Where’s the common sense in the gun debate?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-guns. . . I grew up with them!  Going rabbit shooting on my parents’ farm in rural Australia was a regular (and favorite) pastime (sorry rabbit lovers — that was just the way it was growing up in the Aussie bush).  But last week I heard a very tragic story that has compelled me to get on my soap box on the issue of gun control. It seems that with all the focus on things like swine flu and recession, we missed the recent 10-year anniversary of the Columbine massacre along with the progress (or rather, lack thereof) on the gun control issue.

The topic of gun control creates a lot of conflict and incites a lot of fear. Much of the fear is driven, in my humble opinion, by the pro-gun movements’ belief that restricting the availability of guns is an infringement on one’s individual freedom limiting our ability to protect ourselves.  But their equation that gun access equals safety and freedom quickly proves itself false when you look at the facts and take the rhetoric out of it. For instance, did you know that the United States has, as a percentage of population, 32 times more gun homicides than the UK each year and that Americans are over four times more likely to die of gun death than Canadians? How can anyone say guns create safety and freedom with statistics like that.

Here’s a few more to  (sourced from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence):

  • With every day that passes, 8 children and more than 70 adults in America die from gun violence
  • In 2004, guns murdered 37 in Sweden, 56 in Australia, 73 in England & Wales, 184 in Canada and a staggering 11,344 in the United States
  • A 1998 report found that the rate of firearm homicide in the U.S. is nineteen times higher than that of 35 other high-income countries combined
  • American children (age 14 and below) are sixteen times more likely than children in other industrialized nations to be murdered with a gun, eleven times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die from firearms accidents
  • To top it all off, 40% of gun sales nationwide take place without a criminal background check

Can the current status quo continue at the cost of human lives for the sake of “guaranteeing freedom” as the pro-gun lobby maintains?

The story I mentioned involved an Easter egg hunt gone tragically wrong. A three-year old boy in Texas searching for Easter eggs in his parents’ bedroom inadvertently triggered the loaded gun his dad kept under his pillow! His parents rushed to the bedroom when they heard a gunshot after the young boy put the gun to his head and fatally shot himself. I’m sorry and maybe it’s just me who is scratching my head bewildered, but have people completely lost the plot? How can anyone think that keeping a loaded gun under their pillow, particularly when they have young kids (and what kids don’t love jump on their parents bed?!) is a good idea?! Puhleease.

Which brings me back to my point. Guns are dangerous. They kill people. Big people, little people, and way too often, innocent people.  Every day and far too regularly by people who, quite frankly, shouldn’t even have access to a bread knife.

So I’m not calling for a ban on guns. I’m just calling for some common sense. Surely it is past time for a national and rational debate that examines the issue objectively, and weighs up the “right to bear arms” versus the cost to every person living in America of millions of people walking around with loaded guns in their pockets, in their cars, in their homes and  under their pillows.

I know I talk a lot about living with courage. Let me just say, when it comes to Americans and their obsession with guns, it scares the hell out of me.