Gun violence is leaving us desensitized to bloodshed
The one-year anniversary of the shooting in my West University neighborhood was Sept. 26, when a seemingly normal, ordinary guy, Houston lawyer Nathan DeSai, wreaked havoc on a quiet Monday morning, unloading a shower of bullets on passersby at a time and place when children were heading to school and adults starting their work day.
News reports said the residents of the neighborhood were lucky, considering there were no fatalities, except for DeSai himself. Nine others were injured. And I remember thinking to myself, “How are we lucky? We are in the midst of an outbreak of gun violence in this country.”
Exactly a year later, on the anniversary week of my neighborhood shooting, I woke up on Oct. 1 to read about the shooting in Las Vegas: Another seemingly normal, ordinary guy, Stephen Paddock, unleashed a barrage of bullets, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500.
While these two incidents may seem mutually exclusive — happening in two different states, a year apart, by two unrelated individuals with different motives — they are undoubtedly intricately linked by the large number of guns and ammunition these men owned and had access to. Before the Las Vegas massacre, I was saddened by the death of a 2-year-old boy, Kyree Myers, in Columbia, S.C., who accidentally shot himself with a gun he found in the family’s home on Sept. 6. He died. An accident, you might say. Despondent over his son’s death, Kyree’s father fatally shot himself.
“Tremendous loss of life,” news reports said. Let me add to that and say, “Tremendous loss of lives that could have been saved.”
We are in the midst of an outbreak of gun violence and concurrently in denial that this could happen to us. The denial is reflected in our complacency on this issue, especially among those elected officials who have the power to do something about it. Moreover, the perceived risk of becoming a victim of gun violence is low, even among gun owners, resulting in inaction on advocacy for increased awareness and stronger measures to stem the violence.
According to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit corporation that tracks gunrelated violence in the United States, there have been more than 48,000 incidents of gun violence so far in 2017, resulting in more than 12,000 deaths. Since 2014, there have been nearly 200,000 incidents of gun violence in the U.S. resulting in more than 40,000 deaths.
Let me put this in perspective: The U.S. has the highest rate of death from gun violence among developed countries — 3.85 deaths per 100,000, compared with 0.07 deaths per 100,000 in the United Kingdom or 0.12 deaths per 100,000 in Germany in 2016, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. We have also become desensitized to this outbreak.
One reality of epidemics is they become commonplace or “endemic” to a society. Society has become desensitized to gun violence, which has become commonplace or “endemic” to America. Every day there are reports about incidents of gun violence in our own neighborhoods or around the country. It gives us pause and perhaps we pray for a minute. But we move on to other news. So the perceived severity of the issue of gun violence gets diluted.
While DeSai and Paddock pulled the trigger, perhaps we all are responsible to a degree for the death and mayhem that followed. No, we didn’t own the guns they used, but we as a society failed to take action through prevention. Preventing gun violence through regulation is as necessary and cost-effective as seat-belt laws to protect ourselves and our children, immunizations to curtail deadly diseases or smoking regulations to prevent lung cancer. Most people probably wouldn’t let their child smoke. Why? Because it could kill them, not immediately but years later. Well, guns can kill and it’s usually immediate.
A 2016 review of 130 studies in 10 countries, published in Epidemiologic Reviews, found that new gun regulations can result in a subsequent drop in gun violence. Restrictions on purchase, access and use of firearms were associated with reductions in firearm deaths. Period.
Surely the right to live for someone like 2-year old Kyree and others supersedes our need for easy access to guns and the violence that follows.
Nathan DeSai opened fire in West University, injuring nine people, before he was killed.