America’s Other Deadly Pandemic: Gun Violence

U.S. President Joe Biden recently said that — on average — more than 330 people are shot every day in America. Every  Day.

Earlier this year, I was watching The PBS News Hour, when anchor Judy Woodruff said: “Since the start of this year, 5,700 people have lost their lives (in this country) to gun violence.”

The date: February 18, 2022.  Less than two full months into the year!

Gun violence has long been an epidemic in this gun-loving, gun-making, gun-toting country.  Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak,  however, it  has become a pandemic. One that, so far, appears to be even more difficult to manage than the deadly virus with which it currently shares a morbid spotlight.

Unlike with COVID 19, no vaccine has been uncovered that can stop the carnage this man-made malady continues to inflict on communities across this country.

Nearly every week, there is a report of a mass shooting — at a school, a shopping mall, a grocery store, a house party, a concert or other outdoor gathering.

Some times, there are several such incidents in a single week.

A paper recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that an analysis of  U.S. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention data found that firearm-related mortalities surpassed vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death among children in 2020.

And, apparently, the trend in continuing.

What makes the majority of these life-destroying incidents even more disturbing is that so many of the victims  (men, women and children) are merely innocent bystanders, whose only “offense” was being unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Unfortunately, in the current ultra-angry, rage-filled, politically-toxic environment that engulfs us now, that is enough to get you ( your significant other, or mother or father or sister or brother or dear friend)– killed.

And what deepens the sadness is (to use an all-too-familiar, old saying) “the victims didn’t even know what hit them.”

There is no doubt that fear, rage and war-like political rhetoric are fueling this pandemic. This nation appears to be more divided over race, ethnic, political and social-privilege issues than it has been in a generation.

Just a few years ago, it seemed that —  with the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black president — great strides were being made toward bringing Americans to a greater understanding of the advantages of working together through racial, ethnic, tribal and political differences and shaping this nation as a place where differences could be valued as positives, rather than negatives and, therefore, no longer reasons to fight one another. 

While Obama’s two terms as this nation’s  leader certainly moved the needle positively in some areas of American life that used to be flash points, there obviously were also some dark corners where his very presence, style and manner of handling things irked people. Many of them apparently determined they would do everything they could to make sure his presidency was a one-off thing.

To make matters worse:  According to a recent newspaper report that quoted several scientific studies, “An absolutely unprecedented increase in firearm sales has occurred over the last couple of years.” 

Given the number and frequency of gun-involved violent outbreaks around the country, it is increasingly worrisome that — not only are there more guns being brought into circulation every day, but several states have changed their laws so that people can carry concealed guns without first registering them and obtaining a state-issued permit.

My state recently joined this gun-happy club of governments. Lawmakers here called the practice “Constitutional Carry.” I, and a chorus of others — including many members of law-enforcement agencies — figured that lunacy would be a much better term for it. 

As schools, churches, businesses and other venues practice active-shooter drills, while looking for other ways to keep people safe during their normal activities these days, I am fearful every time I turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper.

We — as a nation — have endured scores of mass shootings that have claimed hundreds of lives now. We have seen so many others wounded — their lives changed forever.

When I think of all this, there is one incident that seems to squeeze my brain, my heart and my emotions to the point where I want to scream. It is a local incident — and only one person died.

Here it is: A 13-year-old boy had a business in his bedroom at his home, in which he was able to get parts online and make guns that he sold to others.  The guns had no serial numbers and were practically impossible to trace.

Such weapons are coveted by thieves, robbers, toughs, gang members and others. This young man had no trouble finding buyers for home-made weapons. One day, an older teenager, who had agreed to purchase one of the guns, showed up at the young businessman’s house. He was led to the gun seller’s bedroom, shown the gun. He loved it, took it, but refused to pay. Instead, he suddenly turned and ran from the room.

The 13-year-old picked up another one of his home-made weapons, chased the thief, firing at him as he ran. The thief got away.

Unfortunately, one of the bullets the young businessman had fired, struck his 14-year-old sister in the head.

She died.