There has been a splurge of violence, specifically shooting sprees, across America. Every day, the death toll mounts. Two recent massacres — the attacks on Sikh Temple devotees during prayer in Milwaukee and the attack in Aurora, Colo., in a movie theater, are unconscionable. News of recurring gun violence and deaths has cast a pall on our lives.
The United States experiences epidemic levels of violence, especially gun-related violence, that claims thousands of lives each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For every lethal attack, there are countless other injuries that forever change the lives of friends and families. The pain and suffering caused by these tragedies is incalculable.
When I arrived in the U.S. in 1972, deaths related to gunshot injuries were sporadic and evoked strong, almost militant emotions in a majority of the community. Now, gun violence has become so common that the public is becoming inured to such tragedies. Shootings such as the one in Arizona that left two dead and 12 injured (including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford), the Aurora massacre, and now the Sikh tragedy (also a hate crime) initially receive a lot of media attention. Then the storm dies down, only to see a resurgence of a similar sentinel event in another corner of America.
The Sikh-Indian American community, like all other immigrant communities, are part of the American social fabric. They are also among the first Indian settlers in the U.S., immigrating to this country in the early 1900s. They have made their mark in almost every field including medicine, business, engineering, law and even in politics in this country and contributed immensely to the progress of our nation. They deserve every privilege and opportunity as everyone else in this great country.
Gun violence either directly or indirectly touches every segment of our society and every person in the community. It seems to disproportionately affect people of color and certain ethnic groups.
This is a time to do some introspection for all of us. When compared to many other countries, I consider America as the safest place to live and work and raise our children. But these recent, repeated episodes of violence have truly shaken me. Why the senseless violence? What kind of message are we sending to our children? What happened to the time-old philosophy of universal love and brotherhood?
The statistics regarding gun violence are simply mind-boggling.
• Nearly 11,500 firearm homicides per year in the U.S., compared to 80 annually in other western countries like Canada and England and seven a year in Japan.
• The cost of gun violence is an estimated $2.3 billion per year. But if you factor in direct and indirect medical, legal and societal costs this amounts to $100 billion. We taxpayers are footing the bill.
• Approximately 70 percent of all murders nationwide are committed with a firearm.
• Americans own an estimated 270 million firearms, the most in any country. This equates to nine guns for every 10 people.
I do not question the right to bear arms or use a weapon for self defense. Nor do I want to become embroiled in the controversy regarding "Is it the gun or the person holding the gun who is responsible for the violence?" The ease with which anyone, including a mentally deranged person or one high on drugs or alcohol, can purchase lethal weapons, even semiautomatic guns, is disturbing.
Every citizen has a role as an advocate to prevent violence in any form or content. Using a lethal weapon to settle personal differences or enforce one's point of view is not acceptable in any society. The time has come to put our heads together and find an acceptable solution to contain this omnipresent plague of violence.
A serious look at this domestic terrorism is long overdue. Is it impossible for civilized human beings to foresee how this will escalate?
Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan of Brooksville is a retired cardiologist.