Most people rightly believe that being a police officer in the US is a seriously dangerous job. But when measured in terms of the risk of being shot and killed, it isn't: More preschooler's die every year from guns than do cops.
According to a new report from the Children's Defense Fund in 2008 and 2009 – the two years after the Virginia Tech shootings – 173 kids age five and under died from gunfire in the US. By comparison, 89 police officers were shot and killed during the same period.
Teens don't fare any better. The CDF study, the twelfth annual report it has done on gun violence against children in America, reports that the gun homicide rate for teens and young adults ages 15-to-24 in the US is 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for 23 other industrialized nations.
Put differently, the 5,740 children and teens killed by guns during the same two years nearly equals the 6,661 US troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since those wars began. The most recent analysis of gun deaths shows that 87 percent of the children under age 15 killed by guns in these 23 nations lived in America.
"By any standards, children in America are under assault," the Children's Defense Fund states, adding "and by international standards, America remains an unparalleled world leader in gun deaths of children and teens."
Yet the NRA and its Congressional supporters have the audacity to still insist the answer to the country's obscene gun violence is more guns. How many more guns are needed? Already, there are more weapons than broadband connections in America.
As with many other things in America, race figures prominently in the statistics.
While blacks suffered 45 percent of all child and teen gun deaths in 2008 and 2009, they make up only 15 percent of the nation's population of children. In 2009, black males who are between 15 and 19 years old are eight times more likely as whites, and almost three times as likely as Hispanics, to be killed in a gun homicide.
Basically, these children are dying needlessly, and only because it is too easy for too many people to acquire guns.
Frank E. Zimring, a professor at the University of California-Berkeley, did a landmark study several years ago on gun deaths. He found that while most were unplanned – manslaughter rather than murder – having a gun handy dramatically increased the likelihood of someone dying.
Moreover, a Center for Disease Control study notes that states with higher rates of gun ownership and weaker gun control laws have the highest rates of gun deaths. The opposite is also true: States with strong gun laws and low gun ownership rates have significantly lower rates of gun deaths. While sensible gun laws may impose a small burden on law abiding citizens they also confer a significant benefit in the form of saved lives.
Gun death statistics were not collected by age until 1979. Since then, nearly 120,000 children have been killed by firearms in the US.
"Children dying simply because someone wants to own an AK-47," states Dr. Howard Lindeman, an emergency room physician who has worked on children brought in with gunshot wounds that often were life threatening. "A gun owner's 'rights' end before a bullet enters the body of a four or five year old kid."
No one can rationally justify allowing the continuing spread of guns when you are more likely to be a baby who is shot dead playing than is an adult patrolling the mean streets? The Economist put it bluntly: "Only an idiot … could possibly pretend that no connection exists between those figures and the fact that 300-million guns are “out there” in the United States, more than one for every adult."
The nation would not even be having this looney-tunes "debate" over the right to own assault rifles and high-capacity handgun ammo clips had five old white guys on the Supreme Court understood 18th century grammar and punctuation standards. Because they didn't, they misapplied the Second Amendment to 21st century gun laws. As a result, gun control laws were struck down, dooming even more children to die needlessly.
The 2nd Amendment also talks about "a well-regulated militia." In the 1700s, this was the term used to describe armies. The framers were not thinking of mulyuks wrapping high-powered, automatic assault weapons in "Swedish Bikini Team Coach" tee-shirts and hiding it in a closet to be brought out in case the federal government became unruly.
So now, Vice President Joe Biden is trying to thread a needle, finding common ground that doesn't seem to exist between a Supreme Court ruling based on a false reading of the Constitution, the NRA's unholy argument for all-guns-all-the-time, and common sense. On Tuesday, Biden is expected to announce a proposal for bringing a sliver of rationality to America's gun laws after weeks of holding meetings with a broad range of vested interests. Pres. Obama ordered the review following the Newtown catastrophe.
When a five year old in America is 5.8 times more likely to die because of a gun than in all other high income nations combined, the country has a serious problem that could be easily fixed. Unfortunately, NRA along with the gun and ammunition manufacturers who bankroll it have billions of dollars at stake. The gun lobby along with the lunatics who want to own weapons more powerful than anything carried by World War II vets care less about children than about unneeded and unnecessary high powered weapons.
Author and journalist Charley James’ next book is about his experience becoming homeless. When published, Charley will donate a percentage of his advance and royalties to homeless organizations.
Follow Charley on Twitter @SuddenlyHomeles. Posted: Saturday, 22 September 2012 Charley's next book is about his experience being homeless. When published, he will donate a percentage of his royalties to homeless organizations.
Published: Monday, 14 January 2013