In most parts of the world, going to the wrong house isn’t a fatal risk.
But in the United States it is, because we are inundated with about 450 million weapons and suffer from them mass disappointment that a gun in the house makes us safer.
We are trapped in a spiral in which perceived increases in crime lead to more people purchasing firearms – an estimated 60 million handguns have been sold in the US alone since 2020 – and this in turn leads to more gun violence, which leads to more fear and more gun purchases…
You already have an idea.
Then we have recent tragedies:
– In Kansas City, Missouri, a 16-year-old black man was shot twice, in the forehead and arm, when he went to the wrong house to pick up his younger siblings; he is recovering from a head injury.
The 84-year-old white man who the prosecutor said shot him through a glass door was charged with first-degree assault; the man said he thought the boy was breaking into his house.
– In upstate New York, a 20-year-old girl died when she and several friends got the wrong address. As the car was turning to leave, the homeowner fired her gun and hit her.
– In Texas, two cheerleaders were killed after one of them took the wrong car in a parking lot. One of the 18-year-old girls was injured in her back and leg and was airlifted to hospital; it was initially reported that she was in critical condition.
In other places, wildlings send their victims to the emergency room; in America they are sent to the grave.
Foreigners admire our popular culture, our technology, our way of life, but they stay puzzled before our refusal to curb weapons.
In the 1990s, when I was Tokyo bureau chief for the New York Times, the Japanese often told me of an incident in 1992 in which a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, was shot and killed by a fire in Louisiana after knocking on the wrong door.
The homeowner said he thought the boy was a thief and ordered him to “shut up”; Hattori may have misunderstood “stay” or misunderstood the man he said “please”.
Either way, the boy moved and the man shot him with a .44 magnum.
In Japan, where fewer people are killed by gunfire in a typical year than sometimes in a single mass shooting in the United States, the government subsequently prepared a booklet for Japanese travelers to the United States with helpful travel phrases in English , like “freeze”. and “hands in the air”.
“I am more civil“A Japanese teacher told the Times after the incident, and she was right.
We will not ban firearms or eliminate gun deaths in America.
But I argued in a longer essay that common-sense gun measures could conceivably reduce the number of gun deaths by a third or more.
We can adopt universal background checks, secure storage requirements, a minimum age of 21 for the sale of private guns, and an enforced ban on gun ownership by people with a history of stalking or violent crime.
All states should embrace California’s successful experiment with background checks for ammunition purchases; having instituted a series of smart weapons measures,
California now has a gun death rate at last 38% to the national average.
As of this writing, I’m in Mississippi where the process of adopting a dog is much more rigorous than the process of acquiring a gun.
Should it be easier to buy an AR-15 rifle than to adopt a Chihuahua?
Above all, we must challenge the misperception that having a gun in the home makes people safer.
Yes, on rare occasions, a gun can prevent a crime.
But researchers have repeatedly found that a gun in the home increases the chances of people being killed, not the less.
According to a study published in 2022 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “People who live in homes with guns are at a higher risk of dying from homicide.”
People may choose to own firearms for hunting or target practice or to protect livestock from predators (I live on a farm with guns), but given the high risk, personal safety is not a good reason to buy a weapon.
We could encourage homeowners who are feeling insecure to carry bear spray instead of a gun.
As a backpacker, I carry bear spray in grizzly country because it’s more effective than a gun at stopping a grizzly bear when loaded; The same can be said for stopping a home invader, and the consequences of one mistake are hardly life-threatening.
Due to our complacency, the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States is now gun violence, eclipsing car accidents.
In 2020, more than 4,300 young people died in America with firearms; the figure in the Netherlands in 2019 was two.
At this rate, it will take the Netherlands a couple of millennia to lose as many children to firearms as we do each year.
We accept the inconveniences when we drive—seat belts, child seats, none in the back of pickup trucks—because they can help save lives.
Why aren’t we just as willing to accept secure storage or universal background checks for ammunition for the same reason?
I think of these young people who are being killed simply because they went to the wrong place, and I think: I wish we loved our kids as much as we love our guns.
c.2023 The New York Times Society
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.