I was raised not to speak ill of the dead, who obviously are not here to defend themselves. But in light of what we do know about Adam Lanza’s troubled life, I can’t help wondering why his mother, struggling with his serious behavioral issues, chose to keep an arsenal in her home. I can’t help thinking that if she had kept those weapons out of his reach, perhaps none of this would have happened. Perhaps as the investigation into the horror at Sandy Hook school progresses, more facts regarding Nancy Lanza’s gun collecti0n will emerge. Maybe she in fact did keep her semiautomatic assault weapon and her two high-powered handguns under lock and key. Whatever measures she might have taken were not enough and now twenty sets of parents— in this week before Christmas— face the unimaginable grief of burying the bullet-riddled bodies of their first graders. And the families of the adults who were gunned down grieve no less because of the ages of their lost ones.
This week, several members of various gun lobbies have gone on the national talk shows defending our American right to own enough firepower to equip an army platoon, in case we are somehow overrun by an evil dictator. I don’t understand this siege mentality but I was curious about how our rate of gun ownership stacks up against the rest of the world, so I looked up a few statistics. Turns out that Americans have the highest rate of firearm ownership in the world at 88.8 firearms per 100 people. Of those , 74% are rifles or shotguns, 68% are handguns, 17% are semi automatics and 8% are classified as “other.” Cannons perhaps. The largest percentage of American gun owners—sixty seven percent —-say they keep guns for protection against crime, and sixty two percent of people who own guns have more than one firearm. Thus we have millions upon millions of folks walking around armed to the teeth as “protection against crime” and yet not a single one of the shooters involved in the recent spate of mass murders was stopped by a law-abiding civilian packing heat. We have only to consider the Martin case in Florida, in which an unarmed teenager was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a self-styled neighborhood crime fighter, to see how this notion of arming oneself against crime can go terribly wrong.
The gun lobby continues to say that if EVERYBODY had a gun, then these massacres would not happen. Almost 89 out of every 100 Americans already have a gun now, and this high rate of ownership has not proved effective against such horrific crimes as Columbine, Ft. Hood, Aurora, Tucson, Blacksburg, and now, Sandy Hook. I don’t understand how having even more bullets flying would keep us safer.
The answer to gun violence is not more guns. It starts with better understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness and behavioral disorders and a removal of the stigma of seeking treatment. It starts with protecting the Constitutional rights of Americans to own reasonable types of firearms while reinstating and strictly enforcing a ban on assault weapons like the one Adam Lanza unleashed on those defenseless six year olds, each of whom was hit multiple times. It is said that one child— who could not have weighed more than 50 or 60 pounds—suffered eleven bullet wounds. Stop for a moment and imagine that. Eleven bullet holes in such a tiny child. No private citizen, no matter how paranoid about imaginary rogue dictators, needs to own that kind of weapon, despite the gun lobbyists who continue to shout about the right to own whatever kind of guns they want. The right to keep such deadly weapons should be outweighed by the rights of a bright-eyed, gap-toothed six year old to go to school on a brilliant December morning and return home unharmed at the end of the day.