Just another day in paradise
| November 7, 2023 7:00 AM
Lewiston, Maine: Eighteen killed, 13 injured in a rampage by a guy with an assault rifle. The shooter: A certified firearms instructor and a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. The community locked down until he’s placed in custody. Press conferences; school classes cancelled; politicians falling all over each other with their thoughts and prayers – and, choreographed for the evening news, bloviating frustration and rage (at least through that news cycle).
Soon the memorials and funerals; sermons about senseless murder, but the deceased being in a better place; and CNN doing spots about the victims. Grieving family members being interviewed: “And, how are you feeling, Mrs. Jones?”
So, what’s new? Sadly, not a damn thing. Just another day in paradise.
Revolted by this latest massacre, a friend called me and said: “Do you know we’ve killed more people by gun violence in the last two years in America, than civilians killed by Russia in Ukraine.”
That was hard to believe, but I promised to do some research. He was right.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights verified that as of September 12, 2023, a total of 9,614 civilians have died during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with 17,535 people injured.
But, It turns out the Russians are pikers when it comes to killing civilians. Gun Violence Archive is an independent data collection and research group unaffiliated with any advocacy organization and purposed to collect incidents from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily in an effort to provide near-real-time data about the results of gun violence.
According to this organization, as of Oct. 26, there have been 35,291 gun violence deaths in America. Add to that the 20,200 gun violence deaths in 2022, and we have a total of 55,491 American civilians killed—about 5.8 times more than the number of civilians killed, in the same time period in Ukraine, at war with a superpower, Russia.
In 2020 and 2021, firearms contributed to the deaths of more children ages 1-17 years in the U.S. than any other type of injury or illness. The child firearm mortality rate has doubled in the U.S. from a recent low of 1.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2013 to 3.7 in 2021.
And the cause of this carnage? The unholy trinity: the U.S. Supreme Court, the NRA and Congress.
The court has chosen to ignore the plain language of the 2nd Amendment in favor of broadly protecting personal gun ownership. Yet, the Court has left room for reasonable gun regulation (for example, universal background checks, bans on violent offenders purchasing guns, and “may-issue” laws (which give police discretion in issuing concealed-carry permits).
The NRA, was formed in 1871 to promote marksmanship skills and sports shooting. But in the 1970s a faction of the organization forced it away from sports and into opposing “gun control.” Awash in money from gun and ammunition manufacturers the NRA became a player in national politics ($30 million spent on Trump’s 2016 campaign). The NRA has one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. In the 2000s, after the assault weapons ban expired, the organization became involved in promoting the sale of assault rifle-type weapons.
Congress is now firmly in the pocket of the NRA and hasn’t the intestinal fortitude to stand up and pass reasonable legislation (re-banning assault weapons for a start) protecting the American public and children. Yet, 61% of Americans believe it is too easy to obtain a gun and 58% favor stricter gun laws.
Bottom line: If we want more protective gun laws, we must elect leaders willing to enact reasonable legislation to accomplish that.
If we don’t, then it’s just going to be another day in paradise, someplace else, all over again.
James C. Nelson is a retired lawyer and former Montana Supreme Court Justice. He lives in Helena.