Remember what they do

New Orleans march against violent crime in response to multiple recent murders. Marching to City Hall from Poydras Street. the GNU Free Documentation License. Author: Infrogmation.

by Sarah Mensch

Every day, 93 Americans are killed by gun violence. I am twenty-one years old. In my lifetime, more than 630,000 people have been killed by guns in the United States.

That many victims, many of them children, could fill NRG Stadium, where this year’s Super Bowl was held, about ten times.

In 1996, Congress eliminated $2.6 million from the budget of the Centers for Disease Control. That money was restored, but only with the stipulation that neither it, nor any other funding to the CDC, be used for research on gun violence and its effect on the American public. This makes obtaining reliable gun violence statistics difficult. Given the political power of the National Rifle Association, passing gun control legislation is even more difficult.

Earlier today Kathie Malley Morrison  asked me if I personally knew any victims of gun violence. At first, I described myself as “one degree of separation”  from several gun violence victims, but then remembered a former camp counselor of mine who was killed in late 2006. Kathie told me that years ago one of the girls who grew up in her small town neighborhood was shot and killed by her husband in front of their two small children.

With an average of 30,000 people killed by guns in the US each year, I think it would be hard to find someone who was more than one degree of separation from a victim of some sort of gun violence. Yet most people do absolutely nothing to prevent this violence.

The available gun violence statistics are dismal, to say the least. Americans are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than people in other developed nations. In 2016 alone, there were 58,205 instances of gun violence in the U.S. and there is no real end in sight—despite all the violence, 45% of Americans believe that Americans are safer with more guns rather than fewer.

Resolving to end gun violence in a country where the media flaunt and profit from portrayals of violence isn’t easy, but I want to suggest two ways readers of this article can help.

  1. Make a donation to Everytown For Gun Safety, a nonprofit gun safety advocacy group. Donations are tax-deductible. If you don’t want to contribute financially, consider signing up for Everytown’s mobile list of Gun Sense Activists for texts with ways to help make your community safer.
  2. When you hear about upcoming gun control legislation, go to this site to find out how to contact your state’s senators and representatives and tell them how you think they should vote. You’re their elector, which means you’re their boss. If calling your representative sounds intimidating, check out this comic for some easy guidelines for doing so .

Sarah Mensch is a psychology major at Boston University. She is thrilled to be working on a Directed Study focusing on the effect of the media on gun violence under the supervision of Dr. Malley Morrison. When Sarah graduates, she aims to go on to graduate school to earn an MSW and become a therapist. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys pursuing her minor in Deaf Studies, photography, and exploring Boston.

This entry was posted in capitalism, culture of violence, gun violence, Media, politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Remember what they do

  1. Jennifer Wilck says:

    Great article, Sarah!

  2. LB says:

    Hi Sarah ~ You probably weren’t aware, but Everytown For Gun Safety (which spent $183,368 on 2016 Federal Elections) endorsed Hillary Clinton for president:

    http://everytown.org/press/everytown-for-gun-safety-action-fund-moms-demand-action-announce-endorsement-of-hillary-clinton-for-president/

    https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/detail.php?cycle=2016&cmte=C90015025

    This is relevant for a couple of reasons. One being the tangled issue of using donations to influence political candidates, the other being Hillary Clinton. While serving as President Obama’s Secretary of State, Clinton was responsible for *hundreds of billions* of dollars in commercial arms sales:

    “The Saudi deal was one of dozens of arms sales approved by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that placed weapons in the hands of governments that had also donated money to the Clinton family philanthropic empire…Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation…That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.”

    “The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.”

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/29/hillary-and-the-clinton-foundation-exemplars-of-americas-political-rot/

    I hope you’ll read the linked CounterPunch article which contains other significant details. It also outlines more fully our government’s connection to state-sponsored terrorism and the normalization of violence, aggression and war.

    I grew up surrounded by violence (next door to public housing s0 dangerous my black friend’s mother told me to tell my mother to *never* let me visit there again; if she couldn’t spare her own child, she’d at least try to spare another mother’s child), later worked in Special Education for 20 years where I witnessed (and hoped to prevent) more of the same. It’s easy for people (particularly young people) to become desensitized to violence, especially as it’s become increasingly glamorized as a cultural and state-sanctioned norm. Residents in poor communities are especially vulnerable, more so now as social and economic conditions worsen and funding for social safety nets are slashed. Local community programs that provide safe, positive alternatives for at-risk youth, particularly those organizations willing to utilize the experience of older community members, can be helpful ~ at least in my experience.

  3. Sarah Mensch says:

    Hi, LB,

    Thank you for informing me privately that donations to EveryTown for Gun Safety are not tax deductible. That is disappointing, but I still think it’s important to include Everytown for Gun Safety in my article, and I’ll tell you why.

    I spent two weeks working on this article and the piece of my research that accompanies it, researching gun violence statistics for hours and hours, and feeling upset not only about the fact that the data I truly needed was blocked by congress from ever being researched, but about the bleak outlook on gun violence based on the data I did find. I really wanted to give this article something uplifting at the end.

    As it turns out, it took me longer to find a gun safety organization to include in my article than it did to write the article, which involved cutting down the research I had written by about 80%, an arduous task to say the least. The fact is, as far as I can tell (and I may be wrong), Everytown is still the best gun safety nonprofit around. As someone who voted for Hillary and put my confidence in her, this news about her arms sales is disheartening (though I wouldn’t change my vote). I agree with you on your point about the controversy of influential donations.

    Do you know of any other gun safety nonprofits I can include in my article? If so, I would absolutely love to include them in a corrections section. Thanks so much for all of your feedback.

    • LB says:

      I’m sorry Sarah, I don’t know of any gun safety nonprofits. My focus has been more on the other end of things, though better legislation and vetting procedures would be great. Good luck in your research. It’s a worthwhile cause.

      Where I grew up, guys used to sometimes sell guns in the parking lot behind our building. Unfortunately, no amount of legislation can adequately address illegal weapons sales, which will continue as long as people are poor and desperate and there’s a demand and profit to be made. I’m sure you’re aware gun violence in poor, minority communities is an ongoing problem.

      Once you’ve witnessed or experienced violence close-up (and I hope you never do) it becomes more personal, not something easily dismissed. For that reason, state-sponsored violence, the murder of innocent civilians, destruction of homes and lives for profit and power, is something I find unacceptable. The idea of moral justification and disengagement, the hows and whys involved in our normalization and support of violence and injustice, is what originally drew me to “Engaging Peace.”

      I hope in time you’ll rethink why it is so many of us remain (relatively) okay with weapons sales and war in other nations (and those who support this way of doing business), and yet are not okay with gun sales here when it means the risk of death or injury to someone they love.

      The lives and suffering of people living outside the U.S. matter as much as those living here. People in other countries (sometimes Muslim, often brown or black-skinned) love their mothers, fathers, children and homes as much as we do ours and grieve the injustice of their losses, same as we do.

      Take care, Sarah.

    • LB says:

      Sarah ~ You got me curious, did a search this afternoon and discovered “States United To Prevent Gun Violence”. It looks like they have some good videos (“Gun Crazy”) and I appreciated their link to “Tell Congress to protect ALL women from abusive partners and stalkers, not just married women”:

      http://ceasefireusa.org/

      I wasn’t able to locate the organization on any of the charity sites, so don’t know much about their internal workings or if they make political contributions or endorse candidates (hope not). What I did notice (and liked a LOT) was their list of specific ways to become involved under the heading “Take Action!”, particularly their suggestion to *divest*, something I did with my own retirement years ago:

      http://www.ceasefireusa.org/take-action

      The site seems pretty accessible, with lots of videos and articles as well as detailed information on a wide variety of gun-related issues, also educational programs, affiliates and ways to volunteer, links to other links. It’s worth noting States United To Prevent Gun Violence calls for banning military style (assault) weapons, unlike Everytown For Gun Safety which does NOT. Donations to States United To Prevent Gun Violence are tax deductible.

      Some of the specific wording in linked articles about “suspected” terrorists concerns me, although another article points out toddlers shoot and kill more people than terrorists in the U.S. Keeping in mind I haven’t fully vetted the organization, it’s at least worth a look to see what you think. Hope it helps.

  4. Andrew Mensch says:

    Makes you wonder what the NRA and Congress is hiding by making gun-death research so difficult. Compare.this with the huge decline in auto deaths since the early 70s… when government, automakers, groups like MADD, SADD and even liquor companies worked to lower deaths from car crashes from 53,000 in 1968 to 35,000 in 2015. The vehicles are safer, seat belt use is up and people are aware of of DUI. Government, private industry and citizens working together… if only gun manufacturers and the public would do the same to limit gun deaths.

    • kathiemm says:

      Andrew, thank you so much for your reminder of the very helpful work done by groups like MADD and SADD to improve car safety and reduce automobile deaths. There is definitely a lesson to be learned there.

  5. Ellen Popelsky says:

    Terrific and scary article! Thanks for the insight Sarah Mensch!

  6. Dot Walsh says:

    Hi Sarah, and everyone who responded to your article. I have been involved with the Gun Coalition in MA. making sure we can have a bill that will restrict gun use. I just received this notice to my dismay:

    Gun lobby attempting to overturn AG enforcement

    The National Rifle Association is urging its supporters to call Massachusetts lawmakers in regards to two bills that challenge Attorney General Maura Healey’s strong stance on the state’s assault weapons ban:

    SD 1157, sponsored by state Senator Don Humason (R- Second Hampden and Hampshire), would remove the Attorney General’s authority to regulate firearms and would repeal the previous regulations.

    SD 1889, sponsored by state Senator Anne Gobi (D- Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex),would eliminate the term “copy” from statute, thereby, eliminating the premise behind the Attorney General’s actions last year to enforce our state’s ban on assault weapons.

    The MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence urges its members to write and call their members of the state legislature to oppose both of these bills. The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence does not deny citizens their right to own a gun, but instead works to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who should not possess them. The Coalition also believes that ordinary citizens do not need to own assault weapons. We applaud the work of Attorney General Healey in carrying out the full meaning of the Massachusetts laws limiting assault weapons, including copy-cat weapons.

    • Sarah Mensch says:

      Dot,

      I’m disheartened to hear about this. Thank you for letting me know about it. Have these bills been officially introduced, or are they simply in the works? If they’ve been introduced, I’d love to lead by example and give my representatives a call about what’s going on.

      Sarah

  7. Dot Walsh says:

    Hi Sarah, I am not sure of what stage the bills are in but I do know that it is important to let our representatives know how we feel about the gun issue. Make the call!!!

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