Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chitister, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

Here’s an American statistic for you about “American exceptionalism” that seems to get lost under the headlines about a slowly recovering economy and a growing number of billionaires. This figure — at least between attempted massacres like in Austin, Texas, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, to name a few — rarely surfaces. The fact that we lose 48,000 people a year in this country to the attacks of private people using privately owned guns seldom makes headlines. Only the atrocities they leave behind them sell newspapers.

There is not another country in the world with that much gun violence on their streets. In the United States, there are 88 guns for every 100 people. That means we already have a privately owned gun for almost every man, woman and child in the country. Only the Saudi Arabian nation of Yemen comes anywhere close to that kind of civilian firepower, with a ratio of 54 guns to every 100 Yemeni. So does democracy work or doesn’t it? Clearly, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” is fast threatening to become the land of the gun and the home of the dead.

But oh, we cling to them. We shout treason, in fact, in the face of anyone who questions their numbers, their types, their easy availability. “It’s un-American,” we argue, to dare to challenge even the sale of them, let alone their use. On few other subjects does the pitch of the public discourse reach such frenzy. Politicians shout and pound desks; otherwise mild men turn blue in the face at the thought of even allowing a public discussion of the issue…

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