Students Walk Out: One Speech

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The following speech was given by Duncan Glew, our own writer and columnist:

Good morning, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us today.

As we honor and remember the victims of the Parkland massacre, I think it’s important to recognize the fact that the debate over gun safety is not about ideological differences. It’s not about left versus right, or government versus the people, or us versus them. It’s not about the Second Amendment, or whether you believe people have the right to own a gun. The gun control debate is, at its core, a face-off between fact and fiction.

It’s much easier to appreciate the extent of this very real, American problem once you get a feel for some of those facts. As of 2014, civilians own nearly 370 million guns. That’s compared to a national population of 319 million—in other words, we have more guns in America than people.

Roughly 16.5 thousand homicides were committed in 2016. 73 percent of those—or roughly twelve thousand murders— were carried out with a firearm.

Since the Sandy Hook massacre, just five years ago, there have been over sixteen hundred mass shootings in America, and we have, on average, one mass shooting per every day.

On the global scale, the United States contains just over 4 percent of the world’s population, but 42 percent of all civilian-owned firearms. We have 30 homicides per 1 million people; 16 times as many as Germany and far more than any other developed nation.

That is not normal.

It’s particularly important to understand the facts of the firearm epidemic when advocates for gun ownership push “alternative” solutions to gun violence. Following the Parkland tragedy, the president announced his desire to arm teachers to protect against school shootings. There is absolutely no reason to believe this would be effective, but there is substantial evidence that more guns leads to more death and destruction. U.S. states with more guns have more gun deaths—not fewer.

Another argument pro-gun politicians and groups like the NRA make against proposals for stricter gun regulation is the notion that increased ownership of guns for self-defense will lead to fewer deaths and less violence overall. That might sound good if you’re on the fence, but it’s just not true. For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.

It’s also important to understand the nuances of the argument for greater gun regulation. The focus of the gun-control debate has often been on mass shootings, and it should be; the U.S. has some of the most deadly and tragic mass shootings in the Western world. But just as devastating as our rate of mass shootings is the fact that the vast majority of gun deaths in the United States are suicides and incidents of domestic violence. Over 60% of gun deaths are suicides, and more than five times as many women are shot by husbands or boyfriends than by strangers.

These numbers are crushing. It can be hard at times to be proud to live in a country that is so powerful, and yet does nothing to stop the heartbreak and tragedy happening within its borders. But we owe it to the victims and families of Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, and the countless other mass shootings in recent memory—as well as those who suffer from gun violence each and every day—to know the facts about this terrible epidemic. We must educate ourselves and others on the truth of gun violence, and work hard to stop it before more lives are lost.

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