Yesterday was surreal. We heard helicopters flying around our house as if we lived in LA. A small news station in Roanoke, WDBJ, just an hour away from Cville had been broadcasting a fluff early morning piece at Smith Mountain Lake, when a lone gunman murdered the beautiful, young reporter and her photo journalist, live. It was an unthinkable act. They don’t kill journalists in America, do they? And while I was following the car chase via Twitter and a local news anchor, the killer posted his own video of the crime to social media. My oatmeal was getting cold, I’d lost my appetite.
This morning we are learning more about the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Two talented, rising stars in TV news who didn’t deserve to die yesterday while doing their job. And we’ve learned that the shooter (I refuse to use his name) was a disgruntled, ex-employee of the station. He’d been fired for basically not playing well with others at many different news outlets. He’d been encouraged to seek medical help. Let the chorus begin…mental health vs gun control. Only like most things in life, it’s not that simple; and it’s not really a political issue.
The ease of obtaining a gun, and the sheer abundance of guns in this country is a public health issue. Period.
The state of Virginia rates a “D” in the gun law scorecard of the Law center to Prevent Gun Violence. You can go to their website to rate your own state http://smartgunlaws.org/search-gun-law-by-state/ Here is what Virginia does not have on the books, some of our very own loopholes for people intent on gun ownership: We DO NOT
Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals;
Require firearms dealers to obtain a state license;
Regulate the transfer or possession of 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines;
Require firearm owners to report lost or stolen firearms;
Impose a waiting period prior to purchase of a firearm; or
Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”).
Why are we blind to this? How can we walk away from VA Tech and Sandy Hook without confronting our national sin. Or the countless times guns are used in a suicide – or in a domestic dispute – or in an “accident” involving a child – are seemingly overlooked by the media frenzy for a mass shooting incident at a mall or a movie theatre. It’s easy to say, oh he was crazy, he was over the edge; because it’s always a “he” and it always involves a gun.
I knew a teenager at the height of the Iraq war, who was circling her bedroom with a crown moulding of names – the names of the soldiers who were dying there and in Afghanistan. I was breathless when I first saw this memorial border, and I thought how so much is ignored or buried or covered up in the news. At the time, only PBS was broadcasting the names of the dead. Remember we were not allowed to see the flag covered caskets returning to our shore, as if we are children who need to be shielded from the sight of dead soldiers. Maybe we need to start a long border of names, or a quilt of the US citizens who have been killed by guns in the past year. The children, the wives and mothers, the fathers and yes, the young people just going to work in Virginia at daybreak.
Every day on average 290 people are shot in this country. We have three times as many gun homicides as European nations. Three Times
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. “Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/you-have-to-see-how-many-more-people-are-killed-by-guns-in-america-to-really-believe-it/