There’s a story out of Philadelphia that’s enough to break your heart.
On April 21, a man shot his girlfriend to death in front of her 11-year old daughter, then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. Aleen Ali, 45, a supervisor at the city’s Department of Human Services (DHS), walked up to the car of Angela Jeffreys, 34, who was about to take her daughter to school, and stood silently as he started firing. Jeffreys, a clerk at the Criminal Justice Center, was a single mother who also had two other children – one in high school and another in college. Ali left a wife, also an administrator at DHS, and an 18-month-old baby. Jeffreys’ daughter was taken to the local police station, still wearing her school uniform. The police found eight shell casings.
So now, after this senseless loss of two lives, four children have lost a parent. And for what? I am sure that at this point, someone reading this commentary will recite the usual gun rights drivel, that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, that although this was a tragedy, nothing could be done. Most of all, I just love the argument that the second amendment gives us a constitutional right to own as many guns as we please, and that we need more guns to protect us from the “criminals”. Well, I disagree. Many people are pretending they are unaware that more of these deadly incidents are occurring these days.
In Pittsburgh, there was the racist man who killed three police officers. He hated Obama, and said he would defend himself if anyone tried to take his guns. In Binghamton, NY, there was the Vietnamese immigrant who killed 13 people at an immigrant services center, and then committed suicide. And in California, an unemployed hospital technician shot his five children and wife to death before taking his own life.
And it all seems to point back to the same thing: this country has too many guns, over 200 million privately-owned weapons to be exact. That includes handguns, rifles, and shotguns, and millions more are added to that amount each year. In my humble opinion, the existence of so many guns seems to be particularly hazardous in a pathologically unstable nation such as the United States. This nation boasts an alarming combination of systemic chronic unemployment and a lack of opportunity, with substantial segments of the population with low levels of education and no marketable skills, and inadequate methods of conflict resolution. Throw in widespread undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, and a rise in activity among right-wing extremist hate groups, and you have a recipe for disaster. Plus, to make things worse, we are exporting our violence to Mexico with a drug war fueled by American weapons.
Not wanting to go off half-cocked without looking at the destruction caused by guns in America each year, I decided to consult the statistics. And I must say, the statistics are sobering.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project and McClatchy-Tribune News Service, among others. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson. His blog is davidalove.com.