The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive


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Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 23:17:24 -0400
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
To: PORTSIDE@LISTS.PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Hooked on Violence

Hooked on Violence

By Bob Herbert

April 26, 2007, The New York Times

http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/26/opinion/26herbert.html

Two days after the massacre at Virginia Tech, a mentally
disturbed man with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun opened
fire in a house in Queens, killing his mother, his mother's
disabled companion and the disabled man's health care aide.
The gunman then killed himself.

Sixteen months ago, in the basement of a private home in the
Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, four aspiring rappers, aged
19 to 22, were summarily executed in a barrage of
semiautomatic gunfire. Two teenagers were arrested five months
later, and one was charged as the gunman.

I had coffee the other day with Marian Wright Edelman,
president of the Children's Defense Fund, and she mentioned
that since the murders of Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr. in 1968, well over a million Americans have
been killed by firearms in the United States. That's more than
the combined U.S. combat deaths in all the wars in all of
American history.

'We're losing eight children and teenagers a day to gun
violence,' she said. 'As far as young people are concerned, we
lose the equivalent of the massacre at Virginia Tech about
every four days.'

The first step in overcoming an addiction is to acknowledge
it. Americans are addicted to violence, specifically gun
violence. We profess to be appalled at every gruesome outbreak
of mass murder (it's no big deal when just two, three or four
people are killed at a time), but there's no evidence that we
have the will to pull the guns out of circulation, or even to
register the weapons and properly screen and train their
owners.

On the day after Christmas in 2000, an employee of Edgewater
Technology, a private company in Wakefield, Mass., showed up
at work with an assault rifle and a .12-gauge shotgun. Around
11 a.m. he began methodically killing co-workers. He didn't
stop until seven were dead.

An employee who had not been at work that day spoke movingly
to a reporter from The Boston Globe about the men and women
who lost their lives. 'They were some of the sweetest,
smartest people I've ever had the chance to work with,' he
said. 'The cream of the crop.'

The continuing carnage has roused at least one group of public
officials to action: mayors. 'We see the violence that is
happening in America today,' said Mayor Thomas Menino of
Boston. 'Illegal guns are rampant. Go into almost any
classroom in Boston - sixth and seventh grade, eighth grade,
high school - and 50 percent of those kids know somebody who
had a gun.'

The mayor noted that since the beginning of the year, more
than 100 people have already been killed in Philadelphia, and
nearly 80 in Baltimore. Most of the victims were shot to
death.

Last year Mayor Menino and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New
York, at a meeting they hosted at Gracie Mansion, organized a
group of mayors committed to fighting against illegal firearms
in the U.S. 'It is time for national leadership in the war on
gun violence,' Mr. Bloomberg said at the time. 'And if that
leadership won't come from Congress or come from the White
House, then it has to come from us.'

The campaign has grown. There were 15 mayors at that first
gathering. Now more than 200 mayors from cities in 46 states
have signed on.

When asked why Mayor Bloomberg had become so militant about
the gun issue, John Feinblatt, the city's criminal justice
coordinator, mentioned the 'human element.' He said: 'I think
it's because he's watched eight police officers be shot. And
because, like all mayors, he's the one who gets awakened,
along with the police commissioner, at 3 in the morning and 4
in the morning, and has to rush to the hospital and break the
news that can break somebody's heart.'

Those who are interested in the safety and well-being of
children should keep in mind that only motor vehicle accidents
and cancer kill more children in the U.S. than firearms. A
study released a few years ago by the Harvard School of Public
Health compared firearm mortality rates among youngsters 5 to
14 years old in the five states with the highest rates of gun
ownership with those in the five states with the lowest rates.

The results were chilling. Children in the states with the
highest rates of gun ownership were 16 times as likely to die
from an accidental gunshot wound, nearly seven times as likely
to commit suicide with a gun, and more than three times as
likely to be murdered with a firearm.

Only a lunatic could seriously believe that more guns in more
homes is good for America's children.

(c) Copyright 2007 The New York Times

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