Point of View Columns

It’s the Guns Stupid!

Surveying the blood soaked American landscape it is very easy to be anesthetized by the sheer volume of violence and mayhem that takes place every hour of every day. But every person killed was someone’s child, someone’s friend – every person killed was someone. The narrative of each senseless, needless sewage spill of violence is unique in its own horrible way. And too many have the same common denominator – guns, guns, guns. When will America say to itself “It’s the guns stupid!”?

The endless gory news cycle begins and ends anywhere and everywhere. In Chicago 484 people have been murdered this year at the time that this column is being written. By the end of this year that number will almost certainly exceed 500. Very few of the victims were beaten to death or poisoned – the gun is the choice of self-appointed executioners in the Windy City and everywhere else.

About a week ago in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn Peter Jones had been quarrelling with his wife Elsie Jones for years. But on a particular damned day Peter Jones shot Elsie Jones and killed her and then killed himself. Perhaps this murder-suicide would have taken place without the presence of a gun but national studies tell us that 90% of all murder-suicides involve the use of a gun.

And, as if to prove some demonic point over the weekend, Javon Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs killed his girlfriend with a gun and then shot and killed himself in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium. Friends and family were shocked at the killings, but did not seem to connect the dots of the murder-suicide to Javon Belcher’s ownership of a gun in the first place.

The grisly cavalcade of horror is endless but another recent incident is worth noting. Over the Thanksgiving holiday teenager Jordan Davis and several young friends was in the backseat of a car in a convenience store parking lot. Reports indicate that the youngsters were playing music at a high volume and the occupant of a nearby car took exception.

What happened next could be repeated by all of us like some demented Greek chorus. The objecting occupant in the next car took out a gun without any provocation other than the loud music. Said objecting occupant started firing indiscriminately into the car with the music and when the gun smoke cleared Jordan Davis was dead.

In a universe not overpopulated with guns Peter and Elsie Jones may have had a horrific argument but neither of them would be dead. Similarly Javon Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, may have argued and even ended their relationship but they would still be alive and their three month old daughter would not be an orphan.

Certainly without the proliferation of guns and the encouragement of their use by misguided politicians and mindless media glorification Jordan Davis would be thinking about what college he would like to intend. Instead his parents are selecting a gravestone and planning on attending the trial of his murderer. And whatever justice his meted out to his killer will be as tasteless and unsatisfying as the ashes of the hopes and dreams that they had for their child.

We should all be clear that the sheer proliferation of guns is a cause of all the bloodshed that threatens to drown us all. But it is also the glorification of some mythical shoot-first-the one-with-the-gun-is-always-right culture that is the accomplice with bloodstained hands.

Israel and Switzerland are two countries with a higher per capita gun ownership rate than the United States. But the gun homicide rates per capita in those countries are infinitesimal when compared the America. “Rambo” and rap videos play in Tel Aviv and Geneva but somehow the Swiss and the Israelis do not absorb the message of violence and then go around killing each other.

We should also be clear that the Second Amendment to the Constitution does not give Americans the right to kill each other with firepower that becomes more and more lethal each year. Common sense should dictate that some controls over weapons of singular destruction makes as much sense as controls over automobiles, airplanes, cough medicine and marriage.

Common sense sometimes seems in short supply in the United States of Gun. But until some real controls are put in place when it comes to guns we are headed to the day when there will be one last one with a gun left standing.

Wallace Ford is the Principal of Fordworks Associates, a New York-based management consulting firm and is the author of two novels, The Pride and What You Sow.