I wrote my last column on the need to take action on gun violence, and yes, here is yet another column about the same topic. It’s been barely a few weeks since the mass shooting at a school in Tennessee, followed by another at a Louisville bank. Both occurred in communities where it would seem everyone is friendly to one another, but also in communities, or states, where gun ownership is a fact of life. And yet, we’ve already moved on as a nation. There is no talk about mass shootings, of the children and their teachers killed while at their Christian school.
Instead, the new gun fear is that it could be anyone in any random situation that gets shot. Yes, you could be the next victim.
In just the past few weeks, we have seen a new epidemic of shootings. Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo., was shot twice, all because he went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings.
Heather Roth and Payton Washington, two teen cheerleaders in Texas, were shot for attempting to get into the wrong car, one they thought was their own. Waldes Thomas and Diamond D’arville, Instacart delivery drivers in south Florida, had their car shot at when they went to the wrong address. And most tragically, Kaylin Gillis died when she and her boyfriend pulled into the wrong driveway in rural upstate New York and were shot at by the property owner.
It may be a different type of shooting, just as random, but maybe it is creating a greater sense of impact that these are people getting shot at for no good reason, but someone with a gun decided to use it rather than use common sense that maybe there isn’t a need to actually pull the trigger. Too many guns are going into the hands of people who are not trained in how and when to properly use them.
Typically, these recent shootings are referred to as accidental, the victims being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They don’t have any connection to the shooters in the mass shooting incidents. Maybe the subconscious reaction to mass shootings is that it would never be me. These new shootings are different — the shooter has no connection to the victims, other than the victim somehow mistakenly crossed the shooter.
Statistically, I know that my risk of being a victim of gun violence remains very low, just as my risk of being in a car accident or having our house burned down are also highly unlikely. However, in the United States, the risk for children and teens being killed by a gun is higher than their risk of being killed in an auto accident.
Car owners are generally required to be responsible enough to hold car insurance. Homeowners are required by their mortgage company to purchase homeowners insurance, and renters typically protect their belongings with renters insurance. And yet, we have no expectation of responsibility from gun owners. It’s easier to get a gun license than a driver’s license in many jurisdictions. If you don’t like the gun laws in the state you live in, just go to another with lax gun laws to get your assault rifle, no questions asked.
When someone purchases a gun, it is with one intent: to someday use that gun to end the life of someone. In some cases, that may be justified self-defense, but increasingly, we are seeing cases where there is no plausible claim of self-defense.
Our Second Amendment to the Constitution may now be interpreted to guarantee the right of gun ownership, but the Second Amendment says nothing about the right to take a life or the attempt to do so. While the Constitution is the established law of our land, we do have one other founding document, the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps the most famous line is “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The impact of gun violence and fear is that we have lost these “unalienable Rights” in favor of the right of gun ownership. Above all, people like Kaylin Gillis have lost their right to life, the first of those rights, supposedly protected by our government, and the sole purpose of the government in the eyes of our Declaration of Independence, the document upon which our nation was separated from the tyranny of England. Now, we are subjected to the tyranny of gun owners.
David Inoue is executive director of the JACL. He is based in the organization’s Washington, D.C., office.