Today is John Lennon’s birthday. He was assassinated by a madman with a gun almost 37 years ago, supposedly because his killer wanted attention and fame. An admitted sociopath, the man who killed him had no problem getting a gun in 1980. Just think how much worse things are on what would have been Lennon’s 77th birthday, October 9, 2017. Guns in America are an epidemic now, and you don’t have to be famous to be shot dead.
We still don’t know why the Las Vegas shooter decided to kill 58 people and wound 489 others. But what we have learned is chilling. We know he scouted out other locations, including Fenway Park in Boston, the Lollapalooza concert in Chicago, and the Life Is Beautiful music festival a week earlier in Las Vegas. Why he settled on the Route 91 Harvest festival may be simply random. Frightening.
The arbitrariness of becoming a victim of gun violence should give all of us pause. A man with an arsenal of 47 weapons, including assault weapons designed for war, could have gunned down my family at a baseball game in Fenway, people you and I know at Lollapalooza, fans of Chance the Rapper in Vegas, or anyone, including you and me.
The people he did kill were from all over the country and even Canada. They ranged in age from 20 to 67. They left behind countless grieving relatives and friends who will never be the same. Look at their faces. All they had in common was a love for country music that brought them to the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Of course, mass shootings are unbelievably a minor part of our problem with guns. I have written many times about all of the victims of gun violence whose names are quickly forgotten. About children like Garrion Glover, Jr. and Semaj Crosby, who are among the kids who killed by guns who die without a photo. Or the people in Chicago killed by guns over a weekend in January of 2016. "In other shootings." Those words were actually the seventh paragraph in a story buried on page eight of the Chicago Tribune. The headline read “3 shot near W Hotel; 12 others shot citywide.”
Or Tyshawn Lee, a victim of our national obsession with guns that really hit home for me. Tyshawn was nine, the same age as my granddaughter. He was killed in an alley in Chicago going to his grandmother’s house on his way home from school. The day before, I had worried about my granddaughter, who did not show up where I was picking her up from school due to a mix-up.
There is no doubt that guns in America are a public health crisis. 300 of us are shot every day. 30,000 of us die from gun violence every year. According to Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times, “Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.” Kristoff was arguing for smart gun technology, and I’m sure that would help. But actual scientific studies have concluded that there are three laws that would go a long way to lowering the death count from guns.
According to a study in The Lancet, these three laws are:
- Universal background checks for firearms purchases
- Ammunition background checks
- Identification requirement for firearms
I can hear the NRA argument already. These laws would not have stopped the Las Vegas massacre. Let’s focus our attention on the bump fire stocks instead, although we should “examine the problem” and not necessarily pass a law. In fact, a quick google search leads me to believe they will sell like hotcakes in anticipation of a ban that will probably never happen.
In poll after poll, 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks. And yet, if Congress didn’t act after 20 first graders were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, why should anyone expect the massacre of 58 people enjoying a concert in Las Vegas will move the needle? Do they even care about the daily deaths of innocents every day on the streets of America? Or the huge number of suicides by guns?
In honor of John Lennon’s birthday, let’s imagine they do care. Let's “Imagine all the people living life in peace” Now let's do something about our guns.