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March 25, 2023

Funny Papers Again Column | America as Hostage: But Who Holds the Gun?

It is 3 a.m., this column will run Feb. 1, one week from this morning. According to statistics from 2020, by that date 868 people in the United States will have died from gun violence. Now that you see where this is heading, you will know that this is not one of my lighter looks at life; one simply cannot keep one’s head ostrich-like in the sand forever. And regarding gun violence, I believe I can unequivocally say that for me the following words are a truism: “What cannot be remedied must be endured.”

Many will question that gun ownership is not an issue that needs a remedy; in this country the ownership of guns is constitutionally guaranteed. Period. One can lose the right of gun ownership, but in comparison to the number of gun owners those cases are rare. Many shooters sometime in their lives exhibited behavior that should have prevented gun possession, but bowing to the overwhelming gun culture in America courts have been lax in leveling restrictions. Often only via a free press pouring through old cases do police and the public become aware of these people. Here are more related numbers with compilation years noted:

It would be expected that gun ownership would be predominately male, but records reveal that of the 32% of the American population that are gun owners, less than half are men (45%), while 19% of women are owners (2020). The efforts over the years to include more women gun owners have been successful with weapons tailored for feminine use; a good example of this is a Daisy air rifle with pink stock and barrel grip for sale in a local hardware store. These numbers show that in the country today there are 120.5 guns per 100 people, so the count of firearms is over 332 million (2021); which is to say we are a country with more guns than citizens. That is a staggering statistic.

As would be expected this increase in gun ownership has led to increased incidents of gun violence and death. An eye-opening fact is that in the United States there have been more gun related deaths since 1968 than in all our wars since 1775; that is a lot of slaughter.

“Step right up and get your gun. We have ‘em in all shapes and sizes, one to fit any citizen. We have a nice little handgun for the young ones in the family, fits small hands nicely and with little recoil. Let your child take this little beauty to school for Show-and-Tell, their teacher will get a bang out of it!”

Granted that is an outrageous set of words, but the facts back it up: 4.6 million kids under 18 years of age live in a house with a gun, over 75% of first and second graders know where the guns are in the home and 34% of those between the ages of 5 and 14 admit to handling a gun without their parent’s knowledge. Over 4.6 million kids under the age 18 live in a household with an unconcealed, unlocked firearm.

Children under 18 years of age with firearms in the home are four times more likely to commit suicide than those without, and in the past decade there has been an 80% increase in youth suicides; 22% by gunshot. In 2020 at least 125 toddlers under 5 years unintentionally shot themselves or shot someone else.

But there is good news concerning gun violence and the young. Of the 7,957 children and teens who are shot annually, a whopping 6,294 of them will survive; simple math shows we only kill 1,663 of our flowering future every year. And these deaths are not limited to the home or the streets; there were 249 school shootings in the U.S. in 2021. We are sacrificing our youth to an archaic constitutional amendment and doing it in the name of democracy.

This is for the ladies: Of surveyed gun owners, 65% claim ownership for “home protection,” yet over 4.5 million women have been threatened with gun violence by an intimate partner, and women are five times more likely to be murdered by a partner who has access to a gun. I suppose some men define home protection in differing ways, but however you define it the ladies are taking far more lead than home invaders.

The argument of concealed weapons laws, which is basically bad guys with guns couldn’t do as much damage if there are more armed good guys to stop them, is prevalent among gun ownership proponents, but if the numbers from Arizona are any indication that argument does not pass muster. In 2019 when that Western state, home to gun totin’ folks since before it was a state, revoked concealed carry permit requirements allowing adults 21 and over to carry a concealed weapon in public, there was an 11% rise in gun injuries and death and 24% higher chance that an individual involved in a violent crime would get shot.

Of all states without concealed carry permit requirements or states that hindered local law enforcement from restricting such permits, there was an increase in gun violence of 15%.

Now up until this morning’s research I would be one to rail against the undeniable lobby power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as the greatest danger to saner gun control legislation. I would have been wrong. And this is where the truism mentioned above comes into play. Only 20% of American gun owners belong to the NRA and that organization has in the past five years greatly decreased its lobbying efforts.

The same report from 2022 states that many polls agreed that an average of 52% of all Americans favor far stricter gun control laws at not only state levels but in Congress. And yet the killing continues. We hold ourselves hostage. What cannot be remedied must be endured.

Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist

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