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.