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Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Cartridge In Your Gun

"Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period."

(U.S. Department of Defense, Statistical Information Analysis Division, Personnel & Military Casualty Statistics, U.S. Military Casualties in Southeast Asia: Vietnam Conflict – Casualty Summary As of May 16, 2008)

"In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks."

(U.S. Department of Defense, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 
U.S. Casualty Status, Fatalities as of: March 12, 2012)

The cartridge at rest -- just a metallic shell containing a little gunpowder propellant and chemical primer behind a bullet of lead. Unfired, the cartridge is relatively harmless. Some may even consider its design attractive.

But, who purchases cartridges with the intent to initiate a collection of unfired ammunition? The companies that manufacture bullets sell them to those who intend to fire them in their small arms -- people who target shoot, who hunt game, and, unfortunately, who intend to unload their cartridges into the bodies of mortals. 

When loaded into a gun and fired at a human being, the cartridge becomes a messenger of destruction and death. When a person pulls the trigger mechanism of the firearm, he initiates an instantaneous process of delivery. Once the trigger releases, the firing pin strikes the primer and ignites it, sending a jet of burning gas from the primer to the powder causing the propellant to burn, pressurize, and expand the case to seal it against the chamber wall as it releases gases that push on the base of the bullet and thrust it in the path of least resistance down the bore of a barrel at blazing speeds of over 700 miles per hour.

Damn the cartridges used by individuals who pulled their triggers to end the lives of innocents. No means can even estimate the tremendous physical damage and grief caused by these deadly projectiles. A human + a motive + a maladjusted mind + a firearm = a likely lethal circumstance. Despite gun legislation, gun safety courses, and proactive gun advice, countless bullets continue to rip inculpable flesh.

66.9% of all homicides in the United States are perpetrated using a firearm, and two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides. In 2010 alone, there were 31,076 deaths from firearms. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents. And, firearms injuries remain a leading cause of death in the U.S., particularly among youth.

(National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A "Who's Who" of peacemakers died by the bullet: Mohandas Gandhi, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and John Lennon. Even U.S. presidents afforded the greatest shields of protection fell to rains of lead. Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy died from gunshot wounds.

A World Without Cartridges

We can argue that bullets are necessary conveyances for war, self-protection, and militias. Yet, this argument will not reduce the number of tragedies caused by people who regularly abuse firearms. People who shout, "Preserve Second Amendment rights!" claim to be sensitive to the senseless violence caused by armed criminals, youngsters, and other unstable minds; however, in promoting a culture condoning big, bigger, and biggest cartridges, they play a significant hand in proliferating the manufacture of ammunition and, thus, the inevitable misuse of firearms.

For Christ's sake, I have nothing against the freedom of ownership for target practice, hunting, and self-protection -- all of which can be afforded by guns. Today though, the gun has transcended the rights of ownership and practical purpose. To many people today, it is a symbol of power in its deadly force. Wielding a gun replaces using other less lethal assets -- clubs, knives, pepper spray, stun guns, fists, martial arts, security cameras, strong locks, or, in the case of retreat, strong legs and loud outcries.

Laws allowing "conceal and carry" expand the right to tote a gun into nearly all public places. Open carry laws are even less restrictive than those governing concealment. 

I wonder what a world without the invention of guns and cartridges would be. Or, I wonder what a world that outlawed them would be. Let's face it, the firearm itself is antiquated in terms of design. I'm sure lasers and other more modern inventions could unleash far better destruction. Would so many humans consider "the next step" past the gun a necessary purchase that exemplifies their "right to bear arms"?

The tears that have been shed over deadly trajectories of lead would overfill an ocean. You see, killing another with a firearm is instantaneous; the trigger pull commences an irretrievable process that results in the release of a missile speeding toward its target. It can be a quick, accurate hit. The distance from the target supported by the use of a gun serves as a certain detachment from the consequences of the firing -- in the worst case scenario, this is death.

Weren't we much more aware of the personal nature of killing when it had to be accomplished with means other than a firearm? Using a knife, a club, or the bare hands to end another person's life makes the destruction "up close and personal." Dealing death by the gun is more convenient, so, somehow, less psychologically heinous in terms of its delivery.

Personally, I do not like guns. I do not like them because of the horrible statistics left in the wake of gun violence. Debating the "why's" and "how's" and "if's" is counterproductive to my dream of abolishing such an easy means to ending lives. I guess I live with this thought as a perfect-world fantasy.

But this is the real world. So, if you are my polar opposite and you have a great passion for firearms, you are not my enemy. I want you to know I don't want to take your rights of ownership away. I am not concerned about guns per se. I am also not concerned about unfired rounds of cartridges. I am only concerned about the state of mind behind the human hand pulling the trigger and the target of the round the person caused to be expelled from the cartridge. A hit from a firearm held by one who doesn't respect the gun, the bullets, and the target is a senseless act. No such aim can be true.

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