After a month-long trip to see our family in Spain, I’m already missing speaking my mother tongue, eating jamón serrano, rambling through Roman aqueducts and cobblestone plazas. Yet, here is what I miss most: The lack of daily gun violence.
Since my return to the States, every night on the local and national news there is a lead story of an individual either injured, killed or in limbo due to gun violence. In Madrid, the capital of Spain, there is no neighborhood I won’t drive or walk through in the late evening. Having lived in some of the biggest American cities – LA, Miami, and NYC – there are streets I hesitate strolling through on a sunny, Sunday church morning.
I have experienced the two extremes: Spain, a landscape of strong gun laws, and Venezuela, a lawless wilderness. The United States stands in the middle, and it’s time for a shift.
What does it say about our nation that families living on certain streets must learn the survival skill of avoiding ricocheting bullets from drive by shootings? Is this the developed nation we live in? But gun violence is everywhere, even in the most hedge-clipped, New England neighborhoods.
As a mother of four children who lived 20 miles from the Newtown tragedy, I’m painfully aware that purchasing a gun is as easy as procuring a six pack of beer with a crappy fake ID. Firing a gun is almost as simple as hitting buttons on video game consoles. Almost anyone can get a gun in today’s marketplace. Absolutely anyone can get a gun in the underground market.
James Brady died this week, but I hope his legacy will be kept alive.
Yes, there has been a plethora of groups lobbying Congress to introduce stricter gun-control laws, but little has changed. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is made up of 48 national organizations. But there are so many more ‘mom and pop’ local and state groups. On the flip side – while there may be pro-gun local crowds – there is really only one, carefully oiled behemoth called the NRA. It greases the wheels and pocketbooks of local, state and federal politicians. It buys their souls with a few rounds of loot. I’m sick of hearing hacks on TV hide behind the Second Amendment. Really?
I don’t think our founding fathers had the idea of criminals and mentally challenged individuals raised on a diet of violent media having easy access to guns. If you want to get literal about the Second Amendment, carry a bayonet. We live in a culture where Walmart advertises pink pellet guns for girls. (Gosh, if we can get a handgun into the paws of canines, just imagine what a new market that would open up!)
I understand that hunting is a sport that dates back to our cave-stays, but can’t we find ways where sportsmen and women might shoot with tighter regulations? Change cannot happen overnight. But it needs to start today. All the splintered anti-gun violence groups must merge into one strong organization, one voice, and one central collection station. Reversing the tide of gun violence takes more than talk and snappy ads, it takes money, because unfortunately Congressional votes often go to the highest bidder.
I was born in Venezuela, at one time a safe and beautiful place to live. Today everyone there carries a gun because you are better off trusting your own finger on the trigger than the corrupt and inefficient tentacles of law enforcement. You have a greater risk of being the victim of gun violence there, than if you’re visiting a war torn country in the Middle East. I personally know people that have been injured by ‘friendly fire,’ express kidnapped, or threatened with a barrel pressed to their foreheads. That’s why it’s called an ‘underdeveloped’ country.
But let’s get back to the developed world. A 2013 study by two NYU cardiologists published in the American Journal of Medicine found that of the 27 most developed nations (including Spain), more Americans own guns than citizens of any other country. Approximately 88 out of 100 Americans own guns, says the study, which sought to quantitatively debunk the notion that “guns make a nation safer.” No surprise that the U.S. has had the greatest incidence of gun deaths. These authors show a direct link between ownership and gun deaths, no matter what blasphemy the NRA is firing at you. (Japan, by contrast, had the lowest number of gun owners and gun deaths.)
I have experienced the two extremes: Spain, a landscape of strong gun laws, and Venezuela, a lawless wilderness. The United States stands in the middle, and it’s time for a shift. It’s time that the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Mayors Against Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, Gabrielle Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, Newtown Action Alliance and all the myriad groups to come together as one voice to pit against the NRA. One voice, not a thousand drowning each other out. I want to come back from vacation and not have to see headlines of victims lost to gun violence. These are the kinds of headlines no mother will miss.