New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has reiterated his stance on gun control in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, telling the New York Daily News, “We should be perfectly clear about this — the gun lobby is writing our nation’s gun laws. It’s a disgrace. They write them in Washington. They write them in the state capitals. And the result is that our children are being killed. Our police officers are being killed. You and I and our families are in danger — in greater danger than we should be.”
Of course it’s not just children and police officers who are killed by guns. New Yorkers were reminded this week of the horrible 2006 shooting death of Sean Bell, the 23-year-old Queens man who was killed by 50 police bullets on his wedding day, when it was announced that the officers responsible for Bell’s death were either fired or have resigned. Bloomberg agreed with law enforcement officials who described the shooting – for obvious reasons – as excessive force.
Here’s the thing that Mike Bloomberg, unlike others who support gun safety laws but are afraid to talk about real gun control, understands: guns kill. Guns. Not people. People shoot. The bullet does the killing. And it’s time we re-frame this debate.
Bloomberg runs a bi-partisan coalition of 650 mayors across the country called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and he believes that the Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine laws “encourage violence.” (Insert rhetorical “of course they do” here.) In regards to the Trayvon Martin shooting specifically, he says:
There’s another issue which I didn’t read very much about: The shooter, this guy Zimmerman, how could he have had a permit to carry a concealed weapon? A loaded gun in the first place? Because long before he shot Trayvon Martin, he was arrested for attacking a police officer and was the subject of a court order to prevent domestic violence.
I completely agree. According to the stipulations of the Brady Bill, those facts alone should have barred Zimmerman from owning a gun. Though as Bloomberg noted, thanks to Florida’s lax gun laws, Zimmerman was carrying his gun legally. However, I still fail to understand how a man with an arrest record, with a proven history of violence, hasn’t been arrested for shooting an unarmed teen. As I said yesterday, based on that history alone – racial issues notwithstanding – his culpability should at least be questioned.
But getting to the heart of the matter here, let’s look at what Bloomberg says about our Wild West attitude toward guns:
This is just the craziest thing. Only in America. We have more guns than people. The rest of the world is looking at us incredulously. We are letting people kill our citizens. We have killed more people with hand guns—which may or not have been illegal — in this country since Martin Luther King and RFK were assassinated back in ’68. We’ve killed more Americans than died in World War II. Something like over 400,000 Americans. Where is the outrage? You know you’ve got to think about it.
According to Drew Weston’s op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, “Over a million (emphasis mine) Americans have lost their lives to gunfire since that awful spring of 1968 when both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed by assassins’ bullets. Last year alone guns killed or wounded another 100,000 Americans; roughly 30,000 of them died. Had that occurred elsewhere, we would call it genocide.”
And yet, in an effort to appease those who Weston describes as “law-abiding gun owners,” he refuses to talk gun control, but rather gun safety. I simply can’t understand anyone who fights for an individual’s right to own a gun, no matter what its intended use. I don’t care if you want to protect your family or hunt squirrels, the only thing guns really do is kill people. They kill kids who find them in drawers and unlocked – or even sometimes locked – cabinets and accidentally blow their heads off. They kill other kids at school when a teenager loses it. They kill spouses. A gun killed Trayvon Martin. And a gun killed my grandparents.
My grandfather, for the bulk of his life, was one of the “law-abiding gun owners” Weston is trying to placate. Until the end of his life, that is, when he saw his gun collection as a way out of the pain he was in. (And he decided to take my grandmother with him.) Here’s where the cynics and the bitter people of the world chime in and say, “If someone is going to commit suicide, they’re going to commit suicide, and gun control won’t stop that. He would have found another way.” Sure. Maybe. But we have no way of knowing that. I can’t ask my grandfather what he might have done if he didn’t have a gun at his disposal because he’s dead. Would he have overdosed on pills instead? Who knows. But maybe – just maybe – he would have lived another day if he hadn’t had a whole chest of guns he could reach into. And certainly perhaps my grandmother would have lived. I mean, I saw House of Sand and Fog. I know that (in the movies, at least) you can poison your wife’s tea and then put a bag over your head while you suffocate to death in your military uniform. But that takes a lot more effort than pulling a trigger. When guns are involved, it only takes a split second to end an entire life.
How many gun deaths happen at the hands of those who are “law-abiding gun owners?” George Zimmerman was – and may still be found to be – a “law-abiding gun owner.” How many children of “law-abiding gun owners” have to die accidentally before “law-abiding gun owners” realize that guns kill? Weston borrows from a commonly used pro-gun phrase at the end of his op-ed when he says, “Guns don’t kill people. Silence does.” Bullshit. Guns kill. Yes, people use guns to kill, but it is the bullet from the gun that actually does the killing. A man without a weapon is just a kid with Skittles. Maybe he can throw a few punches, but he can’t make another man bleed to death in an instant with a single, point-blank shot.
Note to readers: I understand that words like this rankle the gun-lovers of the world, and every time we write a post about gun control here at Strollerderby, it always somehow gets flagged by gun advocacy groups (thank you, Google alerts!) and tons of crazed vigilantes leave comments like, “The way you want things, only the bad guys will have guns cuz they’ll steal ‘em and then who will protect you?!” I just don’t know what to say to that sort of logic. To me, George Zimmerman is a bad guy who shouldn’t have had a gun, but he had one legally. And what if we were all allowed to have guns? So what? Then Trayvon could have shot back and they both could have died Wild West duel style? Is that really an acceptable outcome? The culture of gun ownership, for the most part, is a subset of the fear culture, and that’s not something I want to participate in. We’re all afraid, we all shoot first, and we all die. Hooray? So please, if you’re going to comment on this post, do so with some level of respect for the fact that I have shared a deeply personal experience about gun deaths in my family. You have a right to your opinion, but any inflammatory comments will be removed.