I believe Tennesseans should carefully consider this small gem of wisdom from the pen of Mark Twain: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
It’s bad enough when we adults become the victims of our own irrational assumptions. But when our foolish beliefs lead to the deaths of innocent children, stupidity becomes infanticide.
Here in Tennessee, and throughout the “red” states, millions of people — dare I call them rednecks? — are full of the certain and unquestioned “knowledge” that “guns don’t kill people.” But this “fact” is not supported by the evidence of statistics, which tell an entirely different story: throughout the civilized world, where there are fewer guns, there are far fewer gun-related deaths. So it turns out that guns really do kill people, perhaps in the same way that high levels of lead in paint lead to more poisonings.
The Divine Oscar Wilde once said that the only sin is stupidity. I think we can safely say that 99.9 percent of Americans want to protect children from unnecessary suffering and death. But then it is beyond stupid for us to make it so easy for the deranged .01 percent to get their hands on assault weapons. Letting gun dealers peddle assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips is like letting home supply companies sell lead-based paints. In both cases, many innocent children are going to die for the sake of a few pennies per share on some company’s bottom line.
So let’s make no bones about it: for the sake of their real God, the Almighty Dollar, the NRA and its political lackeys are going to cause the deaths of large numbers of American children, unless we stop them. Perhaps the NRA and its minions will not be pulling the triggers directly. But if I am selling drugs in your neighborhood, and children start dying of overdoses, am I “innocent” or a huge part of the problem? Obviously, easy access to the wrong things can kill, whether the products are drugs, lead-based paints, or guns and ammo.
Here are some sobering statistics:
A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. Among the world’s 23 wealthiest nations, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, in the 44 years since Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were shot to death, bullets have ended the lives of more than one million people. In the civilized world, an extraordinarily high percentage of those deaths were American deaths. Children in Japan, England and 20 other industrialized nations were much, much safer.
The Virginia-based Violence Policy Center ranks Tennessee seventh nationally for the most gun-related deaths, at a rate of 15.03 per 100,000 people. Tennessee’s household gun ownership rate is about 46 percent, the VPC estimates. Hawaii came in last — which in this case means first — with a death rate of 2.82 per 100,000 and a household gun ownership rate of only 9.7 percent.
So in the U.S. and around the civilized world, there is a strong correlation between the ownership of guns per capita, and the rate of gun-related deaths per capita. I’m sure we could find similar relationships between the presence of other deadly items and deaths related to those items: drugs, lead-based paints, asbestos, cars and houses that don’t meet safety standards, etc.
But the dumb whizzes of the NRA and their religion-mad political allies don’t believe in facts, statistics or science. They are people of faith — blind faith. In the past, people like them used the Bible and the Constitution to “prove” that slavery was the will of God and the Founding Fathers.
Now they want to enslave us and endanger our children by forcing us to bow down and worship the Almighty Gun. But people of blind faith were wrong about slavery, witch-hunts and the sacrifice of animals and children to the gods. I, for one, am confident that they are just as wrong about this strange new idolatry.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.