Virginia Tech shootings highlight United States’ high rate of gun fatalities

When I read the paper Monday morning, I saw that a father had shot his two daughters and himself in their Richardson home.  He killed his 6-year old daughter, while his 13 year old survived the attack. The man then turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

By the time I had read that story, a gunman in Blacksburg, Virginia had murdered two students in a dorm on the campus of Virginia Tech University.  As we all know now, 30 more people died that day, reportedly as a result of shots fired from semi-automatic handguns.  

I was reminded of a post I had created last July when there had been two high profile shootings here in Dallas.  One involving a Dallas Cowboy who was shot while riding down the highway, and another shooting that had been erroneously blamed on rap music.  Please take a moment to read an excerpt from my post titled No Guns No Glory .

America is addicted to guns.

There’s no way around it, there are too many guns floating around available for any and everyone. How do these people even get guns? I’m fully aware that the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights expresses the right of the people to keep and bear arms . The NRA would be quick to remind us that these rights shall not be infringed. But the rights were never meant for carjackers and gang members (Or murdering cowards who turn the guns on themselves). I’ve never understood the hard line positions of the gun toting community and why they refuse to give in to this point.

Among industrialized countries, American far and away exceeds other nations when it comes to gun related fatalities. Take a look at the number of gun deaths in other countries first:

Death By Firearms (1999)

Country, Deaths (Total Population)
Great Britain, 68 (59 million)
France, 255 (59 million)
Germany, 381 (82 million)
Canada, 165 (30 million)
Japan, 39 (126 million)

United States, 28,874 (280 million)

By 2001 the number of deaths due to firearms in the US had risen to 29,573. Of those 16,869 of those deaths were due to suicides, and 11,671 were due to homicides. Can you blame all these deaths on Lil’ Jon? Could rap music be the blame for the deaths of nearly 30,000 Americans each year. Gun violence is in no way a new phenomenon, what is new is those perpetrating the crimes and how they carry out those crimes.

Do you remember the commercials for the Time/Life Old West Book Series? Besides glorifying the personas of western gunslingers, they perpetuated myths like Billy the Kid shooting a man “just for snoring too loud.” The legends of Billy “The Kid”, Frank and Jesse James, Belle Starr and others were built on marksmanship, and furthered by murders. There are hundreds of books and websites that look fondly on the era.

The 1920’s and 30’s brought Al Capone, as well as Bonnie and Clyde. Scores of books, movies, and museums glorify the ruthless lifestyles of these prominent historical figures.

Blame Rap Music? How about Hollywood’s contribution to this addiction. The Godfather movies are considered an American Classics, some of the best movies ever made. Many list The Godfather I and II among their favorite movies, along with Scarface (say hello to my lil’ friend) another movie with a high firearm factor. I think about Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which focused on the marital problems of two cold-blooded assassins, using the dozens that they shot down throughout the movie only to further the love story.

America needs to look in the mirror, and stop looking for scapegoats. We should be truthful about the history in order to gain a better perspective on the present, and create solutions for the future. Looking at those telling gun death totals should strike a cord with anyone, and lead to the conclusion that something has gone horribly awry. The first step to overcoming any addiction is to admit that you have one. I suggest something like…”Hi, I’m the United States of America, and I am a Gun Addict.” That would be a good start.

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