If you're new to the gun-violence prevention (GVP) movement, and wade into the social-media environment brandishing the hashtag #gunsense, you might be overwhelmed at the intensity of the disagreements.
Gun-violence in America is a big issue now, although you wouldn't know it by looking at our elected officials in Congress. They won't talk about it—it's poison to their electoral health; it drains their coffers. So Congress has punted.
It's up to the rest of us to address this issue.
I became aware of the movement through a long-term interest in nonviolence, but an Arkansas bill, introduced in 2013, to put guns on our college campuses, brought me into the political fray.
I've been here for two years; so I'm a neophyte. But I've learned a few things during those two years that I wanted to pass on to those who are just getting started. When I become discouraged—which happens regularly—I remember three facts, and these three facts alone have always reminded me why this movement is so important. And why it's worth our time to continue, even when we feel dispirited.
- Of the 32 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with per capita annual income higher than $15,000, the U.S. has 30% of the population but 90% of the firearm homicides (source).
- Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.
- Women are 16 times more likely in America to be killed with a firearm by a male acquaintance than by a male stranger (source).
America has a problem with violence. We are also charitable, democratic (loosely and plutocratically defined), inventive, dynamic, engaged, diverse.
But we are also a violent people. And the roots of this violence are not clearly understood.
But we know this: not only are we killing each other at a rate higher than other countries in our peer group, but we are also killing women and children at an accelerated rate.
We're mowing them down, in fact.
First, this is inexcusable. Second, it is a national embarrassment. And third, we can solve the problem and move gradually toward a less violent culture (it is already happening in certain areas of American life, and much heroic work is being done across the spectrum of American social justice).
So the next time you are confronted with that tired and worn-out maze of statistical arguments that would have you believe that swimming-pool drownings (#poolsense), or suicide by hanging (#ropesense), or medical malpractice (#doctorsense) are the real problems, remember these numbers: 30/90, 17, 16.
And this sentence: we live in a country that claims 30% of the OECD's population, 90% of its gun fatalities, and in a country where our young people are 17 times more likely to die by firearms than in other developed nations, and where women are 16 times more likely to die at the hands of men they know than at the hands of men they don't know.
We say this to ourselves, and then we get back to work.