Beyond Thoughts and Prayers: A Personal Appeal for Gun Law Change

As March ended, there was another school shooting in Nashville, and thousands of students walked out of classrooms to protest for action by lawmakers. This is not the first or last demonstration because lawmakers will do what they always do… nothing. While watching the students, I was reminded of myself at their age. I owned my first shotgun as a teen and learned gun safety from experienced hunters, but I stopped hunting when I became a parent. After completing the required paperwork, the hardware store owner traded a 38-revolver for my shotgun. That same handgun is loaded with the safety on and shelved in a closet where my wife and I would retreat if our alarm system alerted us to an unwelcome entry. Our plan is to stay concealed, offer a verbal warning, and shoot only as a last resort. Count me as one of many reluctant gun owners who feel the need for protection, but fully support dramatic restrictions to the existing gun laws.


If it seems like mass shootings occur almost every day, it’s because they do. Defined as four or more people (excluding the gunman) being killed or injured, there were 130 during the first three months (90 days) of 2023. During the first ten days of April, there were 15 more. Do the math, and that’s about 1.5 per day. Unlike any prior years, the last three years have witnessed an upward spike . While mass shootings get headline coverage, they make up a small fraction of gun-related deaths. In 2020, mass shooting deaths accounted for only 1.1% of all gun deaths. The total was 33,599 in 2019 and increased by 31% to 44,290 in 2022. That tells me that the gun violence we don’t hear as much about occurs 100 times as often as the horrific mass shootings.


We are the first country in recorded history to have guns as the number one cause of death for children and teens, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) data for 2022. None of the other 12 largest countries had gun-related deaths as one of the top three causes. The U.S. accounted for 97% of these gun-related deaths while representing only 46% of the population. The PEW Research Center validated both the number and rate of children and teens killed last year were the highest ever reported by the CDC, with a 46% increase since the coronavirus pandemic. Gun rights advocates may blame the pandemic, but the reality is part of the increase in firearm deaths among Americans overall.


We are sickened by school shootings. Once again, the gun rights protectors offer a simple “more guns” solution to arm teachers and school security personnel. As horrible as school shootings are, three times as many children were shot in domestic violence incidents, and eight times as many died. From 2018 to 2022, 621 students died from domestic gun violence, while 75 were killed in school shootings. The data corresponds to the CHDS School Shooting Safety Compendium, which also reported that most domestic gun deaths were by parents, stepparents, or guardians.


Our founding fathers could see what was coming when they established this 2nd Amendment in 1796, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  They knew it would take the war to become independent of British rule and requiring all able-bodied men to be armed for military service demanded a “well-regulated militia.” If this militia could be victorious on the battlefields, there could be “free States” with democratic self-governance. They could never have imagined the 2nd Amendment would be the justification for unrestricted gun ownership void of regulation two centuries later. We owe the democratic foundation of our country to those elected leaders who took action to protect those they served and make America a better place to live. Today’s elected leaders “send thoughts and prayers” without taking any action to protect us from out-of-control death and destruction.


Dr. Don Clardy

Dr. Don Clardy is a tenured professor at Baker University with 40+ years in higher education and numerous academic publications. More recently, his writing interests have turned toward current, controversial issues to spark independent thinking by those who choose to read his narrative work.

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