Looking Inward: 2,660 and Counting
Emily Russell/ Sun Star Columnist
April 8, 2014
At 4:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday of last week, a soldier opened fire at Fort Hood military post in Killeen, Texas. With that, another three people were added to the list of those that have been massacred by an American citizen who legally acquired a gun. While this tragedy was widely reported, few Americans realize that since the beginning of this year, an average of over 28 people have died every day from gun-related violence. Unfortunately we don’t hear those stories very often.
The gunman, identified as Ivan Lopez, killed 3 people and injured 16 before taking his own life. Lopez served in the Iraq war, had a self-reported brain injury upon return from Iraq, and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been diagnosed with depression and was prescribed Ambien, a sleep aid, along with anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications.
Lopez purchased his .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol at Guns Galore, the same store where Nidal Malik Hasan purchased the firearm he used to kill 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. Legislation backed by the National Rifle Association barred commanding officers at Fort Hood and at every military base in the country from asking about privately owned firearms kept off base. The NRA ensured that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 would “protect the privacy and Second Amendment rights of gun-owning military personnel and their families.”
As admirable it is for the NRA to protect the privacy rights of Americans, what has the NRA done to protect the military personnel and their families from people like Ivan Lopez? The NRA is essentially valuing the privacy of Americans over their safety.
There is currently no national database for gun ownership in America, so it is impossible to get accurate numbers that could inform debates. Polls provide rough estimates for how many households have guns, estimated to be around 37 percent, while the number of guns in circulation in America is far more astounding. Out of those 37 percent of Americans who have guns in their homes 62 percent admitted to having more than one. In fact, there are anywhere from 270-310 million legally owned guns in America. With a total population of 313 million, there are enough guns in America for every man, woman, and child to pack heat.
I have eaten my fair share of moose, caribou, ptarmigan, and even bear since moving to Alaska a year and a half ago and I appreciate the tradition that subsistence hunting supports. But responsible hunters don’t bring their guns to public places, and don’t have any reason to. Only about 15 percent of Alaskans still go hunting today.
In the rest of America, only 6 percent of the population still goes hunting, which means that a vast majority of gun-toting Americans own guns because they just don’t trust other Americans. Self-defense is an argument that is made frequently but the fact is that guns in the home are 22 times more likely to be involved in accidental shootings, homicides, or suicide than for self defense. Approximately half of all households that contain a gun do not keep the gun safely locked up, leading to an unnecessary amount of accidental shootings.
These stories and statistics demonstrate an irresponsible and apathetic approach to gun control in America. Since the start of this year 4,327 people have been injured and 2,660 have been killed by gun violence in America. And it’s only April. Today in Alaska a bill is moving through the Senate to allow students with concealed weapon permits to carry their firearms throughout campus and store them in their dorm rooms. If massacres can occur at such tightly secured places like Fort Hood, what is to stop a UAF student from adding to the gun-related death toll in America?