Why do you need a gun? Edited.

In the wake of the shoot­ings of tele­vi­sion reporter Ali­son Park­er and her cam­era­man Andy Ward by some ass­hole, there has been a renewed vig­or to the gun con­trol safe­ty debate.

I have been tak­ing advan­tage of this by ask­ing peo­ple on Face­book (an excel­lent venue for thought­ful dis­cus­sion, btw) why they need a gun. I can imag­ine why they want a gun, but I am curi­ous as to why they feel they need one.

Some peo­ple may legit­i­mate­ly fear for their safe­ty, because of where they live, or because of some­thing that may have hap­pened to a friend or neigh­bor, or because of some­one they know. But there are always oth­er steps that can be tak­en to help, besides (or instead of) get­ting a gun.

I hope those peo­ple know this, and can see a way out of their trou­bles. Get­ting a gun would be a last resort to me. After all, it can only do one thing.

I don’t know if I’ll get any insight, if I do I’ll report back.

It’s been a year. I got busy. I did get respons­es, and the most thought­ful ones came down to one thing: fear. Guns, for these peo­ple, are a secu­ri­ty blan­ket against an unpre­dictable world, whether sta­tis­ti­cal­ly sound or not. Since I post­ed this, we’ve also had addi­tion­al mass shoot­ings. But there is one fact that I ate across in the last year that real­ly sur­prised me, and crys­tal­lized my con­cerns about guns.

In 2016 so far, there have been 328 mass shoot­ings, with 426 peo­ple killed and anoth­er 1,238 wound­ed. Mass shoot­ings are often blamed on guns, but also on men­tal health care, par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances, the shoot­ers them­selves, etc. (Source: massshootingtracker.org)

In 2016 so far, there have been 9,908 gun deaths in Amer­i­ca, with anoth­er 20,646 injured. These aren’t just mass shoot­ings, these are mur­ders, sui­cides, acci­dents, etc. These are inci­dents caused by a myr­i­ad of con­di­tions, from depres­sion to stu­pid­i­ty to abuse, to yes, men­tal health. (Source: gunviolencearchive.org)

But it is clear to me, from this, that guns are the prob­lem.

September 11

Today is my birth­day. I share it with a nation­al tragedy. I like to acknowl­edge both. For the birth­day, I share it with my friends and fam­i­ly. For the oth­er, I share it here.

On the day I turned thir­ty-one, ter­ror­ists killed 3,000 peo­ple in the Unit­ed States. It was a hor­rif­ic moment of awak­en­ing for this coun­try, a moment that those of us who had grown up over­seas thought we under­stood. I grew up with car bombs on the news and in my city. It had only been a mat­ter of time, I thought, before the Unit­ed States would have had to face it. Amer­i­can head­lines screamed that “The World has Changed!” and I remem­ber think­ing that was a lot of hubris.

I did not account for what the Unit­ed States would do in response. This was a moment that could have touched off a world-shak­ing dri­ve for peace, com­pas­sion, and a bet­ter future. Instead, we launched a world-shear­ing assault on “ter­ror­ists,” which has, in most rea­son­able esti­mates, been respon­si­ble for the deaths of almost 5,000 US ser­vice mem­bers in Iraq alone, and between 100,000 and 1 mil­lion Iraqis. The issue is not as stark as these num­bers make it out to be, the world is a mud­dy mess, even at its best. But that is a lot of blood spilled in vengeance. The world did change after all. And our coun­try was the agent of that change.

I’m not ask­ing to com­pare the three thou­sand vic­tims of 9/11 to the hun­dreds of thou­sands of vic­tims of the Iraq War. That is a scale that will nev­er bal­ance. Instead, I am ask­ing us to put ALL the deaths on one side. What goes on the oth­er side then?

For my birth­day wish, I would like us to reflect on these scales, and do what we can to see them bal­ance.