It’s ironic. The writer who penned The Great American Gun Violence Lottery for huffingtonpost.com is a law professor at Lewis & Clark College. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark left civilization to explore North America’s western-most reaches. They faced any number of lethal threats: disease, starvation, injury, exposure, animal attack and native Americans’ ire, to name a few. Professor Erin Ryan [above] seems to share the explorers’ perspective: shit happens. But she fails to embrace the second part of that equation: deal with it. Personally. Instead, she celebrates statism, starting with a story . . .
Remember, back in junior high school, when you read that classic of American literature, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson? In the story, a small town ritualistically draws straws each summer to see who among them will be stoned to death, to ensure a good harvest later that fall. (Goes the local proverb, “lottery in June, corn be heavy soon!”) As the lottery begins, the townspeople gather in the public square and begin to collect rocks. The head of each family draws a slip of paper from the box, hoping not to see an inky black dot . . .
Now, looking around your own world, does this dystopian game of chance seem at all familiar? Thankfully not, you are probably thinking–but if we’re really being honest, it should. On the anniversary of the soul-wrenching Newtown shootings, it’s time to concede that we, too, are participants in a lottery of our own making–one so horrifying that we mostly choose not to see it. But let’s face the grim reality. We are all living in that same nightmare town, where innocents are mindlessly sacrificed in service to ideals that don’t require this kind of sacrifice. When it comes to gun violence in America, we play the nightmare lottery every time we send our children off to school, each time we visit a public place, walk the streets, and in some cases, live in our homes.
That’s a bit . . . extreme.
Realistically, statistically, our children are not facing a constant, random threat of death by gunfire. Rounding it up, 350 million people live in the United States. Rounding it up, 40k Americans die from gunshots each year. Using those numbers, Americans have a one-in-8750 chance of pegging it via a firearm. That’s a .0114 percent chance.
Suicides account for roughly half of those firearms-related fatalities. If we take suicides out of the equation, the average American’s odds of rapid lead poisoning are .0057 percent. The vast majority of the remaining homicidal and accidental deaths involve adults (over 18). Halve that overall gun death stat again and we’re looking at a .00285 percent chance of experiencing fatal gunfire.
Now think about geography and ethnicity. If you’re a white child living in a suburban or rural low-crime area, the odds of dying by gunfire are lower still. Especially as compared to the death-by-gunfire odds of an African-American child living in an urban high-crime area.
Setting aside that racially-charged discussion, which is about relative levels of extremely low-risk, Ms. Ryan’s wrong. We don’t live in a “nightmare town” facing a “nightmare lottery.” Certainly not one where “innocents are mindlessly sacrificed in service to ideals that don’t require this kind of sacrifice.” Ms. Ryan lists these abhorrent, aberrant beliefs:
Tessie’s community [in the aforementioned dystopian fiction] tolerates their sacrifice to ensure the harvest, though we somehow suspect the corn would grow absent slaughter. Our own communities tolerate the slaughter in the name of other ideals: personal freedom, cultural identity, and market supply and demand. Personal freedoms are worth some sacrifices, to be sure, but–the lives of innocent children attending public school? In any moral universe, that can’t be right. On balance, wouldn’t the more appropriate personal sacrifice for this particular freedom be the minor inconvenience of waiting for a background check that screens for mental illness or criminal history? And for that matter, do we really need to be able to carry a concealed assault weapon, purchased (sans background check) at a gun show, to feel free?
What’s wrong with Americans’ desire to protect personal freedom, cultural identity and a supply and demand (a.k.a. a free market) economy? I have this sneaking suspicion that a large number of Ms. Ryan’s colleagues could answer that question in great detail. None of whom ever lived under the yoke of a modern tyranny, of which there are many.
The fact that Professor Ryan admits, however grudgingly, that personal freedoms are worth “some” sacrifices indicates that she doesn’t consider it the default option. Perhaps she should hang out with some veterans instead. Or study early American history. All the freedoms she enjoys—including her First Amendment-protected right to promote civilian disarmament—were created by men and women who made enormous sacrifices so that they and their children could be free.
And safe. Ms. Ryan’s contention that the lives of innocent children are the price we pay for our gun rights — horse shit. Americans exercising their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms have protected millions of children – usually their own – from criminal predation. Robbery, kidnapping, rape, murder. Just consider the tens of thousands of child prostitutes in countries with draconian gun laws.
Do we really need a concealed carry firearm to feel free, the good Professor asks. No we don’t need it to feel free. We need it to be free.
Whatever the Second Amendment stands for, surely it doesn’t stand for this. There is a middle ground between the post-apocalyptic vision of gun-less civilians enslaved by evil tyrants and the post-apocalyptic gun violence free-for-all where we seem to be headed. We have moderated plenty of other constitutionally protected freedoms in the name of security from harm (just ask the NSA). Why has finding that sweet spot been so much harder when balancing personal gun rights with everyone else’s right not to be the next mass shooting victim?
As we’ve stated here many times, no one has the “right” to be safe. It is not enshrined in our system of law, nor should it be. Believing in such a fiction empowers the state to curtail or eliminate all other rights, and thus freedoms, in its name. I have a right to be safe so you don’t have a right to keep and bear arms because you might use them against me. Like that. Exactly like that.
When it comes to fiction, there is no greater tall tale (amongst gun control advocates) than the idea that the Second Amendment must be tempered for our own good. This assertion assumes that the right to keep and bear arms is a problem. That it’s too strong in its un-infringed form. That the bad things that happen with guns are due to our gun rights. Gun owners must be controlled.
Hello? How many years did Americans enjoy their gun rights without ANY legal restrictions? As stated above, it’s that legacy that created and assured the freedoms we enjoy today. The fact that the violent crime rate has been falling for decades, reducing the odds of a firearms-related fatality, may or may not be linked as well. But the fact that most of America’s “gun crime” tends to happen in gun control-heavy cities is an indication of a possible correlation.
The middle ground we are looking for already exists within many American families. My husband grew up in Alaska, where his family reasonably kept guns to protect the children from grizzly bears and eat moose through the winter. I grew up in New York, where there were no bears or moose, but still plenty of guns–often resulting in the accidental deaths of children. Our red-state/blue-state, rural vs. urban upbringings reflect some of the cultural divides across our nation, and he and I don’t always agree on every gun-related issue. But even from these diverging vantage points, there is rich common ground to be found. Subjecting our children to the gun violence lottery doesn’t make sense, no matter where or how you grew up.
Funny how she missed the whole defense against tyranny thing, and “balanced” Alaskan gun ownership against the accidental gun deaths among children in New York (which can be statistically rounded down to zero). In any case, We the People are not subjecting our children to gun violence. We, The People of the Gun, are doing everything we can to protect our children from all kinds of violence. And doing so by force of arms, if necessary, as is our right.
Well some of us are. Some of us are attempting to “protect” children by disarming those dedicated to protecting innocent life using the best possible means. Does that make any sense? None whatsoever. And here’s my inky black dot: period.