The walls of my high school were decorated with posters like these:
Remember MADD? Mothers Against Drunk Driving? Founded in 1980 by a woman whose child was killed by a drunk driver, MADD was a household name by the 90s. There were public service announcements and fliers, billboards and after school specials. Drunk driving was the cause of the decade, and it worked. By 1997, alcohol related deaths were down 20%, a drop attributed, in large part to MADDs education and lobbying efforts.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone today that supports driving drunk. After all, not only does it endanger the person behind the wheel, but also the passengers, the other drivers, and innocent bystanders. Driving drunk turns a car into a deadly weapon let loose on the masses. We tend to frown on weapons let loose on the masses. At least, we used to.
People. What in the hell is happening? And why are we not screaming in the streets?
Remember the shock of the shootings in US post offices in the 1990s, the origin of “going postal”? Who’d ever heard of such a thing? Today, what would we call it? “Going classrooom?” “Going movie theatre?” Going to hell in a hand basket?
While we’ve been arguing about illegal immigration, and gay marriage, and Planned Parenthood, an epidemic has broken out right under our noses. It’s time to wake up and face the facts. What facts?
- In the first 274 days of 2015 there were 294 mass shootings in the United States.
- 505 CHILDREN have been killed by gun violence in the US, since January 1st. I got this number from gunviolencearchive.org, a database that gives the number killed, the number injured, and details about each incident. There were many, many incidents that involved one child dead and multiple injured – this is not a kid grabbing a gun by accident. I had to add up the deaths page by page, because there was no total number provided. I almost didn’t make it.
- In 2013, firearm deaths in the United States equalled more than TWICE the deaths caused by terrorism WORLDWIDE.
- It takes about 15 minutes to buy a gun, including the paperwork and background check. It takes about 15 DAYS to get a new patient appointment with a mental health provider. If you’re lucky.
- It is impossible to kill someone with a gun if YOU DON’T HAVE A GUN.
I know what I sound like. I sound like one of those knee-jerk, anti-gun, low-gluten, almond-milk drinking, NPR-listening liberals. And there’s maybe a little truth there. But this issue has been surprisingly hard for me to get my head around.
I was raised in North Carolina. I’ve fired rifles into the air on New Year’s Eve. I learned to use a handgun when I was 8 years old. My father owns a small arsenal. My high-brow mother once jumped for joy upon unwrapping a Christmas pistol. I know all the slogans: If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. I know all the pro-gun arguments: Most gun owners are responsible gun owners. The Founding Fathers included the 2nd Amendment to provide citizens a defense against a tyrannical government. When the economy collapses and people are starving in the streets, you’ll wish you had a gun to protect your last bag of rice…
But here’s the thing: The sudden collapse of the United States economy and social structure is, at best, an unlikely and far-flung possibility. However, the chance of another mass shooting in the next 24 hours is a statistical probability. The idea that an armed public could defend themselves against a tyrannical US government (however unlikely that is) with the government’s drones and tanks and missiles is laughable. As Australian comic Jim Jefferies says, “You’re bringing a gun to a drone fight.” And as far as responsibility is concerned: it pains me to say it, because I think guns are kinda cool, but choosing not to wield a deadly weapon trumps keeping a weapon locked in a safe any day.
It’s time to run a basic cost/benefit analysis.
Cost of lax gun control laws: 51,740 incidences of gun violence in 2014.
Benefit of lax gun control laws: Hmm… happy gun owners?
I began writing this post thinking I was going to offer a nice, middle of the road plea to stop the sales of assault weapons, or as gun enthusiasts prefer: military style firearms (we’d hate to give an ugly weapon an ugly name). I like guns, after all. I like the Charles Wilder, go out and get some dinner, scare away the bad guy, protect your own, motif. It’s kinda sexy. It appeals to my Southern roots. But as I went hunting for a few statistics to round out my post, I became horrified. Suddenly my Second Amendment rights seemed less important. After all, I am the mother of five young children. I give up my own rights in deference to their needs Every.Single.Day. I have the right to drink as much wine as I can hold, pregnant or not, but I don’t, in order to protect my children’s health. I have the right to scream obscenities at the top of my lungs (thank you, First Amendment) but I don’t, in order to protect my children’s innocence. Why are my Second Amendment rights any more precious?
I hereby waive my Constitutional right to bear arms in favor of watching my children reach adulthood unmarred by bullets, or even, as fellow blogger Beth Woolsey recently shared in her post “Turns Out I Don’t Like Getting Shot At,” gunshots at a high school soccer game.
Until I wrote this post, I had NO IDEA that as many young Americans die by gun as by car in the United States. Did you hear that? Guns have overtaken drunk driving as a leading cause of death among kids.
I think it’s time for a new kind of MADD. A MADD that marches through the streets, through the channels of social media, through the corridors of Washington demanding that something change. Insisting that our children’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at least as important as someone’s right to buy guns at Walmart.
I don’t have a cute acronym.
Mothers Against Crazy People Getting Guns (MACPGG)?
Mothers For Mental Health Not Firearms (MFMHNF)?
How about Mothers Against Mass Shootings (MAMS)? Forget fliers. We could have tank tops.
Or better yet, we could march through town topless, our mams proudly exposed. Those terrifying bare breasts providing for, and protecting our babies like they’ve always done.