That’s how many men, women and children died due to the discharge of firearms (other than by law enforcement) in the United States in 2010, the most recent “‘final” data on the subject available from the Centers for Disease Control. The total breaks down as follows:
- 606 accidental deaths
- 19,392 suicides
- 11,078 homicides
- Plus 252 other firearm deaths of “undetermined intent”
The 2014 numbers, when they are finalized some years from now, will include the six who died last week at the hands of Elliot Rodger, who then turned the gun on himself. Mr. Rodger was known to be mentally ill, and gave all kinds of warnings about his likely behavior. But he also could be very convincing; police interviewed him last month and could not find grounds for involuntary admission to psychiatric care.
Okay . . . mental illness. Been here, done this before. Maybe more care, maybe better care would have made a difference.
But also on the list of the dead will be an 18-month-old boy shot by his 3-year-old brother in Payson, Ariz. The boys, with their mom, were visiting a neighbor in the apartment complex where they live. The boys had wandered into the bedroom and found the loaded pistol. It’s not even clear that the 3-year-old was aiming at his brother (playfully or otherwise). What’s clear is that the gun discharged, and the little boy is dead.
No mental health issues here. No “dangerous person.” Just a horribly tragic accident facilitated by our freedom to own and keep guns for personal defense.
One might respond that kids in this same sort of tragedy from poisonings, too, and one would be right. Which is why there are laws about how medications and various noxious substances are sold, and packaging requirements designed to reduce the likelihood that a child can gain access to the stuff. Of course, not everyone who has such medications or other dangerous substances stores them properly once they leave the store, but we’ve made the provision of such safe storage materials mandatory.
We haven’t done that for guns.
When I expressed my own sorrow and frustration by joining the Everytown Not One More campaign, and posted my participation to my personal Facebook page, one of my high school friends was quick to message me
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to remind me that he had been the victim of two home break-ins. He declared that he would not let anyone take his Second Amendment rights away.
It is not clear that any of a number of proposals related to registration, safety, background checks or limits on certain kinds of weapons and paraphernalia violate the rights we enjoy by virtue of the Second Amendment, even in a post-Heller world. But it seems that, in the present climate, anything that involves regulation of gun ownership is viewed as a violation of the amendment by some very noisy folks.
They’re wrong. Even the U.S. Supreme Court, in the stunningly revisionist Heller opinion, acknowledged as much.
No right is absolute, not even the right to life (I can forfeit that by endangering others). But it seems that, at least for many of our elected leaders, the misinterpreted right to bear arms is even more sacred than the human lives it costs.