Ken Plum: Gun violence epidemic
Three people were shot to death in Herndon last week — a mother and her two children, in an incident the police termed “horrific.” The shootings will not make the list of mass murders as the official definition of a mass murder is four people or more. Over the past several weeks there have been murders of one and two people in Reston in different incidents but not reaching the threshold to be termed a mass murder. Mass or not, it is too many. The number also affects the media coverage. A murder here and there has unfortunately become so commonplace that it makes the back page of print media and barely a mention in broadcast media. The fear is that we are becoming immune to what is happening in our communities, and while we are by no means accepting of what is happening there seems to be less outrage unless a large number of people have been killed or wounded.
A cartoon in last week’s Washington Post shows two men looking at a chart with a soaring upward line. One says to the other, “I thought we had COVID under control.” The other responded that the upward line to 50 deaths per day represents the deaths by gun violence, not COVID. Just a couple of months ago I wrote a column “Epidemic Surge in Gun Violence” to draw attention to the understandable fact that while we were closely following the COVID pandemic there was a second dramatic increase that I termed a “surge” in gun violence.
There are many excuses that can be given for the surge in gun violence at this time that center around the isolation and depression arising from the pandemic. Certainly they are factors, but the fact remains that the overwhelming presence of guns in our society leads to their misuse in domestic disputes, getting even with others, accidents, and suicides among other causes. Recent news accounts indicate that there has been an unprecedented surge in gun sales. In 2020 people purchased more than 23 million guns, a 66 percent increase over 2019. There were 2.5 million guns purchased this past January for the third highest total ever.
The effects of the COVID pandemic are being felt around the world, but the gun violence epidemic is unique to the United States. According to a study by the United Nations, there are 29.7 homicides by firearms per one million people in the United States compared to 1.4 in Australia, 1.9 in Germany, and 5.1 in Canada.
Tragically the number of young children being the victims of gun violence has seen a surge as well. Seldom is there a week or a day without getting the news that a child, sometimes even an infant, and too many teenagers have become the victims of gun violence. Beyond the children who are actually killed are the brothers and sisters of those who have been murdered or the children of adult victims who are traumatized by what has happened in their lives. They are victims as well.
I participate in monthly vigils at the NRA along with many loyal advocates who carry the message that we must take legislative action at the federal level as we have in Virginia to end gun violence. Join me in continuing to press for a response to this epidemic!
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.