John Colson: Shall we discuss gun control now?
Hit & Run
We’ve been lucky here in the Roaring Fork River drainage — in fact, throughout Western Colorado — with regard to the deeply tragic and in some ways predictable and preventable rise in mass shootings around the U.S. in recent years.
To be sure, we in this region have had our share of occasional incidents of mayhem and death, often as a consequence of domestic tensions that got out of hand or drug deals gone wrong.
But those have mainly been cases of one-on-one violence, not the one-on-many type that recently devastated the communities of Atlanta and Boulder.
In the wake of those two events — one seemingly aimed at blaming Asian massage parlor employees for the sexual insanity of the alleged shooter, the other for no discernible reason at all, at a King Soopers grocery store miles from the home of the shooter, and involving no known relationships between the alleged shooter and the people who died — we have had the usual outbursts of interest in gun-control regulations aimed at cutting down on the number of guns available to people who have a grudge or a mental health issue.
At the same time, the usual suspects on the side of forestalling any restrictions on gun ownership — the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party, certain gun makers and sellers, etc. — have risen up in outrage at the thought that their right to own guns might be limited, even in rather small ways.
But the facts, it seems to me, are again coming down squarely on the side of gun-control advocates.
For example, a report on National Public Radio last week informed us that there are more than 400 million guns in private hands in this country. That’s more than one gun for every one of the 328 million men, women and children in the U.S.
If you subtract the roughly 74 million U.S. children younger than 18 years from that equation (according to a 10-year-old study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation) the per-capita number of guns creeps upward.
The Pew Research Center estimated in 2017 that, of the total number of private gun owners in this country, 72% of them say they own one or more pistols of one sort or another, 62% say they own one or more rifles and some 54% own a shotgun.
That’s an awful lot of guns, and given the precarious nature of our present national grip on mental health, political extremism and generalized anguish and anger, it may not be all that surprising that the U.S. reports among the highest rate of gun related deaths among the various countries around the world.
According to World Population Review, a California based survey and numbers-crunching organization, nations in the Western Hemisphere — Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia and Guatemala — were home to more than half of the 250,000 gun-related deaths in 2016.
The Inter-American Development bank listed the causes of those deaths in Latin America as economic deprivation, residential instability, family disruption, absence from school and alcohol consumption — which sound an awful lot like the current conditions experienced by large swaths of the U.S. population today.
Given the number of guns in private hands in the U.S., and the destabilizing effects mentioned above, we probably should not be surprised by the rising number of gun-related deaths every year in this country.
And, since human foibles are susceptible to human solutions, it seems to me that the call for greater control of gun ownership is a quite reasonable reaction to this growing dilemma.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not someone unreasonably afraid of guns, or the violence that often results from the presence of guns in a given situation.
In fact, I have been familiar with and around guns since childhood. My dad was an Army veteran of World War II, a member of the Army Reserves for most of his life following the war and was raised on a farm in Indiana — guns were a significant part of his life, and he passed that familiarity on to me.
So, as an owner of guns, I cannot be said to fear them or to think they are inherently evil in and of themselves.
But I do know for certain that, among some sub-sections of our national population, resorting to a gun to solve problems is a pretty common move.
Which brings me to the ongoing increase in mass-shootings around this country.
It seems to me that, at the very least, we have far too many rapid-fire rifles in the hands of people who have learned, through video games, movies and other influences that the use of a gun is as normal as breathing and an acceptable tool in problem-solving.
And unfortunately, that same regime of influences has desensitized too many, leaving them apparently unable to differentiate between cartoon death and real death, speaking in admittedly simplistic terms.
To counter this trend, which I acknowledge is not all that scientific but based on observations and common sense, I add my voice to the chorus of those who feel we need to do something to control the prevalence of guns in our society if only to cut down on the deaths involved.
Other countries have done it — the World Population Review listed Japan, the UK, Norway and Australia as leaders along these lines — resulting in far lower gun-related death tolls than our own, and it seems to me that we need to learn from our planetary neighbors about how to curb our own worst instincts.
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