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Sunday, December 16, 2012

In 2008, every three hours a child or teen killed by gunfire

I haven't followed the Connecticut school shooting story. Too difficult. Too sad. And all too common. Yes common. The shooting of 20 children is almost a daily occurrence in the States. Reportedly, in 2008 it took only two and a half days on average for gunfire to kill 20 children and teens.

That's right: Every two and a half days there were 20 more children and teens murdered by guns. A total of 2947 died from gunfire in 2008 and another 2793 in 2009.

In 2008, 88 preschoolers were killed with guns and in 2009 another 85 died. These numbers are nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in that time.

According to the Children's Defense Fund:

  • Recent data from 23 industrialized nations shows 87 percent of the children under 15 killed by guns in these nations lived in the United States. 
  • The gun homicide rate in the United States for teens and young adults ages 15 to 24 was 42.7 times higher than the combined rate for the other nations.
  • Of the 116,385 children and teens killed by a gun since 1979, when gun data by age were first collected, 44,038 were Black — even so, more White than Black children and teens have died from gun violence. 


What can be done? Banning weapons more suitable for war zones than American homes would be a start. Getting handguns out of circulation might be another. But a dialogue must be opened and answers must be found. 

Of course, it would help if the media would stop, do some research, and report the story, the arguments for and against gun ownership, with accuracy. Sadly accuracy is one of the first victims in a story like this. 

At first, it was reported that the school principal had buzzed Adam Lanza in (past school security) because she recognized him as the son of a colleague, Nancy Lanza, the shooter's mother, who worked at the school.

Later, we learned the gunman forced his way into the school by shooting through glass, breaching school's security system. The principal was shot, along with the school psychologist, trying to tackle the gunman and protect their students, according to later reports. And there was no connection between Adam Lanza’s mother and the school.

And what did the gunman use to kill the children. First reports said a rifle. Corrections then appeared, such as this one from The New York times claiming "the guns used in the school shooting were both handguns." Today the BBC is reporting, "The gunman shot all the victims at the school with a semiautomatic rifle . . . "

That facts surrounding this event should change, be corrected and then be corrected again, is not surprising. What is surprising is that the media have not learned this and learned to be more careful in their reporting. The media shows no restraint. In the end beating the competition is the biggest driving force behind the reporting of events such as this. Speed trumps all.

Consider the error-filled, fast-off-the-mark response of syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer:

"Think about the details of the crime, he (Adam Lanza) began by shooting his mother . . . and then destroying everything precious to her, her colleagues and her children, and then killing himself."

If I could advise my American friends how to approach this tragedy, I say approach this carefully, thoughtfully, try to find answers that are not steeped in ideology. Refuse to be rushed. Do not follow the path blazed by your media.

If you do step back, using reason and not emotion, you might (underlined) discover the truth surrounding gun control laws. You might, as a nation, shed light on a pressing global issue. You might discover how to prevent the senseless deaths of your young people who are dying a the rate of about one every three hours from gunfire.

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