Wednesday is our nation's birthday, Independence Day, when we celebrate the birth of Democracy, the founding our nation, and the rule of laws made by men to protect our freedoms.
It is a time for families to come together and enjoy each other's company, grill some hot dogs, and shoot of some colorful fireworks. Some of my best memories are of Fourth of July get-togethers.
But it's also a good time to reflect on a bit of old wisdom: with increased freedom comes increased responsibility. Not everyone is responsible enough for those freedoms.
You are free to drink if you are of legal age, but the Fourth of July is a time of increased drinking and driving. Because people are not always responsible, there are laws against it, and increased police patrols.
You are free to shoot off fireworks, but some fireworks are dangerous. Every year people are injured or killed by them, and they can start fires. So, here in Oregon at least, there are limits to what fireworks you can buy and set off (no bottle rockets or Roman candles, for instance). Over at the Common Gunsense blog, the author, Japete, points out that, in Minnesota, you have to show your ID and have your driver's license scanned in order to buy even the simplest of fireworks, but you don't even need that much to buy a gun in a private purchase.
So there were 2 deaths from fireworks in 2009 and 8800 injuries in the U.S. I remind my readers that firearms take the lives of 30,000 Americans every year ( including 8 children a day) and another 70,000 injuries costing the country billions of dollars. And yet, I needed to produce my driver's license to buy 2 boxes of "Pop Its" today! There is widespread recognition that fireworks and firecrackers can be and are dangerous. Guns? Not so much. I should say that most people understand the dangers of guns but the NRA and its' minions won't allow any common sense laws to pass to prevent deaths and injuries. I also remind my readers that private sellers of firearms are supposed to ask for a driver's license but many do not. In hidden camera video after hidden camera video, we have the proof that many people buy guns without producing one piece of identification. Here is just one of the latest exposés about how easy it is to buy guns, no questions asked. It's easier to buy a gun than it is to buy fireworks. And fireworks cause a very small number of deaths and injuries to Americans in a given year. Where is common sense?
And if you are a law-abiding adult, you are free to purchase and own a gun in your home, but you cannot willy-nilly fire it in public. And yet, every year, there are injuries and deaths from "celebratory gunfire." For some reason, some people aren't satisfied by simply whooping and hollering, or even exploding fireworks. Instead, they find it necessary to fire off bullets into the night sky. It makes a loud and fantastic boom, right? What are the chances that the bullets are actually going to fall on someone?
Don't say that to the parents of this 7-year old, who was hit in the abdomen by celebratory gunfire this New Year's. Or this 14-year old who was injured. Or this 12-year old who was shot in the head and put in a coma. The list goes on....
The 12-year old, Diego Duran, was in a coma for a month and is now recuperating. He and his family have started an initiative, called "Bullet Free Sky" to try to reduce celebratory gunfire. Their webpage: http://bulletfreesky.com/ . Their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BulletFreeSky.
Here is a good article about the dangers of celebratory gunfire. As the Author, Henry Louis Adams, writes:
Every year countless numbers of people are either killed or injured due to this senseless activity. It has been two years since Marquel Peters was struck in the head by a celebratory bullet while sitting in a Georgia church on New Year’s Eve. Also, Sergio Martinez at age 34 was struck in the head with a celebratory bullet while inside of his family’s home. The paramedics found him lying on the kitchen floor. Diego Duran, a 12-year-old Florida boy, was sitting in his front yard watching the fireworks in January of 2012 when he was struck by a celebratory bullet.
Diego sustained life threatening injuries, but survived and is still struggling from the effects of that shooting today. Joseph B. Jaskolka shares the moment he came in contact with celebratory Gunfire. He says: "I was struck in the head at about 12:05am, January 1st , 1999, in South Philadelphia. I was at a family party, I was almost immediately struck in the head after I took a few steps down Fernon Street. The bullet entered the top of my head, then fell down and now is resting on my brain stem. I was an athletic pre-teen who is now a hemiplegic man (I only have the use of my left sided extremities). By the way, I was just 11 years old at the time."
When I think of celebratory gunfire, images of third-world nations come to mind, like of Saddam Hussein shooting off a rifle at his public events. But, as I have posted before, we are worse for shootings than most third-world nations, including many of those who are at war.
I urge you to spread the word to your community about this danger. Here is a good pledge to take part in, Marquel's Pledge, to stop celebratory shootings. Take part in a virtual event the Say NO to "Celebratory Gunfire" Facebook event. Join the Citizens Against Celebratory Gunfire and Senseless Gun Violence Facebook group.
Enjoy your Fourth of July festivities. Have fun with friends and families and fireworks. But please be safe.
And for those of you who have guns at home, don't make your gun part of the festivities, for safety's sake. It's illegal, after all.