Two More Disturbing Gun Cases Beg the Question When Will We Change?
To blog about such a controversial topic like the use and possession of guns in the United States is something I want to tread carefully with. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion surrounding the debate, but this week I could not help but question the legality of guns when coming across two particular cases.
On Thursday, Don Spirit killed his six grandchildren, aged from three months to 10 years old, and his daughter before turning the gun on himself. Spirit, whose case has been described as a murder-suicide, was someone who had already been involved in the criminal justice system. According to Fox:
In 2001, Spirit pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, after he fatally shot his 8-year-old son in the head in a hunting accident. Spirit, who also was convicted in 1998 for felony possession of marijuana, was sentenced to three years in prison for the shooting.
The details of the investigation are still in the very early stages, so it is hard to understand the motive — if there was one — the facts surrounding Spirit’s mental health, and his relationship with the victims. Aside from knowing these facts, I cannot help but wonder how Spirit even managed to have a gun after being convicted of a shooting in 2001? Gun accessibility legislation for ex-convicts really needs to be reconsidered in light of this case.
What I feel a lot of people fail to recognize is that the most common method of suicide in the United States is through the use of guns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011 there were 39,518 deaths by suicide. An overwhelming amount of these deaths (19,990) were the result of firearms. If we are a country that aims to protect our citizens and the rights of others, surely we should look out for ourselves just as much? If we have such easy accessibility to the weapons of our choice that could end our lives, should we not reconsider the laws surrounding them? Do not get me wrong, I am more than aware that the black market for firearms is an ever-growing underground business, but if we cannot efficiently manage the legal selling and keeping of licensed handguns, we have no hope to stop the illegal sales and handlings.
My point needs to be extended to the safety of those living with others who have access to guns. On the same day as the tragic deaths resulting from Spirit’s heinous act, a fifth grade boy was arrested in Michigan after being found to have stolen his grandfather’s pistol. Not only was the boy found with the gun, but he had also created a list of names in the back of his homework book of people he allegedly planned to harm. As a result of this discovery, the boy has been suspended from school for ten days, and could face possible expulsion. Again, this could be my criminological thinking coming out, but I cannot help but wonder whether this punishment will actually solve the problem of what the boy intended to do? I certainly do not think he should be given jail time, or any formal sentence, but I do think that he needs to be aware of just how serious his actions were. Why? Because if he is not aware of it, what is to stop him doing it all over again, and just being more careful.
I fear that in a culture where are part of normality, when conflict arises in such intense situations, sometimes the only resolution seems to be in the form of violence via the use of weapons. I personally do not think this reflects on the attitudes and actions of those involved in this violence, I think it is the instinct that they have been taught their entire lives, to protect themselves in an extremely lethal way. In order to enact firmer laws that protect our safety, we have to start working on understanding the reason for such laws. As someone who is British, and not used to the debate on the use of guns, one of the main things I have come to realize is that it is a right for US citizens to own a gun, and by restricting this right through legislation, essentially the country contradicts all it stands for. As hard as it is to stand back from what an entire population believes in, more awareness needs to be raised toward the consequences of guns, not just for now, but for the future.
Hannah Kaye (@HannahSKaye) is originally from London, now living in New York. Recently graduated with an MA in criminal justice from John Jay College. Strong contenders for things she is most passionate about are bagels and cupcakes.
Featured image courtesy of [Auraelius via Flickr]