Because someone had a gun in a particular moment, that moment became irreversible.
One of the NRA’s most treasured slogans is “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Sure. But guns help them kill much more people much more efficiently. Guns let someone experience a flash of rage with a deadly power in their hands. We all have bad moments, right. What if, during those darkest moments of our lives, we had a gun in our hands. What would we do? What could we do?
In Another Day in the Death of America, author Gary Younge goes beyond statistics by diving into all the deaths that occur on a single, randomly selected day. On average, seven kids and teens die by gunfire; on this day, November 23rd, 2013, ten were shot and killed. Younge profiles each young life, thus erasing the stats and replacing them with faces, with young people who had interests and passions and loved ones and struggles. On November 23rd, 2013, suddenly none of them had a future.
Younge’s book works best when he is simply relating the human toll of gun violence. He states in the introduction that his book “is not about gun control. It is a book made possible by the absence of gun control.” The circumstances in by which guns are such a pervasive and available commodity in our culture is not something any American can dispute.
The book seems a little disjointed in parts, as Younge tries to connect the current state of gun control (or lack of) in America and its resultant violence with each individual story. He runs the gamut from gun safety training to the NRA (which is exactly the scary, politically influential, manipulative organization that it appears to be) to media bias. His effort feels well-intentioned but a little shoehorned at times.
Especially relevant is the intersection of race, poverty, and circumstance that Younge explores to better effect.Out of the ten boys shot that day, seven are black, two are latino, and only one is white. All are members of impoverished families or the working class. Younge doesn’t shy away from the paradoxical realities that while the environment of poverty and segregation closes off almost all opportunity for these young men, even their loved ones cite parenting and personal choice as crucial in the chain of events leading to their deaths. Unfortunately, mistaken identity and accidental shootings account for nearly half of the deaths.
We all make compromises in our modern lives. We assume the risk of driving cars to enjoy their convenience. Our freedom has consequences. Younge poses the question: “How does the freedom to bear arms measure up against the freedom to know that your children will be safe in elementary school?”
Just as there’s a good chance someone you know has been killed in a car accident, there’s also a good chance you know someone killed by a gun. According to a 2015 Huffpost/Yougov poll, 40% of Americans know someone who was killed by a gun, whether it was by another person or self-inflicted. Of the people I’ve known who have been killed or shot, I often wonder how differently the story might have turned out had there not been a gun there in that moment.
I can’t help but think that for the families and loved ones of those who die every day due to gun violence, they must often wonder the same thing.