Parkland, two weeks later

Awesome students and courageous CEOs

Kudos to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where two weeks ago, a 19-year-old former student walked into the school and killed 17 innocent people, wounding more. Students, still grieving for lost friends, classmates and teachers, summoned the fortitude to go to their state capital and our nation’s capital to argue for tighter control over guns. They captured a nation’s hearts and minds and catalyzed conversations.

I’ve never lived through anything close to the carnage that occurred in their school, so I cannot claim to understand how they feel. Like millions of others, I empathize with their pain, applaud their desire to turn loss into legislation, and being an optimist, hope that, finally, this time, outrage will win over cynicism.

I wrote last fall about a man with a gun who held up my husband in our garage. Fortunately, no physical harm resulted, but the experience left us with heightened awareness of how close we all are to the gun in our garages, homes, schools, public spaces and workplaces. The illusion of safe places is just that—an illusion—but knowing that does not have to make us fearful.

I’ve been gratified by the growing number of company leaders willing to risk the wrath of the National Rifle Association (NRA). They’ve taken a stand on various issues in the gun debate. Despite being harassed by many, Delta Airlines announced it would end a promotional discount with NRA. Saying “thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Dick’s Sporting Goods’ chief executive officer committed to end the sale of assault rifles, stop selling all weaponry to buyers under 21, stop selling high-capacity magazines and call for broader legislative and other actions. The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced yesterday that it would not sell guns to anyone under 21, and that it would stop selling toys or items resembling assault-style rifles. We should show students across the country that we share their passion to protect America’s children, young adults and teachers in our schools and universities. The president made some comments Wednesday that suggested the potential for compromise. It’s time.

Beyond the clichés about guns

No matter what the president and others say, more arms don’t make us safer. We should look to the evidence. As German Lopez wrote for Vox:

The U.S. is an outlier on gun violence, because it has way more guns than other developed nations. America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world.

This graph to the right is how we look.

States with more guns have more gun deaths.

Using data from a study in Injury Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mother Jones put together the chart below, showing that states with more guns tend to have far more gun deaths. It’s not only one study. Read more in Mother Jones’s “10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down.”

This isn’t a coincidence. We are one of only a few countries that constitutionally allow guns. We also have more suicides and more police killed by guns. (Check out the links.)

A chart comparing U.S. gun deaths with levels of gun ownership, by state. (Mother Jones)

We should stop fooling ourselves that guns make us safer when there’s no evidence for that. I’ll support your right to have a gun in your home for personal protection when it is a registered weapon, obtained legally, with a background check. I want our country to be exceptional in so many ways—more kids graduating from college, more Olympic medalists, more patents, start-ups, new medicines, affordable medicines, and housing. I don’t want us to be exceptional in gun ownership and violence.

From Vox again:

America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany.

Why?

Guns are not only a personal issue. They are a public health threat. We should look at the upstream factors that cause violence and address them. Until we do something about access to guns, the funerals will continue. That’s not right.


The views expressed in this blog are Barbara Rimer’s alone and do not represent the views and policies of The University of North Carolina or the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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