Beyond the gun culture
Since the shooting in Newtown on Dec. 14, there have been 393 gun deaths in America. But the murder of 26 women and children at Sandy Hook elementary was not a uniquely bloody day.
Across the United States, 42 people died from gun violence that day. Twenty-seven died on Christmas Eve, 26 on Dec. 6, 32 on Dec. 29. You get the idea.
That data is being carefully culled by the online magazine Slate and the twitter feed @GunDeaths. Slate has partnered with the anonymous compiler of @GunDeaths in an attempt to crowd source the number of gun deaths that occur daily in the United States.
There have been at least four gun deaths in Utah since Dec. 14: James Mitchell and Jeromie Bunch of Helper, and Ralph Salazar and Alice Griego in Salt Lake County. Readers of this newspaper likely are aware of more.
Information on gun deaths is notoriously difficult to pin down, causing trouble for even large, well-funded organizations like the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Brady Center, which compiles its gun statistics based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and not news reports, estimates that nearly 98,000 people have been shot this year in America. That number includes all who have been shot, both the dead and the wounded.
There are some who would prefer to see those thousands of shootings as isolated, random occurrences. A man in Connecticut picks up a gun on the same day as an unknown assailant kills two in Salt Lake County. But the data on this one is clear. An increase in gun ownership corresponds to an increase in gun deaths. If Sandy Hook teaches us anything, it should be that there are no more lone gunmen.
The problem of gun violence in America is a culturally ingrained attitude that is much more complex than the sum of the individual acts of violence it engenders. A problem of this magnitude requires a cultural shift of dramatic undertaking. This is no time for easy solutions.
But across the state many are pursuing a path that would instead escalate gun violence. A small local retailer sells kevlar backpacks; over 150 teachers recently attended a concealed weapons course, with apparently no consideration for how parents might feel about their third graders learning language arts from a teacher packing heat; state leaders brag about their concealed weapons.
It's like putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging artery. But this hurt won't go away so easily.
Just this weekend, thousands of Utahns troop to the Rocky Mountain Gun show, hosted by the Southtown Expo Center, where, according to the organization's website, the only prohibited items are loaded firearms and loose ammunition.
Could this have been what the writer of the Bill of Rights had in mind when the Second Amendment was penned? Sprawling exposition centers filled to capacity with every kind of firearm imaginable? Or is it more likely that the country's founders, had they been around today, would have allowed for reasonable restrictions on gun ownership? Reasonable restrictions that should be considered when the Utah Legislature meets in a few short weeks.
In a state where it is more difficult to obtain a driver's license than it is a handgun, where our biggest export could become not our beautiful recreational opportunities, but our concealed-carry permits, it is time we ask: What kind of society do we want our children to inherit?
Isaac Holyoak is the director of communication for the Alliance for a Better Utah (http://www.betterutah.org).
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