The conventional wisdom after the horrific killing of 20 young children in Newtown, Conn., was that this mass killing was finally going to be the game changer in the gun control debate.
This killing was so brutally tragic that the millions of Americans who’ve been on the fence about what to do about gun violence in America would finally jump down to the side of gun control.
The momentum would flip to gun ownership restrictions after years of being on the side of gun ownership rights. The answer to gun violence would no longer be more guns but fewer.
But while that may be what’s happening in the national discussion about guns post Newtown, it’s unlikely much will change. The Supreme Court says the Second Amendment says Americans are allowed to own guns. Any attempt to change that other than a repeal of the Second Amendment will be defeated. And repealing the Second Amendment is more than unlikely. Changing the Supreme Court’s makeup from slightly conservative to slightly liberal will take numerous Democratic presidential and Senate campaign victories over the next 10 to 20 years, which also is more than unlikely.
America is a violent country. We’re used to it. We’ve not only learned to live with it, we’ve come to glorify it in our culture.
Of the top 20 money grossing movies of 2011, 17 of them featured violence at the core of their stories and 10 involved homicide of one kind or another and 10 involved gun violence of one kind or another. All of them were movies directed at teens and young children. Among those featuring guns, two – Rango and Cars 2 – were directed at young children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009 (the latest year for which accurate statistics are available), a firearm was used to murder 31 people per day on average in America. That was 68 percent of all total homicides that year. Another 51 people a day on average took their own lives with a firearm that year. That was 51 percent of all suicides.
Between 2000 and 2010, more than 100,000 people were murdered with a firearm in this country and nearly 500,000 people were shot by someone else and survived the wound. Add to that the nearly 200,000 people who killed themselves with a gun in that decade and you’ve got a national gun casualty total of nearly 1 million people wounded or killed with a gun over 10 years in our country.
The national response to this carnage? A shrug of the shoulders.
We go merrily along about our business, unconcerned about the plague of gun violence in America We’re used to daily news reports that someone got shot in our city. That’s normal. It’s only when 10 or 20 people are killed all at once that we have a brief bit of hand wringing about gun violence.
If Americans are truly concerned about the level of violence in this country then there needs to be a wholesale change in our culture. We need to be as horrified at one person being killed with a gun as we are when 26 at once are.
Guns are not solely the problem. Access to mental health care is not solely the problem. It’s also America’s fascination with violence and ambivalence to murder that’s at the root of Newtown. If we want to prevent another Newtown, we need to change America, not just its gun laws.