January 30, 2013

Why Hadiya Pendleton Died but My Son Lived ~ Lori Ann Lothian

Michaela Budnick via Susan Follansbee Wright
via Pinterest

A fifteen year old girl who played in a marching band at President Obama’s inauguration was killed yesterday by gunfire.

According to NBC news, Hadiya Pendleton was standing in broad daylight with friends in an upscale neighborhood Chicago Park when a drive-by-shooter took aim, not likely at her. Yet the bullet that lodged in this young girl’s back wasn’t exactly a guided missile. She ran a few blocks (I wonder if she was running for the safety of her home?) before collapsing. She died shortly after in the hospital.

I look at her picture on my Facebook news feed, and I see my own teen daughter. I see a smart, fresh-faced honors student with her dreams before her (she would have gone to Paris this summer). And I cannot stop the tears for the senseless death of someone’s daughter, sister (her brother is 10), and friend.

My son was almost killed five years ago. He had just turned 18; it was his last year of high school. And he had a lethal problem: an older kid/drug dealer was out to harm him because my son had won a party brawl fist-fight weeks earlier

The kid approached my son in a dark alleyway outside of a teen house party, and with no warning, smashed an empty liquor bottle over my son’s head, slicing his face open.

As the second blow came, my son raised his arm to defend himself—the broken bottle sliced through the artery in his wrist. A friend used my son’s sock to create a tourniquet to staunch the bleeding until the ambulance arrived. Five hours of surgery later to rebuild the artery, my son was still alive. Today, he has the scars across his cheek and his arm, to remind himself of how lucky he is that the weapon of choice was a bottle.

Had his attacker shot him at close range, he would most certainly be dead.

In Canada, where I live, people don’t shoot each other very often because other than hunting rifles and police-issue firearms, guns are illegal. Because of this, Canada ranks 33rd of 87 nations, with 2.13 gun deaths per 100,000 people, per year.

The USA ranks 10th, with a ratio of 10.2 deaths per year, per 100,000 people.

Above the US are semi-lawless, tribal-vendetta-driven, drug-cartel-infested nations like El Salvador (50.36); Swaziland (37.16); Mexico (25.14); Columbia (11.10).

That the USA, my North American neighbor, keeps company with these bad-boy countries is just plain insane.

And among the world’s 23 most wealthy western nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. Twenty times!

If I have to hear that damn gun lover’s slogan ever again, I just might shoot somebody: Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People. Yes, of course, but it’s not nearly as easy to kill someone with your hands, a knife, a bottle or a baseball bat. Getting rid of guns (apparently there are enough guns floating around the USA to put a gun in the hands of every citizen) would mean less dead people. Period.

Case in point: Japan’s strategy to virtually eliminate gun deaths by outlawing almost all firearms has resulted in a death rate from gunfire of  .07 per 100,000 people annually. Remember, the USA’s number is ten times that and these figures might be too low. According the Atlantic Journal:

In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

If you are like me, all these statistics start to run together, and as telling as they are, become a kind of boring mantra of what is wrong with guns. So to wake you back up, I’ll leave you with this shocking and ridiculous advertisement by the NRA folks. (If anyone can watch this and still think sanity prevails in the “gun rights” lobby, I salute their capacity for denial.)

In the meantime, while the USA sorts out its gun insanity with new Obama-lead attemps at gun control, I am just grateful to live in well-mannered Canada where guns are used to shoot bears and moose, not human beings.




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