Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

ONE DAY left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

guns_twitter-1

Congressman Thomas Massie (D-Ky.), bottom left, poses with a machine gun alongside members of his family for a holiday greeting he shared on social media last week. (Photo: Screenshot/@RepThomasMassie)

How Many More Kids Need to Die Because of GOP's Gun Obsession?

If you want to know who Republicans in Congress value, look at who they protect and who they let die. By any reasonable standard, America has taken a very wrong and and very tragic path.

Thom Hartmann

Our children are dying from gun violence: why don't Republicans in Congress give them the same concern we do our police and soldiers, who also face gunfire?

Imagine your 5-year-old child singing in school, to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:

Lockdown, Lockdown. Lock the door.
Shut the lights off, Say no more.
Go behind the desk and hide.
Wait until it's safe inside.

And then being stalked by another child, this one with, for example, a Sig Sauer 9 mm semiautomatic weapon designed for warfare. Imagine the call from the hospital or the police telling you your child or grandchild is dead by gunfire. That you'll never see him or her again. Ever.

Every day a police officer goes to work, we're told over and over again on cop shows on TV, their family never knows if they'll come home alive.  

We're witnessing the result of a decades-long hundred-million-dollar marketing campaign to earn the weapons industry billions in profits while filling America with handguns and other weapons of war.

We cut cops a lot of slack because they "put their lives on the line every day"; the Supreme Court even created a doctrine called "qualified immunity" so if a police officer kills somebody it's extremely difficult to hold them to account.

We also celebrate our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors for largely the same reason: they put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. 

We pay them combat bonuses, provide them with a lifetime of medical care including dental and drugs, and even pay for 100% of their college tuition, cover up to 100% of the cost of their housing when studying, and give them up to $1000 a year for books

And don't forget the special funds for ex-GIs who live in rural areas to travel to college in distant cities. All because they were willing to face gunfire.

But our children?

A recent study reported in The American Journal of Medicine found that, in 2017, "there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty [including for medical reasons] and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died [of all causes], whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms."

The War in Vietnam arguably began in 1963 when JFK sent "advisors" to that country. 

In the years since 1963, nearly 193,000 American children have been killed with guns "more than four times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars combined."

It can be difficult to parse out how many police have died from gunfire in the line of duty as most police websites and police unions include everything from heart attacks and cancer to car accidents in their lists of "line of duty deaths," but a recent report from PBS concluded: "For the last four years, the data indicate an approximate average of 40-50 officers were shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten to death each year."  

So figure at most 50 police officers a year dying from gunfire, over the 58 years since 1963, and we have about 2,900 police who died by guns since the year JFK was assassinated by gunfire. 

And their families generally get generous death benefits (it varies from state to state and city to city), while wounded officers get top-of-the-line medical treatment at little or no cost.  Not to mention pensions for the rest of their lives.

But those 193,000 children and their families? They got nothing. Not even a "thank you" from Congress. In fact, there are fewer than a dozen Republicans in Congress who will even mention those tragic souls.

The 3,371 American children who died from gunfire in 2019—"enough to fill 168 classrooms of 20 children each"—received no protection whatsoever from Republicans for sacrificing their lives to protect the Second Amendment: instead, the GOP continues to fight to keep the gun-show loophole open and increase the number of weapons of war on our streets. 

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of children suffer lifelong wounds and trauma from gunfire injuries every year.

As the Children's Defense Fund noted this year:

  • "In 2019, nine children and teens were killed with guns each day in America—one every 2 hours and 36 minutes.

  • "Guns killed more children and teens than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDs, and opioids combined.

  • "While mass shootings grabbed fleeting public and policymaker attention, routine gunfire took the lives of more children and teens every week than the Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine massacres combined.

  • "For every child or teen fatally shot, another 5 suffered non-fatal gunshot wounds.

  • "An estimated 16,644 children and teens were injured with guns in 2018—one every 32 minutes.

  • "Americans account for less than five percent of the global population but own nearly half (46 percent) of all civilian guns in the world."

Just like with tobacco, we're witnessing the result of a decades-long hundred-million-dollar marketing campaign to earn the weapons industry billions in profits while filling America with handguns and other weapons of war. It's literally killing us and our children.

And the millions "conservatives" on the Supreme Court allowed them to pour into their lobbying campaign kept the US government from even legally compiling gun death statistics. In 2005, a bought-off Republican-controlled Congress passed the Protecting Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, gifting the weapons industry with broad immunity from lawsuits by grieving parents, relatives or communities. 

We tolerated hundreds of thousands of tobacco-related deaths every year with no penalty or consequence to the tobacco industry whatsoever until the late 1990s, when a group of plucky lawyers and a few Democratic-controlled states took them on. 

People are still dying of lung cancer, but it's harder for kids to get cigarettes now—even vending machines were banned because they're so easy for children to use to get tobacco products—and it's illegal for tobacco companies to target advertising to children.

There are no such protections for our children from guns and the people who manufacture, market and sell them.

Today in America a child going to school is more likely to die from gunfire in the course of getting an education than a police officer or soldier is to die that way in the line of duty.

We spend about half of all discretionary federal dollars on police and our military…and only nine percent on our children.

Democrats have worked for decades to reduce the number of weapons of war on our streets, passing both the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban. Last week they tried again to advance gun control legislation in the Senate in response to the Oxford, Michigan school shooting, but were blocked by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley.

Republicans and the weapons industry that supports them successfully gutted the Brady Law and refused to renew the Assault Weapons Ban when it expired during the Bush administration; they have, since the election of Ronald Reagan, turned guns into part of their "culture war" against the American people.

With devastating results to our children.

If you want to know who Republicans in Congress value, look at who they protect and who they let die. By any reasonable standard, America has taken a very wrong and and very tragic path.

This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo