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Posts Tagged ‘gun violence’

A few thoughts on Newtown

In behavior, blogging, books, Crime, culture, journalism, Media, news, politics, women on December 18, 2012 at 3:46 pm
English: Photo of Harvard University professor...

English: Photo of Harvard University professor David Hemenway, PhD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been a busy few days!

I did an interview with BBC’s Newsday, one with a German freelancer, and wrote two op-eds on this story, both requested.

For anyone who wonders how I get to speak out publicly like this, it’s a matter of relationships. All four opportunities came to me through long-held relationships with editors or these institutions.

I also, which I really value, am essentially asked to explain this specific example of American exceptionalism to other nations who find Americans’ attachment to gun ownership truly bizarre. If you have never visited the National Rifle Association’s website, you must do so, no matter how repugnant you may find their views. Their appeal is emotional and clearly, to its members, very powerful.

If you have no idea what they are saying to their members — and do not understand how organized and well-funded they are —  it’s more difficult to fashion any useful counter-arguments or marshal useful and effective opposition.

This section of it, the ILA, is well worth following, as it is their legislative action component.

It was challenging indeed to produce two op-eds within hours, knowing the subject is wildly inflammatory.

I want to read and hear more women’s voices on this issue!

While Rep. Dianne Feinstein plans to re-introduce the ban on assault rifles -- that expired eight years ago — I see very few women speaking out right now.

Not just grieving — but arguing loudly and publicly in every possible venue for change, offering their own ideas as well.

Here are my two op-eds, one written for a Canadian audience, one for Americans.

This ran in the Ottawa, (Ontario) Citizen:

The guns used in this attack belonged to a woman, 52-year-old Nancy Lanza, a middle-aged small-town divorcee, probably the last person many would expect to own five guns, including a Sig Sauer 9-millimetre pistol, a Glock 10-millimetre pistol and a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Why, asked one of my Facebook friends, an artist in California, did she even choose to collect guns? “Why not bicycles or butterflies?”

Because, for millions of American gun owners, owning a gun is as key to their identity and core beliefs as their support for, or opposition to, abortion. For some women, knowing how to shoot accurately and having a firearm in their home and/or vehicle, maybe even in their purse, also reflects the American ethos of individual rights and self-reliance.

And I added my voice to those of The New York Times’ on-line Room for Debate:

President Obama has vowed to take action, but to do so he needs to involve women. He should create, this week, a multidisciplinary committee — composed not of politicians whose alliances and funding have impeded federal gun legislation for decades — but of those most directly involved in gun use and violence.

Perhaps most important, the committee should include its fair share of women — both those who have been affected by gun violence and those who own firearms. Many women with useful insights into this issue are afraid to speak out publicly for fear of being vilified and shunned in ways that male gun-owners are not.

It might include: emergency room doctors and nurses; hospital administrators bearing the significant costs of treating gun shot wounds; law enforcement and criminologists; public health advocates like Harvard’s David Hemenway; moderate, concerned individual gun-owners; experts in diagnosing and treating mental illness; domestic violence experts; and primary care physicians and pediatricians wary of — even legally forbidden from — discussing how their patients may store their guns and ammunition.

Until all sides are negotiating at the table together — gun owners and victims of gun crimes, public health workers and private gun shop owners, men and women — a viable solution will continue to evade this society.

What do you think of this idea of a Presidential committee?

I think we desperately need new and fresh ideas, no matter how odd or challenging they appear to put into action.

A Handgun Or A Doughnut?

In behavior, business, Crime, Money, news on August 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm
Doughnut covered with coconut flakes
Image via Wikipedia

The other night Omar Thornton led the national news, shooting eight co-workers and then himself at a Connecticut beer distributorship. He was about to be fired. I blogged about it here at theopencase.com, but think there is more to it than that.

The second big news item, pun intended, was how rates of obesity are rising. Still.

Yes, Thornton was being fired for cause, stealing beer. But his feelings of rage, despair and desperation are in no way unique to the man who shoots and kills in a murderous rampage. Millions of us feel them, over work, family, illness, grief, job loss, unemployment. A new sub-category of misery are the “99ers”, people who have used up every bit of their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and have not yet found a job.

From The New York Times:

In June, with long-term unemployment at record levels, about 1.4 million people were out of work for 99 weeks or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not all of them received unemployment benefits, but for many of those who did, the modest payments were a lifeline that enabled them to maintain at least a veneer of normalcy, keeping a roof over their heads, putting gas in their cars, paying electric and phone bills.

Without the checks, many like Ms. Jarrin, who lost her job as director of client services at a small technology company in March 2008, are beginning to tumble over the economic cliff. The last vestiges of their former working-class or middle-class lives are gone; it is inescapable now that they are indigent.

Ms. Jarrin said she wept as she drove away from her old life last month, wondering if she would ever be able to reclaim it.

“At one point, I thought, you know, what if I turned the wheel in my car and wrecked my car?” she said.

Nevertheless, the political appetite to help people like Ms. Jarrin appears limited.

That piece elicited 697 comments and no more are being accepted.

We are dying by inches — adding them to our bellies and asses and thighs by consuming the wrong food and drink in enormous quantities. Every time we stuff too much of something greasy, fatty, sugary and/or salty into our mouths, we are often really desperately reaching for comfort, for ease, for a quick, cheap way to feel better. If we were truly joyful and at ease in our lives, would we behave thus? I think not.

We are dying by inches — of homes and dreams and degrees and graduate degrees and years of experience, training and skill worth nothing to an indifferent job market. I see a very clear correlation between these two forms of despair.

Every time someone goes on a rampage in their workplace and kills co-workers, there is such surprise, such shock. What exactly, people demand, pushed him over the edge? As if you can parse lethality so tidily. You can’t. The sub-text? If it was X, then we’ll make sure X isn’t part our our lives or workplace. It is never that simple.

We forget how many people, millions of us now, already live on the edge. We are terrified of losing our partners, kids, homes, jobs, status, cars, bank accounts, retirement savings, our physical and mental health.

It can take a mere zephyr of a breeze to send someone hurtling over the edge if that has been their neighborhood for weeks, months or years.

Whether you reach for a handgun or a doughnut, the choices are ultimately self-destructive, devastating, lethal. One is faster, bloodier, criminal and public.

But surprised?

No, we should not be at all surprised.

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Rage+Fear+Despair+10 Percent Unemployment+Guns = Mass Shootings

In Crime, news on November 6, 2009 at 4:03 pm
Guns seized by Washington, DC police over the ...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Why are we at all surprised — or are we — when yet another shooting rampage occurs somewhere in the U.S.?

According to the National Institute for Mental Health,  26.2 percent of adults over the age of 18 in any given year are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness. Every single day, 57.7 million Americans struggle with some form of internal demon, from schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder to depression or panic attacks.

An estimated 30 percent of American homes contain a firearm. Is it really inconceivable that there’s some inevitable and lethal overlap between those people who are at the end of their totally frayed ropes — and who also have ready access to a firearm, perhaps even training in how to use one?

Aiming and firing a weapon, (something I did in training for my book) is not terribly difficult. In a society premised on a thin, weak social safety net, one that allows so many to slip through unnoticed into poverty, madness or despair, firing a weapon into a crowd clearly, to some, seems a viable option.

Add to these basic statistics, now, a 10 percent+ unemployment rate. Banks are refusing to grant credit. Credit cards are boosting their rates and late fees. There are six people now applying for any available job. People are losing their homes, living in their cars. It’s a very safe bet that, of the 48 million who have no health insurance, there are many people who are mentally ill, perhaps severely mentally ill, on the brink of homicide or suicide with no one to talk to, to diagnose them, to offer them in or out-patient hospital treatment, talk therapy and/or a prescription for helpful medications.

Of course, I’m horrified by the shootings at Fort Hood yesterday, and today in Orlando. Yesterday’s were the reaction of a military psychiatrist who knew better than anyone what hell he would be heading into if he were deployed overseas. Today, the shooter is a man apparently fired from his job.

The raw emotions that propel people into lethal violence are tinder awaiting a match. It will happen again.

I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more frequently.

Gun Safety Gala Tonight in New York City

In Crime, politics on October 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm
Adams revolver

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a fund-raiser held three times every year, in Manhattan tonight at the New York Historical Society at 6pm; for a last-minute ticket, try calling the Brady Center. Newark mayor Cory Booker will be there as an honored guest, as will Carole Stiller, president of the New Jersey Million Mom March chapters. Tickets ranged from $250 for an individual to $25,000 for a table of 10.

I spoke briefly today to Paul Helmke, the Brady Center’s president for the past three years, as he rode the train from D.C. to New York:

“Things are down a little from last year, but we still have a good strong, turnout, about 140 people. New people are coming and this shows us that people still care about gun violence in this country. People are sensing that the other side is pushing further and further all the time. Now they want guns on trains, in public parks, at presidential events, in bars.”

Speaking to me from an Amtrak car, what does he think of guns on trains?

“We’re very skeptical of the wisdom on this. The rules were initially put into place after 9/11 when there was a lot of fear about potential terrorist attacks on trains, and then there were the attacks on trains in Madrid. But if they’re going to change the rules, they need to go through some hearings and decide how to do it. The difference between carrying a gun on airplane and on a train is that the luggage on a train is not kept as separately as on a plane. At this stage, we think the best approach to that decision is — don’t change it.”

I met Paul at a Brady Center event in July and admire his ideas, his energy and his candor. Fighting gun violence remains complex, difficult and essential.

A Loaded Subject: Guns, and What to Do About Them

In culture, politics on July 29, 2009 at 9:25 am
Smith & Wession M&P Victory model revolver.

Image via Wikipedia

There are few subjects more divisive in the U.S. than the millions of guns owned privately — they’re found in about 30 percent of American homes — and how to quell or reduce the annual toll this exacts, about 30,000 deaths a year, 55 percent of those suicide.

There are millions of people whose firearms will never injure or kill anyone, and others whose gun or guns, sometimes without their knowledge or permission, will cause mayhem and havoc, whether stolen, re-sold to a criminal, used in the commission of another crime. Given the incredibly wide range of experiences Americans have of guns — your child is shot in a drive-by, your husband commits suicide, your daughter thrives in her 4H shooting program, your son attends college on an NCAA riflery scholarship, your family relies for meat on the deer or game you shoot, you’ve only seen one on a cop’s hip or in a movie — it can feel as though any sort of productive dialogue on reducing suicide and homicide is futile. Some hunters wonder why this is their problem. Traumatized victims of urban gun violence wonder why it’s not.

On Monday, I visited a Manhattan apartment where I met about 20 men and women who support the work of the president and CEO of the Brady Campaign, Paul Helmke, who spoke to them about what he’s doing, the challenges he faces and the progress he feels the group has made. Read the rest of this entry »

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