Another week and another mass shooting. This “news” isn’t news any more, or if it is, it passes quickly from the current scene merging into a well of more distant memory. The faces, if we ever saw them are gone, we are left with numbers instead of people, un-mourned “amounts” of bodies, recalled if it all only as statistics, devoid of much meaning and empty of any of the spirit of their passed- by lives.
We are in a war and the enemy is us.
Last week a spark of hope from Lewiston, Maine appeared. A local Congressman confronted with the deaths of people he knew changed his views. He now would consider banning military assault weapons from current wide-spread availability and use. Gun violence had come home and he could no longer ignore it. Gun violence can no longer be ignored. It has eaten away at too much of the interwoven fabrics of our society.
Mass violence has captured much of our national attention, perhaps too much. It is easier, but not easy, to give gun violence a sense of place and drama and if it is not too disturbing a graphic presentation of the scene. Yet mass shootings are a small percentage of deaths by gun violence. (current research estimates only 3% of gun homicides are caused by mass shootings ). The leading cause of death today of young people is gun violence. If AR-15 were a communicable and deadly virus, it would be our number one public health crisis and we would be able to allocate considerable bipartisan support for its eradication.
Still all too few of us are involved. Like the Congressman from Lewiston we need more human contact and understanding of our national tragedy. That is why I am proposing a National Directory of Gun Violence. This will be a national database of victims: their stories, their personalities, their photos or videos and how they died and where. This database will be searchable by name, age, location and other distinguishing characteristics. If designed well, it can become a way for each of us to uncover the human
stories beneath the façade of desensitized language and statistics that shield us from ourselves.
Stan Salett has been a policy adviser to the Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations and is the author of The Edge of Politics: Stories from the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, and the Challenges of School Reform. He now lives in Kent County, Maryland.