Friends, the post which follows was written following the events in Orlando last summer – I didn’t have the courage of my convictions to post it at the time partly as I know Christian friends, US citizens, who felt very strongly about their constitutional right to own guns. After the events in Las Vegas this past weekend, I cannot hold back publishing any longer. For ‘Orlando’ you could easily read ‘Las Vegas’.
God help us all.
-13 June 2016-
Friends in the USA, what follows is not my usual style of post, but the events in Orlando on Sunday, and the reaction I have seen to this atrocity both in the media and amongst the blogging community have prompted me to write. I have paused 24 hours, I have considered the fact that this is a highly emotive subject in your country, and that many who read this will continue to fiercely defend their constitutional right to own firearms. My only intention is to invite pause for thought, although my hope is that highlighting these shocking statistics will apply that thought to action.
I have read clichéd suggestions that “guns don’t kill, people do”. The evil in men’s hearts is certainly the ultimate cause of this and other gun-related murders; but why would you allow the evil in a maniac’s heart to be coupled with a lawfully-purchased murderous weapon in his hands?
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the city of Orlando, and a nation which, I would humbly suggest, cannot continue to ignore the appalling impact of guns on its society.
The type of AR-15 rifle that terrorist Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people and wound dozens more in Orlando has has been used in multiple shootings during this decade alone, yet the military-inspired semi-automatic rifle designed for civilian use is perfectly legal in most states.
FACT: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents (a mass shooting is defined as a single shooting incident which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant).
Source: Mass Shooting Tracker
Mateen was armed with a .223-caliber AR-15-type rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic pistol – both legally purchased – when he opened fire at the Pulse club in Orlando early Sunday morning.
FACT: The US spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism, which kills a tiny fraction of the number of people killed by ordinary gun crime. According to figures from the US Department of Justice and the Council on Foreign Affairs, 11,385 people died on average annually in firearm incidents in the US between 2001 and 2011. In the same period, an average of 517 people were killed annually in terror-related incidents. Removing 2001, when 9/11 occurred, from the calculation produces an annual average of just 31.
The AR-15 rifle is the civilian version of the fully-automatic M16 used by soldiers in the Vietnam War. Unlike the M16, users must pull the trigger every time they want to fire a shot. The most common versions of the AR-15 have been banned in a handful of states, including California.
FACT: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012 (including occasions when a gun was fired but no-one was hurt).
Source: Everytown for Gun SafetyResearch
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers, said there are five million to 10 million AR-15 rifles in the U.S., a small percentage of the 300 million firearms owned by about a third of the US population. That is nearly enough guns for every man, woman and child in the country.
FACT: Some 13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people were injured [those figures exclude suicide]. Those figures are likely to rise by several hundred, once incidents in the final week of the year are counted.
Source: Gun Violence Archive
Last October, gunman Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, used an AR-15-style firearm to kill nine people before he killed himself at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
An AR-15 model was used by married couple Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, when they killed 14 people and wounded nearly two dozen others at a work Christmas party in San Bernardino, California, last December. Police recovered two .223-caliber AR-15-type semi-automatic rifles after the couple died in a shootout with officers.
An AR-15-type firearm was used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which shocked the nation in December 2012. Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, who legally obtained the firearms, at their home before he killed 20 children and six adult staff members at the school.
“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did [in Orlando]: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” said lawyer Josh Koskoff, who is representing families of the Sandy Hook victims in a lawsuit, when interviewed by the New York Daily News.
That shooting renewed the gun debate in the USA, and led to calls for a ban on sales of AR-15-type firearms.
However, sales went through the roof, and the National Rifle Association boasted that its membership surged to around five million.
FACT: The number of gun murders per capita in the US in 2012 – the most recent year for comparable statistics – was nearly 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the USA in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.
FACT: So many people die annually from gunfire in the USA that the death toll between 1968 and 2011 eclipses all wars ever fought by the country. According to research by Politifact, there were about 1.4 million firearm deaths in that period, compared with 1.2 million US deaths in every conflict from the War of Independence to Iraq.
‘He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.’
– Isaiah 2:4
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There’s nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like “fail.”
“Our confidence” he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.
All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it’s hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.
It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father’s just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he’d very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
‘Tis mother has to fight it.
In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He’s built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action”
― Edgar A. Guest
There’s a fake tanned sleazy buffoon – calls himself the Donald
A terrifying orange fool of a clown, with less substance than Ronald;
Now I’m not a citizen, and I won’t ever be a US resident
Can’t fathom how he got voted in; thank God he’ll never be my President
Day 14 of Na/GloPoWriMo and NaPoWriMo.net suggests keeping it light and silly today, with a clerihew: this is a four line poem biographical poem that satirizes a famous persona whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light, or revealing something unknown and/or spurious about them. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced.
Not sure I kept it whimsical or light, but’s it’s all I’ve got today. See a great associated image by following this link.
“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents
The wise see greatness
where the fool discerns nothing . . .
“See, how great I am!”
This ‘king’ is altogether
Wise as the day he was born
a second effort written in tanka form in response to this week’s RonovanWrites Weekly Haiku Poetry Prompt Challenge #139 – “King” and “Day” and inspired by the song,’The King’s New Clothes’ (Burl Ives) from the film “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952) (Frank Loesser) – based on the 1837 children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen
“Let me speak plainly: the United States of America is and must remain a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. Our very unity has been strengthened by this pluralism. That’s how we began; this is how we must always be. The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, anti-Semitism, or bigotry of any kind – none. The unique thing about America is a wall in our Constitution separating church and state. It guarantees there will never be a state religion in this land, but at the same time it makes sure that every single American is free to choose and practice his or her religious beliefs or to choose no religion at all. Their rights shall not be questioned or violated by the state.
Remarks at the International Convention of B’nai B’rith, 6 September 1984”
― Ronald Reagan
“For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you–until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end–where all men and all churches are treated as equal–where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice–where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind–and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe–a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
This is the kind of America I believe in–and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a “divided loyalty,” that we did “not believe in liberty,” or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the “freedoms for which our forefathers died.”
― John F. Kennedy
‘Another general shout!
I do believe that these applauses are
For some new honors that are heap’d on Caesar.
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates;
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Now in the names of all the gods at once,
Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed
That he is grown so great? Age, thou art sham’d!
Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!
When went there by an age since the great flood
But it was fam’d with more than with one man?
When could they say, till now, that talk’d of Rome,
That her wide walks encompass’d but one man?
Now is it Rome indeed and room enough,
When there is in it but one only man.
O! You and I have heard our fathers say
There was a Brutus once that would have brook’d
Th’ eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
As easily as a king.’
– Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II
Oh say can you see
The flag of a proud nation
Fallen to half-mast
Fly free again o’er that land
The home of the brave
written in response to this week’s prompt in Ronovan Writes weekly haiku challenge for friends in the USA