There is a kindness meditation that I like to do every so often that involves putting your hand on your heart and sending kind thoughts to your loved ones, friends, neighbors, the people in your city and country and throughout the world. For whatever reason, I decided to do that particular meditation the morning of July 4th. Two seconds after I’d put my hand on my heart I realized the irony of doing that the same day that so many people participate in holiday rituals that involve putting their hands over their hearts and pledging allegiance to a flag that stands for a toxic definition of freedom and independence that requires ‘power over’ that can be held only through violence–quite the antithesis of my little kindness meditation–which after that realization felt all the more necessary albeit completely inadequate.
Then, over the weekend, I happened to meet Luiz R.S. Simmons who is a representative to the Maryland House of Delegates. He was at the farmers’ market asking people to sign a letter to Maryland Governor O’Malley asking him to close Maryland’s gun control loophole by funding a system that would facilitate law enforcement officials in confiscating guns which are illegally in the possession of those convicted of violent crimes. There is such a law in Maryland that allows law enforcement to do this, just not the funds to enforce it. Mr. Simmons estimates that it would cost $350,000 to set up the system with another $35,000 a year for personnel to run it.
As Nick Kristof pointed out in column published on the July 3rd,
All told, since 9/11, the United States has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security, according to the National Priorities Project, a research group that works for budget transparency. That’s nearly $70,000 per American household…
…The imbalance in our priorities is particularly striking because since 2005, terrorism has taken an average of 23 American lives annually, mostly overseas — and the number has been falling…
…Most striking, more than 30,000 people die annually from firearms injuries, including suicides, murders and accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. American children are 13 times as likely to be killed by guns as in other industrialized countries.
In Chicago alone, 72 people were shot over the July 4th weekend. The benefits of Mr. Simmons modest spending request should be abundantly obvious. Aside from the astounding number of people who are killed by guns in this country every year, in comparison to the cost of fighting terrorism, the amount needed to fund this proposal is chump change. Add to that the other costs of gun violence. If you suffer a serious but non-fatal gun wound, the hospital bill for just one person could easily be more than the amount Mr. Simmons is asking for. And then there are the lost earnings, the impact on families, the costs of prosecuting and imprisoning perpetrators who should never have had the weapons in the first place, etc. The cost is enormous in every possible way.
Over the weekend, EMC Insurance Cos. announced that they would not provide insurance for Kansas schools where teachers carry guns. Imagine if other insurance companies followed suit or refused health insurance to those who keep guns in their homes. Imagine laws requiring liability insurance for those who own guns (and insurance companies that refused to issue it). It would be a good economic move and save a lot of lives.
Corporate decisions like that and campaigns like Mr. Simmons’ in Maryland are very productive steps in getting the gun problem in this country under control.
And the next time you are asked to put your hand over your heart, pledge to send out kindness too.