The Three Deadliest Issues in the Firearm Debate

Violent Crimes in the U.S.

The problem underlying the rationale for restrictions on gun ownership is the prevalence of gun violence in this country.  Homicides committed with firearms rose to record height in1993 with a peak of 17,075 deaths that year but declined in number until the turn of the century.  In 2005 the number of gun-related homicides was 11,346, the highest it has been since 1999[1].  As seen in Figure 1, handguns are consistently the most common weapon used in homicides, followed by other types of guns as the second most common weapon used in this century.

handgun

Figure 1: Handguns are unquestionably the most common weapon used in murders while homicides committed with other types of firearms have been increasing since 2000.[2]

Although according to an analysis of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) there was half the number of nonfatal firearm related crimes committed in 2005 compared to the height in 1994, there were still almost a half of million victims in 2005 from such crimes.[3]  Nationwide in 2006, 68% of homicides, 42% of aggravated assaults, and 42% of robbery offenses involved firearms.[4]

The two largest groups affected by gun-related homicide are people between the ages of 15 and 24 and the victims of intimate partner violence.  Since 1976, 77% of homicide victims between the ages of 15-17 were killed by a firearm; and as of 1990, 67% of intimate partner homicide victims died from firearm related injuries.[5] Continue reading

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Rights and Dignity in the Face of Homelessness and Addiction

DC Christmas homelessness

To live free from sexual assault is not a comfort that must be earned – it is a right.  The NY Post editorial entitled The New York Times’ ‘Homeless’ Hooey disagrees and calls the mice and mold infested rooms at the Auburn Family Residence where residents risk being the victims of sexual assault and other violence “too generous” for the families living in it.

“Yes, the family’s housing has problems, including mice and reports of sexual assaults and other crimes. But the Times and Elliott, like much of the liberal establishment, seem to think it’s the city’s job to provide comfortable lives to outrageously irresponsible parents…

If the city is at fault here, it might well be for having been too generous — providing so much that neither the father nor mother seems much inclined to provide for their kids. That would be a story worth reading.”

This was the response of many to the NY Times’ article Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life.  This article follows the 11 year old girl living at the 600+ person shelter by my old High School, Brooklyn Tech.  According to the article the shelter is not up to code and has many serious violations including passing out expired baby formula and food to residents.

Rather than being appalled by the conditions these children live in, some prefer to argue that they deserve it, if not less.  Dasani’s parents have been addicted to opiates for years and are currently battling through withdrawal and the psychological damages of addiction.  Many use this as justification for cuts to programs designed to feed kids and get families jobs and housing.

Our society discriminates against people living with mental illness, especially those battling addiction.

People with severe mental illnesses have been the victims of brutality and homicide by our own police.  Recently, a 90 lb teen with schizophrenia was helded down by two officers, tased, and shot dead by a third officer.  This was in response to a 911 call by his parents to get him to a hospital.

And while not true of many people living without permanent housing, addiction and other forms of mental illness – depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar are prevalent among those in the shelter system.

20 – 25% of the homeless population lives with SEVERE mental illness (compared to the general population’s avg. of 6%)

Mental illness creates an invisible minority group.  And when that minority status is exposed like an unbandaged wound the rest of the world backs away.  Others become uncomfortable and develop a system of victim blaming.  This only results in further discrimination and victimization.

All people are deserving of the same rights and the same human dignity – from others and from our government.  Mental illness and homelessness can happen to anyone.  There is no such thing as the deserving/undeserving poor.  People, especially those fighting mental illnesses like addiction, do not have to earn human dignity.  They are not less of a person for their situation and illness.

And EVERYONE has the right to safety from sexual violence.  It does not matter if they live in a shelter, public housing, or a pent house.  And despite what the NY Post says, it is the city’s job to protect that right.

I encourage everyone to read Dasani’s story of her life as a homeless eleven year old. 

If you want the opportunity to volunteer at the Auburn Family Residence please check out New York Cares. There are currently two programs to work with the kids at the shelter:

Art Explorers at Auburn Family Residence
Bedtime Stories at Auburn Family Shelter

Arguments For Same-Sex Marriage

Arguments For: Equal rights for all families

Contrary to these arguments are supporters of same sex marriages who argue that anti-discrimination laws did not go far enough in creating equality among different sexual orientations.  By not allowing gay men and women to enter same sex marriages the government is denying them rights given to heterosexual couples.  Even in states which allow same sex marriages, discrimination will not be eliminated until the federal government acknowledges those marriages.

The lack of federal acknowledgment is discriminatory because it prevents married gay men and women from having the 1,138 federal rights given to heterosexual marriages including:

  • Social Security benefits upon death, disability or retirement of spouse, as well as benefits for minor children.
  • Family and Medical Leave protections to care for a new child or sick/ injured family member.
  • Workers’ Compensation protections for the family of a worker injured on the job.
  • Access to COBRA insurance benefits so the family doesn’t lose health insurance when one spouse is laid off.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protections such as the ability to leave a pension, other than Social Security, to your spouse.
  • Exemptions from penalties on IRA and pension rollovers.
  • Exemptions from estate taxes when a spouse dies.
  • Exemptions from federal income taxes on spouse’s health insurance.
  • The right to visit a sick or injured loved one, have a say in life and death matters during hospitalization 11

Even state level civil unions fail to recreate these rights to any extent because there is no state level equivalent.  Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, shared property rights, and decision making/ visitation rights during hospitalization are real consequences of federally recognized marriage.  These inequalities affect the quality of life of same sex families by preventing children and spouses from having access to extended healthcare insurance provided by the other spouse’s employment, a right protected for heterosexual marriages. Continue reading