Gun Safety: A Tale of Two Grandchildren

Yesterday, I waited for my nine-year-old granddaughter after school. When she didn’t show at up our arranged spot for Mondays, I worried that she was confused and looking for me where I usually pick her up the rest of the week. And that was what happened. Never once did it cross my mind that someone shot her. But that is exactly what happened to another nine-year-old, a boy named Tyshawn Lee. He was killed in an alley walking to his grandmother’s house on the South Side of Chicago at about the same time I was worried about my granddaughter being late.

Tyshawn age nine (Chicago Tribune photo)

Tyshawn age nine (Chicago Tribune photo)

 

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My granddaughter, also age nine

How can this keep happening to children whose main mistake in life is living in the wrong neighborhood and being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are we so afraid of a small minority of NRA members that we can’t do more than just talk about how tragic this is?

I guess it’s our politicians who are afraid of a powerful lobby that owns them. But we must also share in the blame. We don’t vote. We don’t make our voices heard. We mostly shake our heads when we hear about a six-year-old killing his three-year-old brother. And then we go on with our lives.

Like many of us, I thought things would change after 20 children and six teachers died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  Now almost three years later, nothing has changed. In fact, according to Nicholas Kristoff in The New York Times,

“First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.”

Amazing. Tragic. Inexcusable.

Bet you didn’t know that more preschoolers (82) were killed with guns in 2013 than police officers were in the line of duty (27). Injuries and deaths caused by guns are a huge public health issue. Most Americans, including gun owners, recognize there is a problem and support solutions like universal background checks, more regulation of gun dealers, and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and people convicted of domestic violence or assault.

To those who think the right to bear arms means we still live in the Wild West (except our modern weapons are capable of doing so much more harm): If you don’t like the phrase gun control, how about gun safety? Aside from registration and banning military style weapons, we could use our technological skills to create guns that only fire for the owner. What’s wrong with that? You accept that you need a license to drive and liability insurance for your car. Why not for guns?

My heart breaks for Tyshawn’s grandmother, who heard the gunshots while waiting for him to arrive at her house. She knew there was a chance her grandson had been killed, and her worst fears were realized. As a fellow grandmother waiting for her grandchild to arrive safely from school, I can only begin to imagine her fear, but I can totally feel her grief. Our grandkids deserve a safer world.

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