It's Saturday, January 25, 2014. Just a few minutes ago, I was listening to the news while cleaning the upstairs bathroom. An ongoing interview with the usual talking heads was interrupted by a 'breaking news' story. It's not a new story, but the repetition of the same old story that occurs regularly in this country.
The locales vary, though the most common places do seem to be schools, shopping malls and movie theaters. The names of the heavily armed shooters change, though they are nearly always men. And of course, the names of the victims who frequently are strangers to the shooter, tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time, keep on changing….and quickly being forgotten by most of us.
I'm referring, of course, to our national plague: gun violence. The 'breaking story' today is of a shooter in the Mall of Columbia in Baltimore, Maryland. Last I heard, three people were confirmed dead.
Coincidentally, the other day, while riding in the car, I heard another interesting news story on National Public Radio. This one was about a commercial currently being broadcast on television stations overseas. The ad, featuring the music of Roseanne Cash, is aimed at enticing foreign visitors to start coming back to the U.S. We need more tourists. Apparently, the number of over seas visitors to the U.S. has fallen significantly in recent years.
The economy doubtless accounts for some of that fall, but I wonder if our reputation as a heavily armed, violent country accounts for some of the decline.
Today, millions of people overseas are listening to the news, maybe CNN, maybe another network. But I'm sure millions of them have already heard about the shooting at the Mall of Columbia and are asking, "What the hell is wrong with the U.S.?"
Good question. Not to diminish the personal tragedy of these events, at this moment I'm going back to my original question: Are Guns Starting to Affect our Bottom Line?
Think about Mexico, specifically YOUR feelings about Mexico.
I personally know a lot of people who haven't been willing to travel to Mexico for years. Why? Fear, of course. Fear of the country's known violence. Honestly, would YOU want to visit Mexico now (anyplace other than a heavily walled and guarded tourist resort) given what you know about the kidnappings and murders that routinely happen across the border?
People outside the U.S. know about the mass school, shopping mall and movie theater murders in this country. They know about the guns people carry that enable them to get off a zillion rounds in a few seconds. They know that guns like that don't have anything to do with hunting. They are guns marketed for one purpose: to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Does it make sense to suggest that people outside the U.S. are just as afraid to visit the U.S. as the average American citizen is to visit Mexico? I suspect it does.
And I'm not just talking tourists. What about foreign business people? Are they reluctant to come here and do business because of our violent reputation? Is it plausible that we might even be losing out on jobs because foreign companies are reluctant to open plants or offices here, believing it a dangerous place to send their people?
I'm just thinking out loud here, but I really wonder if gun violence, especially these mass shootings, are not taking a significant toll on our economy and jobs.
The fact is, people who carry guns don't carry them because they WON'T EVER use them. They carry them because they MIGHT use them. And it's no secret that there are millions of guns in the U.S., nearly as many guns as there are people.
Hard to draw any conclusion other than that there are apparently an awful lot of Americans who MIGHT use a firearm…on somebody else.
And then, of course, throw in the insanity of the 'stand your ground' laws which seem, to me, like an open invitation to murder someone and get off scott free. Can't ANYONE say, after shooting someone down, that the law permitted them to do so because they were in fear for their own life?
If we're losing foreign visitors because of gun violence, we're punishing the ordinary folks who are just trying to make a modest living in cities, towns, resorts and parks all across the country: waiters and waitresses, restauranteurs, gift shop proprietors and clerks, taxi cab owners and drivers, hoteliers, souvenir manufacturers, etc..
And honestly, the economic repercussions pale in comparison to the tragic consequences to innocent victims and their families.
But you know law makers.
Most of them don't give a tinker damn about the victim, the families, or public safety. They do care a great deal about personal aggrandizement and kowtowing to the gun lobbyists who make generous donations to their re-election coffers.
Maybe the effect of guns on our bottom line could get their asses moving toward some sensible gun law reform.