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Why Americans are killing each other
Instead of thoughts and prayers
Before I begin…
It’s been a dark few days, a month, and a year so far… This was difficult to write. I learned a few things I didn’t know and I am not sure I feel better.
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Has America become a war zone? Why do we keep shooting each other?
In the aftermath of the Uvalde, TX mass shooting, I go down the uncomfortable rabbit hole of trying to untangle a complex, uniquely American phenomenon – mass shootings in a population that has more guns than people.
Some sobering, heartbreaking stats
Today, May 26, 2022, is day 146 of the year, and Uvalde, TX, just became the latest in a string of 214 mass shootings THIS year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. They count as a "mass shooting," any gun violence event that results in 4 or more shot in the same place, dead or injured. In addition, ten of these mass shooting events have been categorized as "mass murder" events. That's two “mass murder” events every month so far.
This is also a far more realistic and sobering statistic than what the FBI puts out every year. Last year, they counted 61 mass shooting events. However, their Active Shooter Incidents Report states that the following are NOT considered as such if the gun incident was
· In self-defense
· Gang violence related
· Drug violence related
· Contained residential or domestic violence disputes
· Controlled/barricade hostage situation
· Crossfire as a byproduct of another crime underway
No wonder the huge discrepancy in numbers between these two sources. It appears that the FBI is trying as hard as it can to minimize the number of active shooter/mass shooting events. Or else, they are saying that people getting shot during a gang-related/drug-related/domestic dispute/hostage situations event don't count as people, or don't count as "active," or perhaps don't count as "incidents." I don't know but it sure looks like a mega contortion to understate gun violence as an issue.
The number of children ages (0-11) killed so far, as per Gun Violence Archive, is up to 142, and 301 injured. Meanwhile, 512 teens (12 – 17) were killed and 1311 injured.
Unlike Ukraine, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the death of our children.
Meanwhile, 335 million of us Americans own a total of 393 million guns! We officially have more guns than people. Only 6.06 million of them are registered! How's this even possible! California is the second state with the most guns, led by Texas. Interestingly, California's gun control laws are some of the most stringent in the country, unlike Texas, which sits on the opposite side of the spectrum.
The US is by far the country with the most guns per capita, 112 guns for every 100 people! The second country down the list is Serbia. It stands at half that rate, 58 per 100 people. Clearly, Americans love guns! For comparison, my native country, Bulgaria, has 6.2 guns per 100 people and zero mass shootings. (Source)
Since the pandemic started in 2020, some 5 million more people have purchased firearms and according to Pew Research (2021), 1-in-4 US adults say they live in a household with a gun. 63% of gun owners have guns for personal protection, while Americans are split over whether stricter gun laws would lead to fewer mass shootings.
More details and lots of questions about the Uvalde, TX shooting
Ramos was a US citizen who legally purchased firearms at 18 before he could buy a beer. Passed a background check, too.
He shot grandma in the face and ran his truck into a ditch by the school a mile away. Then he spent some 20 min roaming around the schoolyard. Before getting into the school through a side door, Ramos got confronted by a guard/school safety officer who did nothing to stop him.
Eventually, law enforcement arrived..
According to law enforcement, they took cover because they heard shots. They called tactical teams looking for reinforcement. Some of them went inside and grabbed their own kids – "evacuating," as they call it during press conferences. Later a clip surfaced from an interview with a sheriff who confirmed that some of the law enforcement onsite went to get their own out while Ramos was barricading himself inside a classroom shooting 19 other kids.
A whole hour passed from the time Ramos got into the classroom to the time "a tactical team" arrived, during which the parents and neighbors near the school shouted at law enforcement positioned outside the school perimeter to get in there and take care of the situation. They didn't.
AP reported first about the apparent unwillingness of law enforcement to jump in and prevent a kid from killing other kids.
Javier Cazares, whose fourth-grade daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside the building.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
"Let's just rush in because the cops aren't doing anything like they are supposed to," he said. "More could have been done."
"They were unprepared," he added.
Here's a report with multiple videos of the situation outside.
Law enforcement defended against accusations of being unprepared and unwilling to get involved by first saying they were shot at and the suspect had a bullet-proof vest, so they were unable to shoot him back down. Later, it came out that the bullet-proof vest was only a tactical vest without plates in it and no one actually shot at them or him. Ramos was able to get into the school and in the classroom without a single shot fired or anyone trying to stop him!!!
Once Ramos was inside, law enforcement reported that he had been "contained." In reality, he held the kids and teachers hostages while barricading himself and proceeded to sleuthed them without interruption.
When the tactical team did arrive, they asked for a key to get into the classroom. Why? I'd think they can get in another way, like breaking down the door or something. But someone had to go get that key. So why didn't law enforcement on the scene for an hour get a key in advance??? Yeah… they didn't.
It takes time to kill 22 people, a lot more time than it should take to apprehend one loser with a gun, should a few officers with more guns and active shooter training actually try to apprehend him.
Now there are calls for a full investigation of the botched response. None of it will restore the lives of the departed or the confidence in law enforcement.
This brings me back to "63% of Americans own guns for self-protection," including those who bought them during the pandemic.
Hate, fear of each other, and mistrust of the government.
On the Right of the gun control debate, we hear that "more guns" is better because an armed society is a polite society. The good guys with guns will threaten the bad guys who know that they are not the only ones carrying…
Perhaps, a more honest argument would be to simply say that guns are part of our culture and constitutional rights. We like owning firepower for various reasons, but mainly for self-defense. We are willing to accept the consequences and the collateral damage this causes. Because it is hard to deny the correlation of so many guns in so many hands and so many dead people from guns.
If we start with an honest position, then we can have an honest conversation and admit that most people, Right and Left, support certain gun control measures, such as universal background checks, closing the loophole on gun show sales, and closing down gun shops that allow straw sales.
More Americans consider gun violence to be a bigger issue than racism, unemployment, economic inequality, and even climate change, according to Pew Research.
In general, responsible gun owners support such measures, and some even call for gun training prior to owning a firearm. These may not be enough but could be a good start. Sadly, if we can't get this much done when the overwhelming majority of the US population supports it, we have a huge politicians/special interest problem on our hands.
And that's another honest conversation we should have. Who are our politicians working for? If they can't get the obviously easy things done, what are they there for? How are they supposed to deal with the really challenging stuff?
Things have gotten so bad that many are now questioning if any of these measures would be effective. Also, the number of people supporting stricter gun laws diminished from 60% to 53% in one pandemic year, while 5 million more people bought guns.
During 2020-2021, we saw many American cities go up in flames during the BLM movement, riots, and looting. We saw laws soften on "petty" crime and perpetrators let free because of COVID. If you didn't see this rant by Bill Maher I posted last week, go watch it now. Also, watch this CBS video of a California jewelry store getting robbed in bright daylight and the employees having to duke it out with the robbers.
People no longer trust the police, the government, or institutions and think their neighbors are out to get them. The uncertainty of the pandemic, fueled by media bias and various political agendas, and conspiracy theories on social media, pin people against each other in every way possible.
At the same time, the police force is largely demoralized. Officers do not want to do their jobs or cannot do their jobs because they are short-staffed, micromanaged by the public, and restricted by laws that tie their hands. They scrape the bottom of the barrel looking for recruits and put less than honorable characters on the street. Like this officer who masturbated in front of the people who called him for help with domestic violence.
IMHO, America is going through a social breakdown. We now live in a pre-apocalyptic cold war with each other. Essential social trust is lost. The level of uncertainty has become intolerable for many—uncertainty breeds insecurity. Insecurity can easily be exploited, causing divisions, tribalism, and hate.
Can you really blame people for wanting to own their own piece of protection?
Meanwhile, the number of guns manufactured in the US has tripled since 2020, and demand persists. But adding so many guns to the current circumstances is a recipe for a deadly souse.
The issue for me is not whether guns kill people. It is whether we have lost our collective sanity and have reduced ourselves to the level of killer clowns. Killer clowns should not own guns, perhaps. They can still kill, but it's a lot harder with a fork.
Every man for himself. Clearly, that's where we are headed, and our media and politicians are happy to nudge us along. Whether they split us up in Right vs. Left, or in a million other ways, encourage us to be offended at everything and entitled, or they simply ride our worst basic instincts to their money-lined power towers, it doesn't matter anymore. We may have given up so much of our personal power and agency in exchange for trinkets, vacations, and 50 shades of brew, that we may be passed the point of no return.
In that case, we will continue to watch mass shootings followed by gun-control debates on repeat. Or it won't even make the news anymore because it will happen so often that we will become desensitized to the sight of children's blood. We'll get angrier at each other, more siloed in our echo chambers, more depressed, and more volatile, twitching to hit that trigger.
I remember walking the streets of Lima, Peru few years back and feeling depressed looking at the 12-foot fences and locked gates protecting the inhabitants from the world around them. Are we headed in the same direction? Will we have to live behind individual prison walls in "the freest" country in the world?
Or we could say enough is enough, turn off Netflix, roll up our sleeves, and get involved in our communities. We could re-learn how to say, "Can I do this for you?" instead of "Can you do this for me?" We can also make amends to the people we've hurt while on our selfish binge for recognition, validation, and self-gratification.
We might have to rebuild the fabric of our society one neighborhood at a time, one town at a time, one year at a time so we can stop worrying about our kids not coming home from school. We can stop fighting over guns because we can trust the hands that hold them. We can rewrite the laws that keep criminals off the streets. We can rebuild the social contract and entrust the police with our protection. Again.
We can stop hating one another and everything around us.
It's a lot of work.
But if we don't do it… all we will have is the memory of the land of the free that used to be.
Here's an inspiring story of a community in ruins, destined for demolition, and forgotten by everyone but the very few residents who chose to stay. See what a handful of people with creativity and grit can create despite the odds. It came from England four years ago, but it will sound to you like something happening next door right now: How one community beat the system and rebuilt their shattered streets.
Is gun violence a community health crisis? Find out what the ER doctor thinks in this Atlantic article.
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