling terrorism, which killed 229 Americans worldwide from 2005 through 2014, according to the State Department. In the same 10 years, including suicides, some 310,000 Americans died from guns.
This was a very difficult week for me. What we woke to on Monday was gut wrenching. As the mother of a 17-year-old who attended five music festivals in past 13 months, it was the realization of my fears. Yesterday news broke that the Las Vegas gunman had booked hotel rooms over looking Lollapalooza in Grant Park in Chicago, one of the music festivals my daughter attended this summer. And it was today – October 6 – three years ago that my husband took his life.
In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.
More than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and most of the rest are homicides. Gun enthusiasts scoff at including suicides, saying that without guns people would kill themselves by other means. In many cases, though, that’s not true.
In Great Britain, people used to kill themselves by putting their heads in the oven and asphyxiating themselves with coal gas. This accounted for almost half of British suicides in the late 1950s, but Britain then began switching from coal gas to natural gas, which is much less lethal. Sticking one’s head in the oven was no longer a reliable way to kill oneself — and there was surprisingly little substitution of other methods. Suicide rates dropped, and they stayed at a lower level.
The British didn’t ban ovens, but they made them safer.
This week I spent way too much time reading about gun safety and proposed regulations – and proposed deregulations! My head was spinning with emotions. And while we are shocked and outraged by the news of another mass shooting, it’s the deaths by guns that we don’t talk about that make up the large majority of gun deaths – two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides.
Gun advocates invariably respond: Cars kill as many people as firearms, but we don’t ban cars. No, but automobiles are an excellent example of intelligent regulation that makes lethal products safer.
By my calculations, we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate per 100 million miles driven by more than 95 percent since 1921. This was accomplished through seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, better bumpers, lighted roads, highway guardrails, graduated licenses for young people, crackdowns on drunken driving, and so on. We haven’t eliminated auto deaths, but we have reduced the toll — and we should do the same with guns.
As the debate over guns continued on social media, I couldn’t help but wonder how there could be so much disagreement? Why does a solution to violence have to be political? Isn’t the common ground that no one wants to see anyone die? Can’t we agree that suicide rates are too high? Can’t we start a discussion by simply agreeing that school children and movie and concert goers of all faiths, races, and political affiliations NOT be gunned down? Can we at least agree that something about that is very, very wrong?
While Republicans in Congress resist the most basic steps to curb gun access by violent offenders, the public is much more reasonable. Even among gun owners, 85 percent approve of universal background checks, according to a poll this year.
Likewise, an overwhelming share of gun owners support cracking down on firearms dealers who are careless or lose track of guns. Majorities of gun owners also favor banning people under 21 from having a handgun and requiring that guns be locked up at home.
These are reasonable steps that are, tragically, blocked by the N.R.A. and its allies.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has consistently done a good job of communicating a common sense approach to gun safety that could start an intelligent, productive conversation where liberals and gun enthusiasts could come together. I’m interested in hearing from people who regard themselves as responsible gun owners – hunters, law enforcement officials – what is the answer? Where can we meet to have a policy discussion without the emotion? Do we agree on the basics, that all law-abiding individuals should, at least, have a right to live?
So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels to be me
You Don’t Know How it Feels, Tom Petty 1950-2017, RIP