Guy Trammell Jr. and Amy Miller
This column appears every other week in Foster’s Daily Democrat and the Tuskegee News. This week, Guy Trammell, an African American man from Tuskegee, Ala., and Amy Miller, a white woman from South Berwick, Maine, talk about guns.
By Guy Trammell Jr.
I am thankful to be alive today because my mother made sure I had the best health care as a child. However, I am also alive today because my father and the Black men of our community regularly stopped the local white supremacists (Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Camellia, White Citizens Council) from destroying us, in the Village of Greenwood. The men stopped this destruction by using a strong show of force. They brought their guns and strategically placed themselves along all roads leading into the Village of Greenwood.
A leader in 10th century China transformed fireworks into a deadly projectile on a handheld stick, and the concept of a gun was born. My brother and I learned to use guns at Tuskegee Institute’s Firing Range. I was not a big fan, but my father, a hunter, wanted his sons to know how to use them.
As of Jan. 7, 2022, U.S. citizens own over 393 million guns, or about twice as many as any other nation (about 120 for every 100 people). Between January 2019 and April 2021, 7.5 million U.S. citizens became new gun owners; half were women and about 40% were Hispanic or Black. This rise has increased gun accidents involving children. A Birmingham toddler and infant were injured by a gun just days ago, with the infant fighting for her life.
About 53 people are killed daily by a firearm in the U.S. In 2020, handguns were used in 59% of the 13,620 gun murders, the highest gun death rate on record. Rifles were used 3% of the time and shotguns in 1%. The other 36% were killed by unspecified firearms.
We just had mass killings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Texas, but the deadliest was in 2017 at Las Vegas, where more than 50 were killed and 500 wounded. From 2000 to 2020, the FBI recorded 345 “active shooter incidents,” resulting in 1,024 deaths and 1,828 injuries.
Most gun owners are in the South, with 161,641 guns in Alabama, or 33 guns per 1,000 people; the state has no restrictions on assault gun ownership. At about 1,001 gun deaths annually, Alabama has 23.6% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. Its rate is the third highest in the U.S., and Tuskegee’s Macon County has Alabama’s highest gun death rate. Black Alabamians are six times more likely to die by a gun than their white counterparts, and Black children are twice as likely to die by firearms than white children. Shootings are the second highest cause of childhood deaths in Alabama, an average of 78 killed annually.
The Second Amendment of the Constitution discusses “the right to carry,” but shouldn’t restrictions apply to those mentally unstable, our youth, and persons with records of criminal violence? And does this principle apply to a military assault weapon? The National Rifle Association has a history of advocacy for less gun control, with notable exceptions — in Lowndes County, Alabama, when Black citizens armed themselves to stop the killing of Black men, or in Louisiana, when Black men formed the Deacons of Defense and stopped drive-through shootings of Black neighborhoods by the Klan.
Also, venison and squirrel meat ripped and riddled by assault gun bullets are an unacceptable meal, so why do civilians need assault weapons?
By Amy Miller
On Tuesday morning, I began Googling gun laws and gun death statistics in Maine. Nineteen children from Uvalde, Texas, were still alive at the time.
Three hours later, 18 children in Uvalde, Texas, were dead. Three hours later, mothers and fathers were facing the fact that their daughters and sons would no longer be at dinner, or go to ballet, or throw a softball, or live to be adults.
Guy and I had already decided to write about guns before Tuesday, May 24. We had decided this because 10 people in Buffalo, all of them African American, had been shot and killed just 10 days earlier and because a gunman had opened fire at a Taiwanese church luncheon in Orange County, Calif., a day after that.
We also were writing about guns because people using guns kill about 40,000 Americans a year.
In my research, I learned that Maine had 10.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people and Alabama had 23.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020.
But an hour later, after hearing about the children in Texas and their teachers, the numbers became meaningless. The statistics were too dry, too unemotional, too useless.
I am searching for what to say about guns when families and a community and our nation is feeling so much profoundly sad loss.
I look for what is being said elsewhere, to find inspiration. There is lots of talk about background checks and automatic weapons and gun control laws, again.
The New York Times ran a column Nicholas Kristoff wrote in 2017 about gun violence and ways to curb it, again.
I watched our President struggle to find words, again. This time it was a father who for years has openly shared his own pain at losing a child.
I looked back to Jimmy Kimmel’s 2017 monologue following the shooting in Las Vegas. “It will happen again and again,” he predicted tearfully. “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” Yes, it does.
I have little to offer. What I know is that our country accounts for 4 percent of the world’s people and 14 percent of its gun deaths.
In Maine, nine out of every 10 gun deaths is a suicide. Nationally about six in 10 deaths by gun is a suicide. These people find living too painful to bear. Across the world about two of every 10 gun-related deaths is suicide.
I don’t know what any of this means. Statistics are slippery and don’t tell us why, or how it feels, or how to change the reality of leaders who will not lead.
I just know it is getting more dangerous to live in the United States and I know that those who sell guns would like to keep selling them.
Amy and Guy can be reached at email@example.com