facts (well facts filtered through memory):

10 years old. Ohio. Grandfather shot his wife (Grandma) and himself. He died, she went to the hospital for a while. The bullet had 'grazed' her above the ear. I remember being told it was a car crash and then lots of whispered discussions happening. A few months later while visiting relatives in Chicago, sleeping in a bedroom off the kitchen where the adults were talking, I overheard the story that he had actually shot his wife. I was shocked by the story but more so that my parents had flat out lied.

15 years old. Ohio. Dave shot self with shotgun to the face in his bedroom. Lived with his parents, in his twenties. Lots of suicides and od's over these two years but the gun was the most difficult to imagine. (There was one kid who wrapped himself in the electric cord of his guitar that was all connected and somehow immersed it in water).

17 Years old. Ohio. Close friend was shot by her boyfriend who walked into her family's home one 7 am with two shotguns and a handgun and proceeded to shoot her, her mom and dad then himself. Several weeks later as I was still immersed in digesting this situation, my older brother had a party while my mom was away. I knew they would let me drink so I stuck around. I was sitting on the couch next to a woman who I had been friends with as a child. She informed my that she was now dating a cop. I should have taken this as a sign to walk away. She asked me if I had known Robyn (the girl who was killed) I said she had been a good friend of mine. She should have taken that as a sign to shut up. She began to tell me the story of her boyfriend being called to the crime scene at my friends house. How the crime must have happened due to where the blood was in the house. How Robyn died after her parents, how she had locked herself in the bathroom, how she must have heard them being shot, how her boyfriend was having nightmares from being on this case. During the conversation I had an image of Robyn from just a few weeks before she died when she and I had spent the afternoon in the sun sitting by the river. I realized she was glorifying every minute detail. To this day I am appalled that I didn't walk away or tell her to shut the fuck up.

20's. Various cities. I'm sure some of the guys I dated in my twenties had guns in their houses but I never asked.

23 years old. Vancouver, CA. I was listening to a talk radio station as I cleaned my room. The issue of the hour was gun control. I was expecting the usual rhetoric regarding 'the right to bear arms' or rather Canada's version of it. Some guy who lived in the middle of nowhere called and talked about how he owned several guns and how gun control would not in any way inhibit his ability to own guns and really after all 'we don't want to end up like the Americans with a pistol in every handbag'. It made me realize that although I lived in the worst neighborhood of a major city, walking alone day or night was not that big a deal as NO ONE HAD A GUN IN THEIR HANDBAG!

28 years old. NC. Shot a shotgun a few times. I had great aim until the recoil made me start to flinch.

30 years old. NYC. Occasional gun shots as in any big city. Black, the boyfriend of a friend, was a heroin dealer on Ave C. Told me the story of when he was real young, 9 I think, he was crossing Ave C with his best friend who was shot and killed by a stray bullet from a cop shootout. Right about over there, he said, pointing. I asked him if they (his crew) carried a gun. He said they had been having hassles with some guy from some other block who had a gun and so they were keeping one stashed in a trash can by where they sold. It seemed like a bit complicated if you actually needed it.

31 years old. NYC. Read in the paper that the corner store guy was shot. Robbery. Right around the corner. He would stay open all night and only sell to you through a small window. But he was shot in the daytime. It was the second time that he had been shot in a robbery. I went in there all the time. His wife and kid were almost always in there with him. His cousin filled in for awhile and after a few weeks he was back too.

33 or so years old. Chicago. Cop bar. Everyone in the room was drinking at 7 am. And they all had loaded guns.

30's. Various cities. Innumerable shots heard during the day but mostly night time from apartment windows in summer waking suddenly out of a dream. Heart beating. Waiting for more. Gauging how far away they are. Feet running, or tires squealing. Then silence.

38 years old. Chicago. Came home from work and all the people were out on the street in front of the building. Up in my apartment my roommate and a friend were all agitated as one of the guys who lived upstairs and sold out of the doorway had been shot out in front of the building. He didn't stick around and stumbled up the back stairs. The cops had been by but since there was no shooter or victim to be found they had left.

38 years old. Chicago. Summer - early evening. House full of people, over for various reasons. They are all getting ready to leave and a car squeals around the corner (wrong way down a one way) and sprays the building across the street with some kind of semi-automatic rifle fire. Flashes of light.

38 years old. Chicago. Housesitting for a neighbor. The nightly gang war shootouts were no more often than usual however I was on the first floor rather than the second. Which made the shooting a whole lot closer and more sinister. I lay awake a long time after they stopped. I had heard the feet running in the alley and knew that one group kept their gun in the house next door and heard them throw it over the fence. I also hear the guy next door come out of his house, pick it up and go back in. I remembered my friend from NYC with his gun in the trash can. It seemed just as complicated.

38 years old. Chicago. Tony's corner store. Hear a shot. Look out the side window even though I know you're not supposed to and see young guy running down the street aiming a gun back at the store. Had shot a kid, 13 or so (about his own age). Shot him in the leg. Some other kid walking by had seen kid #1 and mistook him for someone he had a problem with and shot at him - missing him. The kid who was shot at just happened to have a gun in the pocket of his hoodie so he shot back (missing him) but hitting another kid in the leg. It was a weekend day, there were a lot of kids hanging out and around the corner store.

40 years old. Chicago. Surprised to find out how many of my friends own guns. For all my traveling around the this country and the world alone and living in fucked neighborhoods etc etc, owning a gun has simply never occurred to me.

A few more uplifting facts:

Everyday in the United States, 9 children are killed by guns. In 2000, gun violence killed 28,663 Americans:
10,801 in homicides
16,586 in suicides
776 in unintentional shootings
270 in legal interventions, and
230 in undetermined events
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics WISQARS online data service, obtained 2002

Comparison of U.S. gun homicides to other industrialized countries:
In 1998 (the most recent year for which this data has been compiled), handguns murdered:

373 people in Germany
151 people in Canada
57 people in Australia
19 people in Japan
54 people in England and Wales, and
11,789 people in the United States
(*Please note that these numbers account only for HOMICIDES, and do not include suicides, which comprise and even greater number of gun deaths, or unintentional shootings).
- Provided by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Among 26 industrialized nations, 86% of gun deaths among children under age 15 occurred in the United States.
- Provided by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

While handguns account for only one-third of all firearms owned in the United States, they account for more than two-thirds of all firearm-related deaths each year. A gun kept in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
- Kellerman AL, Lee RK, Mercy JA, et al. "The Epidemiological Basis for the Prevention of Firearm Injuries." Annu. Rev. Public Health. 1991; 12:17-40

From 1977 to 1996, the U.S. firearm industry produced 85,644,715 firearms, 39,024,786 handguns, 26,651,062 rifles and 19,969,867 shotguns in the United States.
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

As of 1994, 44 million Americans owned more than 192 million firearms, 65 million of which were handguns. Although there were enough guns to have provided every U.S. adult with one, only 25% of adults owned firearms. Seventy-four percent (74%) of gun owners possessed two or more firearms.
- National Institute of Justice, May 1997

Every two years more Americans die from firearm injuries than the total number of American soldiers killed during the 8-year Vietnam War. In 1999, the total number of people killed by guns in the United States was 28,874,a 6% decrease from 1998 figures.
- Based on data from CDC National Center for Health Statistics report "Deaths: Final Data for 1999." Vol. 49, No. 8

And on a related note...
Note: "incarcerated" = in prison or jail.
Some quotes from Justice Policy Institute:
"The United States holds the dubious distinction of having the largest incarcerated population in the world, with 2 million people behind bars as of year-end 1999. With only 5% of the world's population, the U.S. holds a quarter of the world's prisoners."

"Texas has a rate of 1,035 people behind bars for every 100,000 in the population, the second highest incarceration rate in the nation (second only to Louisiana). If Texas was a nation separate from the United States, it would have the world's highest incarceration rate--significantly higher than the United States (682), and Russia (685) which has 1 million prisoners, the world's third biggest prison system. Texas' incarceration rate is also higher than China (115), which has the world's second largest prison population (1.4 million prisoners)."

2002 - One in every 32 adults in the United States are behind bars, on probation or parole.
6.6 million people

US military expenditures (after recent increase by congress - before the war/after 9/11)
will equall ALL the other countries in the world combined.

 

- Melinda Fries