It doesn’t take a genius in statistics to know that the numbers of people dying in gun violence are staggering.
Depending upon which organization’s statistics are used, every day in the United States from 35 to 94 people are killed — murdered really — by people wielding guns.
Each year, according to statistics gathered through 2016 by the Brady Campaign to prevent Gun Violence, nearly 2,700 people die at the hands of guns. That number includes 1,565 who are murdered. Others die by suicide, assault and accident, such as the 2-year-old who died here July 31.
To put all these numbers in perspective, The New York Times — using data provided by the World Bank Small Arms Survey and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — noted last year that gun homicides in Canada are almost as common as deaths in the U.S. from alcohol poisoning.
That same data indicated that in Germany, being murdered with a gun is as uncommon as being killed by a falling object in the U.S. And in Japan, your chances of being murdered by a gun are one in ten million, about the same as being struck by lightning in the U.S.
All those numbers mean that our country has a gun violence problem.
Parts of Chicago have become killing fields — last year 382 people were killed in shootings. And in our own city the television newscasts report murders by guns almost as frequently as they tell us about traffic accidents.
Consider this: In the Louisville of 1960, people were appalled when the number of shooting deaths rose to 38. By 1970 the number was 104 and so far this year, more than 60 people have been killed by guns.
Calls for reform of gun control laws have fallen on the deaf ears of most politicians. Even after the slaughter of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Mass., in 2012, nothing was done to change gun control laws. Nothing.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago noted that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had a spokesman testify before Congress for meaningful action to control guns and gun violence following the Newtown massacre. “That moment came and went without meaningful action.”
Cardinal Cupich has, time and again, said that it is time for Americans to “take meaningful and swift action to address violence in our society.” And he has called for stricter gun control laws in Illinois.
In a speech last September, Cardinal Cupich noted that many in Congress stood and applauded Pope Francis’ Sept. 24 address that called for an end to the weapons industry that, the pope said, “is motivated by money that is drenched in blood.”
In Louisville, many are blaming the ever-increasing toll of gun deaths to the dramatic increase in heroin addiction that has plagued the city. They may be accurate.
Metro Emergency Services answered 695 overdose calls last January, and they have been responding to an average of 22 a day.
The sale of heroin is often managed and promulgated by gangs who have turned drugs into a thriving business. It’s a business that often uses violence to control the sales forces of rivals.
So what’s to be done? Louisville Metro Police recently added 150 new officers, but not even the most optimistic among local leaders believe that alone will curb the violence.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a dialogue among nations that are waging war with one another and raining violence upon their people. And he has called on the people of the church to pray both for him and for the common sense of leaders everywhere so that they might act to reduce violence.
“Dialogue is the path to peace,” he said during a general audience last year. And though he wasn’t specifically addressing gun violence in the U.S., his words nevertheless apply.
We need to pray for all this violence to end; for the better natures of human beings to somehow rise to the fore. We need to be aware of the drug problem and do our best to help those who fall prey to addiction and the life of crime that’s often necessary to pay for the habit.
It is important that all of us try to do something, because with both drug use and violent crime rising, doing nothing is not an option.
Record Editor Emeritus