To address gun violence, we have to agree something is wrong

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on June 27, 2023.

The statistics are damning. There is no version of the numbers that reflects well on our country. There’s no way to spin them in any direction that doesn’t point to collective shame at the tragedy of loss of life.

In the first 138 days of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, over 16,000 Americans have died as a result of gun violence, nearly 700 of them under the age of 18 — almost five children a day. There have been 227 mass shooting events — again, in the first 138 days.

What is there to be said anymore?

The gun lobby supports gun rights over the lives of human beings — there is little evidence to the contrary. People remain steadfast in their support for these weapons, even as more and more Americans, and American children, die.

One of the top three causes of death for children under the age of 9, according to the CDC? Homicide, with a high likelihood that a gun was involved. As the Pew Research Center pointed out, gun deaths have only been rising, with an increase of 50% between 2019 and 2021.

I grew up in South Texas, surrounded by gun culture. My family of cattlemen in Colombia has guns. I’m not against guns. But I believe that if you need a license to legally and safely own and operate a vehicle, you probably need a license to legally and safely own and operate a gun. And we should probably ban a handful of guns that facilitate mass murder.

People will argue that civilians deserve access to the same weapons the police have, so that they may remain a militia, as the Second Amendment seems to indicate. But they never read the opening clause, which includes a pesky “well regulated” — which certainly doesn’t apply to hobbyists and people who just like things that go boom.

But honestly, I don’t think the police should have weapons that facilitate mass murder either.

There must be a way that we can both keep guns and prevent gun violence and gun deaths. In the 1980s, only about 10% of people used seat belts, according to AAA. Today, seat belts save thousands of lives. At some point, we collectively realized that a human life was worth more than a slight inconvenience.

Registering as a gun owner and submitting to background checks are an inconvenience, and giving up some particularly powerful firearms potentially more so. And yes, for some people, it will be more onerous than for others. But at the end of the day, isn’t it worth it to save the lives of thousands of people?

Or even the life of one person? One child?

Because the longer this goes on, the longer the gun lobby looks like they care more about guns than they do about people — than they do about children. After all, it’s hard to find any legislation or policy from the NRA or its adherents intending to protect our most vulnerable. Instead, it’s a psychotically single-minded defense of every inch of their “rights,” no matter the cost.

History books will ask, with curiosity and judgment, how we let this happen — how hundreds of children died and we did nothing but offer canned expressions of lament, but no actions.

I used to think there was a limit, that there was a number of dead children that the gun lobby would finally see as unacceptable. But instead, many retreated to the conspiracies of “crisis actors” and “false flags” — anything to deny the reality of what our cultural fetish with guns has wrought.

Sixteen thousand people have died this year who should not have. And if that doesn’t stir a response, then what about the 100 children under the age of 9? Something must happen, somewhere deep in the brain or the heart or the soul — some reaction that tells us that this is not right, and that something must be done.

We get driver’s licenses and insurance to protect ourselves. We wear seatbelts and use car seats to protect ourselves and our children. We do all this to prevent death, to be a culture where children can grow without fear of everyday life.

Why can’t we do the same with guns? Why can’t we enact sensible measures to keep ourselves and our children safe? We can be a culture where children can grow up without a fear of dying at gunpoint — it is possible!

I have two kids, both preschoolers. I don’t know how to equip them for what our country has become. I don’t want them ever to think that the violent death of children, and the culture and political forces that facilitate it, is normal.

I want all our children to live. Is that too much to ask?

Adriana E. Ramírez is a columnist and InReview editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: