Do the Math!


The president said we have to face some hard questions; twenty elementary school children were gunned down in their classrooms on Friday, along with six adults charged with keeping them safe. It was unfathomable…

Just as it was beyond comprehension when twelve students and one teacher were gunned down in Littleton Colorado… Do you even remember their names? Twenty-one more were injured.  They too were children: Cassie Bernall (17), Steven Curnow (14), Corey DePooter (17), Kelly Fleming (16), Matthew Kechter (16), Daniel Mauser (15), Daniel Rohrbough (15), Rachel Scott (17), Isaiah Shoels (18), John Tomlin (16), Lauren Townsend (18), Kyle Velasquez (16) died along with a teacher, William “Dave” Sanders, at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.  It was unfathomable that anyone could wantonly kill people so young, so innocent…

But then wasn’t the time to talk about it. Emotions were raw. Americans were in a state of shock. Disbelief. This was an isolated incident, two disturbed young men. They needed help, we missed the signs; well someone didn’t acknowledge the signs. They were so young, we said. How could anyone shoot children? we asked.

But, we pacified our grief in silence. We were lulled back into complacency by the illusion that this incident was isolated. And we did nothing.

Nothing is a choice.

In the 1990’s, 326 people lost their lives in shootings at schools in the United States. Three-hundred-twenty-six.

In February 2000, a six-year-old shot and killed another student. Since 2000, there have been twenty-one “school shootings,” including Sandy Hook. These statistics don’t include shootings at colleges; this is just k-12.

Of the 311,591,917 Americans, 4.3 million are members of the NRA. 1.38% of the American population. And yet, it is one of the strongest lobbies in Washington. 1.38%. That leaves 98.62% of us to sway our leaders. 98.62% of us to get the guns regulated, off the streets, stop the carnage.

And it is carnage. “Guns don’t kill people” is an Orwellian maxim that simply isn’t true. Technically, I suppose it is a true statement, someone has to pull the trigger so, People with guns kill people.  Limiting myself to gun deaths, where more than three people are killed, in the 2000’s (by state):

March 10, 2009. Eleven killed at the hands of a gunman in Alabama.

January 8, 2011. Six dead in Arizona.

December 24, 2008. Nine dead at the hands of a gunman in Covina California.

October 5, 2011. 3 killed by a gunman in Cupertino California

October 12, 2011. Eight killed by a gunman in Seal Beach California.

July 20, 2012. Twelve killed in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

August 3, 2010. Nine gunned down in Connecticut.

December 14, 2012. Twenty-seven killed at an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut.

December 8-14, 2000 five killed in Wichita, Kansas.

December 26, 2000. Seven killed in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

July 7, 2011. Seven people gunned down in Grand Rapids Michigan

March 21, 2005. Nine people killed in Red Lake, Minnesota.

December 5, 2007. Nine people shot at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska.

April 3, 2009. Fourteen people shot and killed in Binghampton, New York.

October 2, 2006. Six die in Nickel Mines. Pennsylvania.

November 6, 2009. Thirteen shot and killed in Fort Hood, Texas.

February 12, 2007. Six shot in Salt Lake City Utah.

April 16, 2007. Thirty-three die in Blacksburg, Virginia.

January 19, 2010. Eight shot and killed in Appomattox, Virginia.

May 30, 2012, six die in Seattle, Washington.

March 25, 2006. Six people gunned down in Seattle, Washington.

November 24, 2004, six shot and killed in Meteor, Wisconsin.

March 12, 2005, seven people killed in  Brookfield Wisconsin.

October 7, 2007, seven people shot and killed in Cranden, Wisconsin.

August 5, 2012, six people shot and killed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

October 21, 2012, three shot in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Total: 237. Two-hundred-thirty-seven killed in mass-shootings since Columbine. Two-hundred-thirty-seven since we cried for the Rachel Scott, Steven Curnow, and their classmates. Two-hundred-thirty-seven since we lamented and insisted that now isn’t the time for this conversation. Now is the time for this conversation! Nothing is a choice. It wasn’t the time to talk about gun control after Columbine — and so many more have died.

People who died in mass shootings in Britain and Northern Ireland combined during the same period: 12. Canada: 15. Finland: 28. Even Colombia, South America – you know a drug capitol – trails behind the Untied States, having 172 for the twenty-first century… There are, of course, countries with more mass shootings than the United States: Mexico, Syria, and Afghanistan. But is that really whom we wish to emulate? Really?

After one school shooting in Scotland, in 1996, Great Britain made it illegal to buy or possess a handgun. One school, sixteen children, no more handguns. Period.

I think it is unrealistic to think that we will get rid of guns in this country (though in my heart, that is my dream). But we need better control. I need a license to drive, to practice medicine, to teach, to do so many things; I must be trained. Not so with guns. And that’s just crazy! Well regulated. You know, managed, supervised, controlled.

And this blog doesn’t even consider the issue of mental health—or the deplorable state of American healthcare that leaves those who are mentally unstable in a position where they cannot get the help they need and their demons overtake them…

Sign the petition to demand our elected officials make changes to our gun laws that will protect our children and grandchildren. There are 4.3 million members of the NRA, people who have bought into the bastardization of the Second Amendment; it’s up to the other 307,291,917 of us to be well regulated and regain some sense of rationality in this desperately needed conversation.

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14 thoughts on “Do the Math!

  1. Mel, you would have a strong argument even without the numbers, but I like that you have done the homework. The numbers are indeed staggering. This phenomenon, if you can call it that, isn’t limited to “since Columbine.” There was an “incident” in a suburban school near where I live (Jackson, MS) back in 1997 where a so-called angry, disturbed young man shot his mother and then drove to his high school and killed two students and wounded several others. I’m sure if we explored further we would find more. But it does seem that in the last 10 years these crimes have escalated. Time, past time, to do something. It will be interesting, won’t it, to see whether this too gets politicized, like so much else. I hope and pray not. Those Sandy Hook babies’ faces break my heart.

    • It definitely isn’t “since Columbine” — but that particular incident is etched into our pop-culture memory. It’s sort of universal, like 9/11, or Katrina… no explanation needed. And I remember the conversation so vividly, but nothing changed.

  2. Really good blog post. And informative. We are the 98% (99% if you round up!) We SHOULD be able to sway congregational legislation. But does the majority of Americans really influence the legislation anymore?

  3. At dinner this weekend a fellow mom and I got into it a bit, she is from a “gun family” You can’t ask people to give up their hobbies…they have a right to guns…I got nasty, and said what if it was “freddies” school and he was dead now? Wouldn’t you want everything more dangerous than a crayon off the street? I was told I can’t make this personal, that’s not right. Really? Really, you just said that? What is possibly more personal than this? Mel…thanks once again for making it so beautifully clear. And if you can do this math, nobody else on the planet should be unable to figure it out!

  4. At present, Mel, I own zero guns. Zero. Never have. But, I’m NOT saying I never will. I’m all for debate, too. But unfortunately, you are abusing your statistics. Your 98.62% stat is nothing more than wishful thinking. There are more people who support second amendment rights than just NRA members. A quick Google search, and I just learned that 73 percent of respondents, in a 2011 Gallup poll, said they would not support the banning of handguns. Here’s another: in a Pew Research poll just this year, 67 percent believed that mass shootings, “are just the isolated acts of troubled individuals.”

    Then, there’s your Columbia example. Their “rate” of mass-shooting deaths, as a percentage of their population is five times HIGHER than the rate for the United States. Five times. I did the math.

    So, here’s my take.Never minimize the trauma of personal tragedy. Sympathize. Empathize. Come alongside. What if it had been you this time?

    Neither overreact to statistical anomalies inherent to living in close quarters with seven billion other people. There is risk in living. We need not frighten ourselves into thinking we can legislate it out of existence. Be sober. Beware of recklessness. Understand the law of averages, and go out into the sunshine again.

    • Pretty sure, based on my parameters, my numbers are right. And I am aware that not all people who support unregulated gun ownership are NRA members. Polls done last week suggest that over 70% of Americans favor some sort of regulation on guns… from closing loopholes, to banning assault weapons.

      If we allow this tragedy to become distant, we are allowing more children to die.

  5. Gosh, staggering numbers Mel.
    When Robert and I were first together I suggested a nice weekend in Seattle. Maybe a trip to the Museum of Flight, a nice supper somewhere, a stay in a B&B. But he was really concerned because, in England, everyone is of a belief that it’s possible to be shot on the street in America. This was already over 10 years ago and we’ve been to Seattle (and elsewhere) several times, but, as a Brit, he still feels the unease when he visits America and there’s very little I can do to rid him of that. Sad how the world is.

  6. My husband and I were talking about the shooting (and the 2nd Amendment, and the NRA) the other night. He made a good point that now is the exact right time to talk about gun control, because what can the NRA say in response? That all teachers should be armed to protect themselves from mass shootings? They would just look crazy!

    Thanks for sharing such a thoughtfully written article.

    • @Veronica, I can attest to the Brits’ belief that Americans live in the Wild, Wild West. In the U.K. this summer, we saw that “appalled look” every time we answered the all-too-frequent question: Do people REALLY have guns in their homes in the U.S.? American Movies influence that mindset a lot, but so do the tragedies like Newtown that seem to plague us.

      @emilyemcgee, the city of Harrold, Texas has decided to arm the school staff and encourages teachers to carry guns. They also have security cameras and gates. NPR reported it here >> http://www.npr.org/2012/12/18/167533823/amid-calls-for-gun-control-some-push-for-weapons-at-school

      Well-written and well-expressed, as always, Mel. Thank you.

  7. This post is very well-written and I totally agree with what you’ve said.
    In Germany (where I live) the background checks are more extensive, the cost higher AND every gun owner needs to take an extensive course and pass the tests. When I say that, those who support the right to own guns point out that we’re not immune here either. Yes. Sadly it is true that a few years ago we had a shooting in a school not far from my home. But our numbers are nothing like what you’ve written. I think the gun control can help reduce the frequency and severity of the incidents. And, anyway, what civilian needs military-style guns or high volume ammo? We can still allow people their Amendment rights but in a limited way. When those rights to bear arms laws were passed, the weapons being used were not of the caliber they are today. As times changes, laws must change.

    And then, as you’ve stated, it goes beyond guns. The health-care system and society also play a part. We need to evaluate all these things as a whole in order to bring about change.

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