On The Never-Ending Epidemic Of Gun Violence In The US
Every weekday morning, I come out of the Herald Square subway station under the shadow of the Empire State Building. 34th Street and Broadway, during rush hour, is always a madhouse–sidewalks crowded with people rushing to work (like me) and tourists (drawn by the Empire State Building, the famous Macy’s, and nearby attractions like Madison Square Garden and Times Square), and streets crowded with bicycles, taxis, and cars making the trip from the Queens-Midtown tunnel to the Lincoln tunnel.
Today was different. Today I came out to the sound of sirens wailing, reporters setting up their cameras, and cops everywhere, closing off the streets. This morning, at around 9 a.m., a man opened fire with a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun. The man, suspected to be 53 year-old Jeffrey Johnson, allegedly shot a former co-worker, and then opened fire on two police officers. The police officers returned fire. The suspect died, and several bystanders were injured.
19 people were shot last night in Chicago, including eight people in one incident at 79th street and Essex Avenue. The violence was concentrated on Chicago’s West and South Sides, two of the most violence-ridden areas in the country.
A little over a month ago, I wrote a piece in response to the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. In it, I argued that we need to have the debate about gun control. In this country, we have an epidemic of gun violence. It manifests itself in high-profile shootings like Aurora, acts of terrorism such as the recent shooting at a Sikh temple, and what happened today in front of the Empire State Building. But it also manifests itself every day and every night across the United States.
There have been 113 gun homicides in Baltimore in 2012 to date, out of 139 homicides in total, which means that over 80% of homicides in the city are due to guns. As of August 22nd, Chicago has had 347 homicides–about 300 of which are due to gunshots. There have been 367 homicides in Los Angeles, mostly due to guns. In New York City during 2011, there were 209 homicides. 76% of them were committed with firearms. Even in a city like Boston, which has “only” had 33 murders this year, the majority–19, or 57.5%–are gun-related. The majority of the victims in places like Baltimore and New York City are people of color. What does it say about the United States that we don’t consider this constant stream of gun deaths an urgent problem?
How often has gun control been in the news, or in the national debate, in the past month? Barely. It’s an issue in New York, where gun violence is rising and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City is an outspoken gun control advocate. (However, most of the guns used in New York are purchased in nearby states with lax gun control laws.)
Here is a list of several high-profile public shootings worldwide. (It’s dated July 20th, so does not reflect anything that happened in the past month.) Ten occurred in the United States. Coming in second with the most mass shootings? It’s a tie between Finland and the UK, at two each. Is it something about our culture that makes us especially murderous? Or is it something about our policy? I don’t think there’s one single person out there who thinks this isn’t a problem. We differ in how to solve the problem. But this should not be a divisive political issue. We should be able to come together and say, let’s figure out how to stop the epidemic.
Gun violence will be in the news again. It was in the news after Congresswoman Giffords was shot in Tucson, after Aurora, after Wisconsin. And yet, once again, we will abandon the discussion once some time has passed. It’s a loser debate for national politicians, or politicians. And then, “once something else happens,” we’ll talk about it again. The problem with that is that “something else” happens every day across the country.
I don’t want my day to be interrupted by gun violence ever again. I don’t want the days of anyone on the South and West sides of Chicago, or in Baltimore, or the South Bronx to ever be interrupted again either.
Do you think that America needs to make changes in its firearm policies? Join the discussion in the comments below.
Written by Jess Mary Aloe