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Letter to the Editor: What is happening to our country?

Something very disturbing is happening in America.  It is not happening in any other high income country.  In fact, in the U.S. the gun murder rate is 25 times higher than other countries.

When I began teaching in 1968 about the only thing teachers and administrators had to worry about was the occasional fight between a few students in the hall. There weren’t a lot of guns involved, and there weren’t mass shootings (there was one in 1968 related to integration in which three people died).  In the classroom it was students not paying attention or talking back to the teacher or maybe teasing a fellow student.  I began my teaching career in a pretty rough area of Atlanta — and at 21 I was glad that was all I was worried about.

Fast forward to 2018 - 50 years later.  I am glad I am no longer in the classroom, because our country has gone through some drastic changes.  Some would say that people have changed and that is partially true because of our immediate access to news — real or fake — through television, websites, blogs, social media, and smart phones.  Poverty remains high in urban areas where there has been an increase in gangs.  In fact, poverty in rural areas remains high also.

There are over 340 million guns in American now.  The number of people owning guns hasn’t increased a lot, but people who own guns own multiple guns.  The type of gun owned has changed since 1968.  Now guns like the AR15 are part of their arsenal.  Semi-Automatic rifles or revised rifles (bump stocks) where used in the massacres this past year — Las Vegas, Texas, and now Parkland.  Not only are the guns semi-automatic, but the users can purchase high capacity magazine clips so they can reload and shoot quickly.

The prevalence of guns has led many to believe they must have a gun to protect themselves.  In fact only two percent of gun related deaths were caused by owners using a gun for protection. Over the past 50 years the number of deaths related to guns has increased so much that now we have more deaths (1.4 million since 1968) related to guns than in all the wars the U.S. has engaged in.   

So what can we do?  If poverty is part of the reason for gun violence perhaps if an organization like the NRA spent $50 million a year to help young people gain hope and jobs rather than pay off legislators to vote in their favor that would be a start.  How about making sure that every person in the U.S. has access to affordable health care — mental health care that most can’t afford. 

Why does someone need an AR15 to protect them?  How about limiting ownership of these types of weapons.  And how about looking at the real meaning of the Second Amendment and re-think whether it means people are granted the right to own semi-automatic rifles and high capacity gun clips.

Fourteen children and three teachers died in the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre on February 14 in Parkland, Fla.  The shooter had an AR15 and was able to mow them down in a matter of minutes.  I know the argument — it is the people not the gun.  I am sorry, but that mass murder would not have taken place without that gun. Thankfully, the survivors of this massacre, the young high school students, are standing up to fight back. There are many of us that will stand up with them.  Maybe this time we can take steps to end this madness. The majority of Americans want stricter gun safety laws.


Bette Holland