In the U.S. on average, there are around 36,000 gun-related deaths each year, or 3,000 per month. In order for Iowans to visualize these statistics, imagine all the residents of Iowa towns the size of Grundy Center, Clarion, Audubon, Belle Plaine, Belmond or Bloomfield being killed each month by gun violence.
Seventy-thousand people survive wounds by guns each year in the U.S. This equates to around 5,800 people a month. To better visualize this, imagine all the residents of Iowa towns the size of Iowa Falls, Algona, Cherokee or Clarinda being wounded each month by guns. These gun deaths or injuries have occurred in the U.S. month after month, year after year for decades.
In fact there have been 1.6 million total gun deaths in the U.S. since 1968 which is presently half the population of Iowa. These senseless gun deaths exceed all the combined American deaths from wars America has fought. If all these victims were buried in one cemetery in Iowa, it would take 2,500 acres and be four times larger than Arlington National Cemetery. An acre resembles a football field, so imagine the grim prospect of walking through 2,500 football fields of graves.
Gun advocates, the NRA and legislators try to hide behind the Constitution. In 1791, when single-shot muskets were used frequently for a family’s survival, there were only 900 active military personnel protecting our country. Therefore our Founding Fathers found it necessary to add the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But today there are 2.1 million military and 1 million police protecting us. Our military spending exceeds the next eight countries combined, but our private citizens own over 300 million guns. We have become a “gun culture” hell-bent on self-destruction. How many more shootings will have to happen for policy makers to see this?
My perspective comes from being a native Iowan, growing up in a family of hunters, carrying guns every day in the Vietnam War and being a retired teacher. Trump’s solution of teachers carrying weapons is a ridiculous idea. A shooter would target every adult immediately regardless of whether they were carrying a weapon. Local school and enforcement agencies need to take steps so all school buildings are physically secure and to provide an armed police officer daily in order to maintain schools as “gun free zones.”
Many gun advocates claim they need semi-automatic assault weapons for hunting, but every hunter knows after one or two shots fired, all wildlife in the vicinity leaves. No civilian needs to own weapons of war. These gun owners should consider joining the military if they want to use these type of weapons, because they may develop a different attitude about civilians owning them. I certainly did.
Around two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. Iowa and federal government officials have not only lessened gun control regulations but have weakened our state’s mental health resources. This directly contradicts what needs to be done to stop gun violence. Australia and Canada have had significant results in decreasing gun violence with both comprehensive gun control legislation and by keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
A 2017 Gallup poll found 86 percent of Americans favored a national law requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases, and 60 percent felt gun laws needed to be stricter. If current politicians can’t represent their constituents wishes, voters need to send a message in future elections, because gun violence should not be a political issue but a safety issue. Gun violence jeopardizes our safety and our constitutional “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”