ENDING GUN VIOLENCE

by Charlotte Owens

March 2013

                Back in mid January in Akron, a bright-eyed, inquisitive young boy, Jamarcus Allen, found the pistol his father had supposedly hidden in the bathroom.  His mother, upset, scolded Jamarcus, and told her husband to get rid of the gun.  However, on January 23, 2013, Jamarcus apparently was drawn to the gun again, resulting in a gunshot to his head which killed him.  Jamarcus was four; he will never graduate from kindergarten.

                Jamarcus was only one of at least 5 children killed in Ohio by guns since the Newtown shootings of December 14, 2012.  Another, a six-year-old girl from Cleveland, Nevaeh Benson, may have caused her own death by gun, and a nine-year boy, Sebastian Swartz, of Decatur, died as a result of an accidental discharge while playing with his father’s handgun.  However, two more, Alexandra Brown, age 10, of Henry County, and Jacob Ball, age 5, of Cambridge, died at the hands of their fathers in murder-suicides.  And there may be more:  these are the Ohio children whose deaths from guns have been crowd-sourced to an interactive project of Slate.com and @GunDeaths.

                This is only the tip of the iceberg.  The Slate.com and @GunDeaths project lists 99 deaths from guns in Ohio since Newtown until March 8.

                And this does not include nonfatal shootings.  For instance, at gunshows on the weekend before the Presidential inauguration, five people at three different gun shows across the country, including one in Medina, Ohio, were shot accidentally, by people interested in and, presumably, somewhat familiar with gun handling.

                Overall, in the U. S. in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Bloomberg News, 31,328 people died from guns.  Of these, 11,078 were homicides, 68% of that year’s homicides.  But the majority of gun deaths were suicides, 19,392, about half of all suicides.  That leaves 858 as accidental/other.  These average to 86 deaths due to guns per day, 30 of which were homicides.  As deaths from car accidents have been falling, deaths due to guns may exceed deaths from car accidents in 2015 (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-19/american-gun-deaths-to-exceed-traffic-fatalities-by-2015.html).

                As a Quaker, I believe in that of God in each human being, so we are connected to each other and we need to respect and care for ourselves and each other, whether or not we know each other.  The statistics above are dry numbers hiding incredible human pain, desperation, and isolation from other people.  Whether people, including children, die by curiosity or carelessness, or whether people intend, at least in the moment, to hurt others or themselves, guns allow too many deadly consequences for mistakes or impulses.  Furthermore, most of these shootings are done by people who at least think they know how to use guns.  Of course, guns carry a vast emotional load of our fears and hopes.  However, we do not hesitate to regulate consumer items less laden with symbolism or emotion, whether Sudafed™ or cars, to reduce the harm to the public.

                One aspect of respect is to recognize that each other has rights, and the Second Amendment is cherished by many.  What we all need to be aware of is that what may be a popularly held view of the meaning of the Second Amendment may not be what the original intent was, nor what the courts now consider the Second Amendment to allow, which may differ from both.  The Supreme Court has clearly ruled that people do have the right to own guns, but that gun ownership can be regulated.  In the majority opinion deciding District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the following:  “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…”. It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”  He included several areas of regulation or prohibition that Heller did not eliminate, including possession of firearms by felons or people with mental illness, guns in such places as schools and government buildings, commercial sale of firearms, “dangerous and unusual weapons,” and concealed weapons.

                What is our strength is our commitment to each other as fellow citizens, to create the country of our highest ideals.  As those men in Philadelphia signed the Declaration of Independence, they pledged to each other, “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”  Humans are a tribal or group species; throughout history, people have relied on each other, and settlers to this land certainly did.  We need to reach out to each other, to recognize our commonality and our bonds, not just our divisions.  “Come, let us reason together.”  Let us discuss how to protect ourselves and each other from gun violence, and, moreover, how to create the healthier, more hopeful, more just society we desire.  Let us create the society where we recognize our protection lies in our connection to each other, not in our fear, not in a handgun which is much more likely to hurt a family member than an intruder.

                The Circleville Friends Worship Group is sponsoring a forum, open to the public, at the Pickaway County District Public Library, 1160 N. Court St., Circleville, on Sunday, March 24, at 2 pm, to look for solutions to gun violence, while we respect the Second Amendment.  Marian Harris, of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, will present some proposals to help reduce gun violence.