by Sonny Messiah Jiles
We live in a time when guns are ending far too many lives. Mass shootings and police killings dominate daily headlines as the value of human life becomes an afterthought.
Think about it. Your loved one goes to the mall and never comes home again. Your kids go to elementary school and never come home again. Your aging mother goes grocery shopping or to church and never comes home again. Your 16-year-old has a birthday party, and some of the kids never make it home again. You make a quick stop at the bank, never to go home again.
Or, in the case of the shocking mass shooting in Cleveland, Texas, you ask your neighbor to stop shooting his gun because your baby is trying to sleep, and he kills five people.
These were everyday people getting on with their lives, unaware that death by gunfire was right around the corner. The lives of the victims and the shooter’s families change forever.
Something must be done now to stop the madness and stop the guns.
Findings from the Pew Research Center reveal some troubling facts about gun deaths:
- More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2021 than in any other year on record.
- In 2021, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides, while 43% were murders.
- Gun murders climbed sharply during the pandemic, increasing 45% between 2019 and 2021.
In addition, FBI data from 2020 showed that handguns account for 59% of U.S. gun murders, and rifles or assault weapons are involved in 3% of firearm murders.
The impact on the Black community is devastating, according to Giffords Law Center, which is led by gun violence victim and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
- Black men make up 52% of all gun homicide victims in the U.S., despite comprising less than 6% of the population. (Some call this “Black-on-Black crime,” but it is so much more than that).
- Unarmed Black civilians are five times more likely to be shot and killed by police than unarmed white civilians.
In Texas, my home state, Giffords reports someone is killed with a gun every two hours, one of the highest incidences of murder in the country.
Some of the deadliest incidents have occurred in the Lone Star State: A store in El Paso, 23 killed and 23 wounded; a church in Sutherland Springs, 25 killed and 20 wounded; a bar in Waco, nine killed and 18 wounded; a high school in Sante Fe, 10 killed and 13 wounded; an elementary school in Uvalde, 21 killed and 17 wounded.
Let’s not just talk about the problem — let’s address the solutions. Someone told me guns are not the problem. People are.
OK, I cannot do much about controlling people, but we can control gun access. As a gun owner who was raised with firearms in the home, I am also a realist and recognize the following solutions will not end the carnage.
Everytown.org, America’s largest gun violence prevention organization, has some recommendations. They will not stop all the gun violence, but they are a start:
- Close background check loopholes: Extend the laws beyond gun stores to include gun shows and online sales prohibiting people with felony convictions, domestic abuse restraining orders, and/or histories of mental illness from buying guns with no questions asked.
- Enact extreme risk laws: Allow loved ones and law enforcement who see warning signs to petition the court and restrict a person’s access to firearms when they pose a risk of harming themselves or others. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have adopted such laws.
- Limit access to assault weapons/high-capacity magazines: Congress must curtail access to assault weapons — like the AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters — and high-capacity magazines.
- Pass the Disarm Hate Act: Address the connection between misogyny and extremism to gun violence.
Stop the guns NOW!
Sonny Messiah Jiles is CEO of the Houston Defender Network.
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