Worst of 2016: Rampant Gun Violence in the United States
2016 has finally ended. It will be remembered, and not fondly, for many things — a year we elected a reality TV star as our President, a year in which a lot of popular celebrities left us, a year in which the NFL’s Cleveland Browns won only one game. One thing it will NOT be remembered for, however, is that it was a year filled with the rampant, out-of-control gun violence that has come to plague our nation, because we choose to ignore that fact — desensitized, we simply look the other way. We have trained ourselves to accept gun violence as normal, the so-called ‘price we pay for living in a free society’. Barely a week goes by that we don’t see another mass shooting on the news or hear about it on the radio or read about it on Facebook — a dozen victims down south, 5 or 10 out west, 20 kids up in Connecticut — and then we turn a blind eye to the horror and go on with the rest of our day. Sublime. Oblivious.
Last summer, on June 12, 2016, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida called Pulse was the scene of the single deadliest mass shooting committed by a single gunman in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since the World Trade Center attacks. 49 people were killed and 53 were injured in the attack, many of them members of Orlando’s Latino and LGBT communities. 29-year-old shooter Omar Mateen, who called 911 and pledged his allegiance to ISIS before the attack, was eventually shot and killed in the club by Orlando police after a 3 hour standoff.
It doesn’t matter, the NRA says. We are guaranteed our 2nd Amendment rights by the Constitution of the United States. Bang.
On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring nine others. Two civilians were also wounded. Johnson was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran who was reportedly angry over police shootings of unarmed black men, and stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers. The suspect was killed that night with a bomb attached to a remote control bomb disposal robot.
Guns don’t kill people; people kill people, the gun lobby declares. Bang.
Closer to home, here in Montgomery County, 10 shootings and eight homicides occurred within just two weeks during a string of gun violence in August. Of the eight homicides in the county for the month of August 2016, five happened within the city limits of Dayton.
The horrifying images from dozens of mass shootings have become rote through endless repetition… frightened individuals running and hiding, tears, screams, the smoke, the bodies crumpled on the floor, police in body armor. Make no mistake, this country has a problem with its guns. I am not here to advocate for the disarming of our population, not by a long shot — I am a gun owner myself, and though I am not a member of the National Rifle Association, I do believe in our right to bear arms.
But this. The statistics are sobering indeed. The United States experiences gun violence on a level so far beyond the rest of the developed world, it boggles the mind.Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearms, compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and 10% in the UK. The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 was nearly thirty times the rate in the United Kingdom, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with 0.1.
No one is sure exactly how many guns even exist in the US. The best estimates suggest a third of the population possesses at least one and there are a total of about 300 million guns in private hands. That’s nearly enough for every man, woman and child in the US to have their own weapon. And what or who is responsible for the endless mass shootings? Could it be an epidemic of mental illness, and an inability for people to find affordable mental health services? Do the math: a surplus of available guns + a lack of effective and affordable mental healthcare services = a level of bloodshed in this country that is unseen anywhere else on Earth.
On Friday, January 6th, 2017 (2 days ago as I write these words), in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago shot and killed five people and wounded six others before he was taken into custody. It was later reported he flew from Alaska to Florida with a gun in his checked baggage, and upon landing retrieved the firearm and opened fire on the innocent people standing there.
As of this morning, no motive has been discovered. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Happy New Year, America.