Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is one of the most esteemed personalities in the National Basketball Association.
After yet another school shooting in the United States, this time at an elementary school in Texas – following a mass shooting at a grocery store and another at a church – Kerr spoke up. His righteous anger was directed at the politicians in his country who refuse to pass legislation to require background checks for gun ownership, even though the vast majority of Americans would like to see such a law.
During a pre-game press conference, Kerr didn’t talk about basketball. Instead, he stated: “We are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to put it to a vote, despite what we, the American people, want. They won’t vote on it because they want to hold onto their own power. It’s pathetic. I’ve had enough.” He then stormed out of the room.
We may be seeing a shift in American sentiment, and just as it was after the George Floyd murder two years ago, the professional basketball community is speaking out in a voice that can no longer be ignored.
The arms industry is very wealthy and powerful, and they make generous contributions to the politicians, who make sure that the industry’s coffers continue to expand. Gun violence is out of control in the United States because of the well-funded lobby of the arms industry working on all levels of the American government. This has led to some very dangerous trends in the United States.
According to the liberal advocacy group Public Citizen:
- The United States is the only country on the entire planet with more guns than people.
- The number of guns manufactured in America has nearly tripled over the past two decades, from 3.9 million in 2000 to 11.3 million in 2020.
- Americans endure more mass shootings than all other developed countries combined.
- The frequency – and body count – of mass shootings has increased in recent years.
- Thirteen of the 20 deadliest mass shootings since 1982 happened in just the past decade.
- There were 118 school shootings in 2018, double the previous record of 59. Then 119 in 2019. Then 114 in 2020. Then 249 (not a typo) in 2021. And already 137 in 2022.
- The three deadliest years for school shootings in the past half-century are 2018, 2021 and 2022.
- Guns have become the leading cause of death among children in the United States.
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The United States is not the only country in the world with school shootings, but they’re much less frequent elsewhere because of the collaborative efforts of school administrators, law enforcement agents and other significant players to prevent them. In those countries, officials have studied the incidents, their causes and effective means of responding to them. They’ve implemented plans and protocols to keep children safe.
No system is perfect, and we always need to be on guard, but the data illustrates what’s working and what’s not.
Kerr is reasonable and honourable. The vast majority of people in the United States agree with him. Gun control is only one of several issues on which American elected officials are far out of sync with their constituents. Democracy is, by its nature, an imperfect form of government, but a government can’t continue to function as a democracy if it doesn’t eventually bend to the will of its people.
Canada shares the largest undefended border in the world with the United States and they remain our largest trading partner. How do we respond to the problems south of our border?
For one thing, we need to be informed and aware of which practices are life-giving and which aren’t. We also need to keep our house in order. And sometimes, like Kerr, we need to let the world know that we’re angry.
Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust. For interview requests, click here.
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