This week, I asked my sister-in-law if she would be willing to share a short reflection on gun violence. As you many of you know, nearly four years ago, my own family was impacted by gun violence when my wife's brother was shot and killed. I was not sure if Carol would be ready to write about this - I believe this is her first public reflection - but after showing her a clip of a new documentary on gun violence that I am helping to support and seeing some of the interactions she was having in the aftermath of the Aurora, CO shootings, I went ahead and asked. We all know that any topic pertaining to gun violence is a complex political and social one, but I am grateful that Carol was willing to wade into the conversations with such a thoughtful reflection and challenge. Thank you Carol.
Gun violence is not something that I had really thought about before November 2008. I do not fall into any category that is likely to be affected - I have no gang association, I am well educated, live in what's considered by many to be a swanky suburb, come from a solid family, have never taken an illegal drugs, etc. etc. etc. Yet on a Friday after I held my 3 year old in my arms and kissed my husband goodbye in the driveway as he left to take our kindergartner to school and then head to work, my life was shattered by gun violence. On that day my husband and 2 of his coworkers were murdered by a disgruntled employee in a workplace shooting. The shooter used a weapon that he had legally obtained shortly before he committed this terrible crime. Four families, including 5 young children, were irrevocably changed on that afternoon.
I recently heard some statistics that I think are pretty shocking (Source: Nightline ABC):
- A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.
- Among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.
- According to the Children's Defense Fund, in the 44 years since Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot to death, bullets have ended the lives of more than one million people.
Let me repeat that last one.... More than 1,000,000 people have died from gunshots in the last 44 years in the US. That's 1,000,000 families who have been directly affected! And if every victim knows 10 people, make that 10,000,000 families affected. There are diseases in the US that we consider to be epidemic which have lower death rates than this.
We are a wealthy, privileged nation on many levels. Yet our gun murder rate is 20 times higher than the next 22 countries combined?? 87 percent of all children killed with a gun in the world's 23 wealthiest countries are American children?? That is a crazy out of balance situation. We are killing our own neighbors, coworkers, and our children.
I don't pretend to have any of the answers about how to solve this problem. I believe that it will involve changes on many levels including mental health services and screening, tighter and more consistent regulations for gun licensing, and much tighter controls on ammunition sales. (The shooter in Aurora, CO had 6000 rounds of ammunition - who needs that many to do anything except to commit mass carnage???)
More importantly I believe that we need to teach our children that using a gun is not the way to solve any problem. Never, ever, in a million years would I have bet that I would be living this life. Yet here I am. A statistic because of one person's choice to use a gun to solve a problem. That needs to be not acceptable on any level.
Instead we need to teach our children healthy problem solving skills and conflict resolution. My children have had the privilege of participating in such a program through their school and I'm regularly amazed at the kinds of solutions they can creatively come up with to solve big and small issues. It's possible to change a generation - let's do it!
Gun violence is not an easy problem to solve but there are many valid areas where I believe changes can be made to improve the current statistics. Count me in for the challenge of finding ways to move forward in love with the goal of preventing gun violence. Together I believe we can make a difference.
The ripples from each person impacted can together create a tsunami of love.
How big can you make your ripple?
Again, I want to thank Carol for her words and challenge. Knowing that taking on any aspect of guns and gun usage can be daunting, it is one that many of us feel is worth the flack that will come. I will share more info later, but below is the official trailer from the aforementioned "Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence." Trigger will be coming to NBC and other screenings this Fall, but you can also stay updated by following Trigger on Twitter, liking theTrigger Facebook Page or subscribing to the Trigger Blog.