What right is worth the lives of 120,000 children?

If you’d been asking this question in Rwanda just after the onslaught of the genocide – where the numbers were much more frightening that this – I honestly do not know what answers you might have had.

But apparently, in the United States of America, one single freedom is apparently easily worth that cost: the right to have as many weapons of any kind that you want.

We are not talking about the right to vote, the right to property, the right not to be a slave owned by other people or the right to free speech or to observe any religion you may choose. These are human rights and all of them, essentially, can be protected via the first of them.

Before I go on, here are some facts and information that I need you to read and understand and which I believe must be propelled into the foreground and spotlight of any debate following the Newtown shooting (and, certainly, all the others):

  • Since 1979, when reporting started, 116,385 children aged 0-19 has been killed by a gun (2)
  • The most recent analysis of data from 23 industrialized nations shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States. The gun homicide rate in the United States for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 was 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for the other nations (2)
  • A 2002 investigation by US Secret Service and US Dept of Education shows that shows that there is no distinct profile of school shooting perpetrators: demographics, personal issues, school history, social characteriatics all vary widely and only 20% had/were given a psychiatric diagnose. (1)
  • Three factors seem to be crucial in transforming a person to someone who performs a massacre: Hatred to society, a feeling of loneliness (even if only 25% are loners) and access to weapons.
  • Mass shootings are rarely impulsive – rather, they are typically meticulously planned over long time.

The annual number of children aged 0-19 killed by firearms – homicide, suidide and fatal accidents – in the US since the beginning of collecting statistics on this by far outnumber the deaths of US soldiers in the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iran. Combined (2):

18-12-2012 21-01-36OK, that is over a long period of time. But just in 2008 and 2009, more US children died in the US due to gun shots than US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan and Iran. Can it really be that American parents – mothers and fathers – knowingly and openly accept that it is more dangerous for their kids at home than it is to be an American soldier at war?

What is the rational reason that it is acceptable to lower 2,800 way too small coffins into the ground every year due to deaths by guns? If this number is OK, how many more would still “worth it” to defend the right to many guns, any guns? Is there any limit or will the gun right defendants just shrug their shoulders and say “it is sad that any child dies of gun shots but really, the number doesn’t matter, it could be astronomically high and still it wouldn’t matter – it is of no consequence next to the right to bear arms”?

Dear Americans, if you put the rights and the value of your childrens’ lives on a par with or lower than the right to own whatever gun you want – fine. Just say so. But wait – read this first:

A father, having heard of the Sandy Hook shootings, was racing to get there, to check on his 9-year old: “Even using back roads on Friday morning, Mr. Urbina still had to park a quarter-mile away. He scooped his son under his arm and began running, little Harry giggling at the game of it. “It’s utter fear,” he said. “Your heart stops. Your chest doesn’t move. I’m a dad. What can I do? I’m helpless. But running.” (3)

And this:

“Lenie [the 9-year old], who was in gym class when the trouble started, told her parents that over the public address system, she had heard someone say, “Put your hands up,” and then bang after bang. Late in the afternoon, Mr. Urbina drove home a boy he was taking care of while his parents awaited word on a brother who was unaccounted for. Walking back to his own house, he glanced at his wife, shook his head, and said, ‘It’s confirmed.’” (3)

If you – as a father or a mother – can still honestly say “Yes, ok, but I still value free access to guns more than the worry I may have for the children,” then raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I, Joan Doe, hereby declare that I value my guns higher than my children and, should I be forced to choose between them, I am ready to give up on my children.” And go back to the rest of your life.

For those who are still here:

If you want to save these childrens’ lives, you have to give up on something else. I would prefer that you gave up on private gun ownership completely – yes, the crooks might still have them, but in many, many other countries in the world they also do – and yet, the number of gun related deaths are far lower. So don’t worry – you would have a safer country for it.

But I also imagine that it would be a step too far. So my proposal would be like that of a US soldier who recently exposed the extreme silliness of the unregulated private weaponry in the US in comparison with the strict regulations in place in the US armed forces. Unregulated amateurs vs strictly regulated professionals? C’mon, you must be able to see that somethings screwed. (my rewrite, (4))

So, basically, US citizens would be allowed to own guns – bolt-action rifles and revolvers, both up to, say, 6 bullet capacity. Slow firing rates, frequent reloads, but all what is needed for hunting and defense of your home.

All other guns to be handed in during a grace period, ownership after that subject to criminal prosecution.

Make your choice – defend the lives of thousands of children, be a part of a solution that does not even remotely infringe on your constitutional right, make the US a safer place.


(1) Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, Dec 18, 2012, http://www.b.dk/kommentarer/hvorfor-sker-skoleskyderier
(2) Protect Children, Not Guns 2012, Children’s Defense Fund.
(3) New York Times, “Running and Hoping to Find a Child Safe”, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/nyregion/after-newtown-shooting-running-and-hoping-to-find-a-child-safe.html?smid=fb-share&_r=3&
(4) Daily Kos, “Some thoughts on the coming gun debate”, http://m.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/17/1170940/-Some-thoughts-on-the-coming-gun-debate?showAll=yes

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Edits: 19/12 – Berlingske link added, anti-typoing.
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