COMMENTARY: Where do the children play? – Society continues to evolve – so does gun ownership and deaths by firearms

By Christopher Young,
Contributing Writer,

In the last 250 years American society has surely evolved. We have transformed in many areas. When we take a step back for a moment, it’s easy to see. We learned to harness the power of water, then steam, electricity, combustion, communication and then computing.
We never think twice when we flip a light switch, place a cellular call halfway around the world, or push a button to start an automobile without even inserting a key. Some even open an app on their cell phone and have groceries delivered to their door.
Advancement, transformation and evolution in our society have been phenomenal, but where do the children play?
In 1970, British singer-songwriter Cat Stevens’ breakthrough album was called, “Tea for the Tillerman,” and its’ lead song was “Where do the children play? says, “Taking the lyrics literally, the narrator is concerned that modern advances are ruining the planet and leaving behind the innocence and happiness that life is really about.”
The opening verse:
“Well I think it’s fine
Building jumbo planes
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train
Switch on summer from a slot machine
Yes, get what you want to if you want
‘Cause you can get anything
(and the chorus)
I know we’ve come a long way
We’re changing day to day
But tell me, where do the children play?” Where do they play? Where are children safe in America today?
They better not go to parks or live in areas prone to drive-by shootings, or go to movie theatres, concerts, grocery stores, or bowling alleys. If that is not bad enough, the unthinkable – they better not go to school. Despite all our advances, and partly because of them, children are not safe at school in America.
Stevens, who later converted to Islam and is known now as Yusuf Islam, is an artist, a visionary – 53 years ago, when he was only 22 years old, he was telling us something, asking us something, trying to make us think. But our own greed, a first cousin to advancement, overpowered our own ears. What is more fundamental to parenting than the safety and welfare of our own children?
2022 – “There were 51 school shootings in 2022 that resulted in injuries or deaths, the most in a single year since Education Week began tracking such incidents in 2018. In these 51 school shootings there were 140 people killed or injured: 100 people injured, 40 people killed; 32 students or other children, 8 school employees or other adults.
Prior to 2022, the highest number of school shootings with injuries or deaths was 2021 when there were 35. There were 10 in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018. per on January 27, 2023.
“American gun violence deaths outside schools are also the highest in the world: in 2021 there were 12,520 incidents of firearm homicide and 48,830 resulting deaths compared to 37,155 deaths in 1990 and 34,556 in 1980 and 17,899 in 1970.
Despite rising rates of gun violence, however, many Americans remain fiercely protective of their constitutional right to bear arms,” all per As if being a kid in America isn’t hard enough, now they get to worry about being shot or killed in places that were once sacred.
2023 – Advancement versus safety. Can the two ever coexist? Today the answer is no – it’s a rare day in our country now when a child isn’t killed by a gun. So far this year, 335 children and 1,326 teenagers have been homicide victims. Is that acceptable in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Obviously, the answer is yes. Imagine the caskets – 1,661 of them so far this year.
Per NBC News on March 25, 2022, “Domestic gun manufacturing boomed in the years before the recent rise in gun deaths and shooting incidents. From 1988 to 1992, the production of guns hovered between 3 million and 4 million annually, according to data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Fast-forward to 2009, when more than 5 million guns were made. Since then, gun manufacturing numbers have increased more years than they have decreased, peaking at 11 million in 2016.”
Collectively, we elect 535 people as national lawmakers. The bare minimum salary of each is $174,000. Many of them draw a higher salary.
We had an assault weapon ban in this country from 1994 to 2004, but they let it lapse. We have governors, too, and mayors – people in positions of power – yet the deaths continue to escalate.
Numerous sources report that mass shooting deaths were 70 percent less likely to occur when the federal prohibition on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was in effect. Today more than 60 Mayors across the country are encouraging the new Speaker of the House, Republican Mike Johnson to put a federal assault weapon and high-capacity magazine ban on the floor for a vote.
How many dead Americans will it take before American leadership figures out a way to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of sick people? How many children do we need to bury before we find the political will to stop dead children from being the norm? How many books will we ban as our kids die from gun violence?

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