On Saturday evening, at a wonderful festival in Brooklyn just a few miles from my house, 12 people were shot.
On Sunday evening, in the Bay Area of California, at a Garlic Food Festival in Gilroy, 15 people were shot, at least 3 people have died, including a sweet little 6 year old boy named Stephen Romero and a 13 year old girl.
That’s a staggering 27 people shot in just 2 mass shootings in less than 24 hours. Either one of those shootings would have been the largest in modern history in most countries. But in the United States, we just call it Saturday and Sunday. And now we’ve learned that the shooter was an open white supremacist who drove to Nevada, legally purchased an AK-47, which is a weapon of war, designed for carnage, and drove right back to California to use it.
Today I wanna unpack and explain how we have so much carnage in this country, but so little change.
The number of people shot and killed by guns in this country started being accurately measured in 1979. That’s the year I was born.
And do you know what the deadliest year ever measured for gun violence in this country was? Last year. Last year was the single deadliest year ever measured for guns in America with nearly 40,000 people shot and killed. School shootings hit a record high in 2018. Gun deaths by suicide hit a record high in 2018. And I don’t just mean in the total number of shootings either – even per capita.
Let me give you what I think is the single most staggering, eye opening stat I can share on guns in the United States – last year, the United States, which is the only the nation in the world that has more guns than people, had 121 guns for ever 100 people. No other nation crossed 100 guns per 100 people. No other nation crossed 90 guns, per 100 people, or 80 guns, or 70 guns per 100 people, or 60 guns per 100 people – in fact – while the United States has 121 guns per 100 people – only one other nation in the entire world even has over 40 guns per 100 people.
Do you wanna guess the country? Yemen. A failed state in the midst of a civil war and famine is the only other nation in the world with more than 40 guns per 100 people – and the United States has triple that. Number 2 is YEMEN – which is widely thought to be the most dangerous, least stable nation in the world right now.
Iraq only has 19 guns per 100 people and the United States has 121.
Do you hear what I’m saying?
We live in the Wild Wild West. The United States is the most heavily armed nation in the history of the world – with more millions more guns than we have people – not on accident – but by design.
And I need you to understand that very little happens in this place on accident. Not police brutality. Not mass incarceration. And damn sure not having more guns than people. That’s not an accident. That’s a grand design.
When you a flood a country with 350 million guns, strip down all of the checks and balances and safety measures, refuse to pass even the most basic, common sense gun reforms, then defund education, defund community centers, and maintain one of the worst mental health systems in the entire country, what the hell did you think was going to happen?
Gun manufacturers don’t care. The NRA and the gun lobby, which spends nearly half a billion dollars per year making sure nothing gets better, damn sure doesn’t care. And so here we are. We have 110 per day shot and killed in this country. 110. At schools, at festivals, at parks, at movie theaters, at concerts, on the block, at work, at home. Everywhere.
Nearly 8,000 young Black men were shot and killed last year. Almost universally over a bunch of nothing – fake beef. Toxic masculinity.
And if you don’t mind I need to teach us a quick lesson about who makes change and who blocks change – and how they do it, OK?
Do you know what “civil rights organization” had the largest budget in the nation last year? It wasn’t the NAACP or the ACLU.
It was the NRA. And get this – their budget plummeted by a staggering $82 million and they still raised and spent $330 million last year alone. That’s WAY more than every single other serious civil rights organization in the country.
And they used that money not so much to make change, but to block it from ever happening. If you have ever listened to my podcast, The Breakdown, I explain that to make change in this nation you need 4 things: highly energized people, deeply organized people, a sophisticated plan that matches the size and scope of the problem, and it all needs to be well funded.
Even in a “bad year” for the NRA, they have all 4 of those things – and they have for generations. They’ve now spent, by my calculation, a staggering $3 billion in the past 10 years alone to block all meaningful gun reform. And they are able to do this because they have millions of members who are energized and organized – and they have a complex plan to make sure their agenda gets done. They control the Senate, the presidency, and the Supreme Court right now. That’s power. They control the majority of governors and state legislatures. That’s power.
Right now, their MONTHLY budget is $27.5 million. They are spending $916,000 PER DAY to make sure their agenda happens. PER DAY! And if we’re ever going to make a difference, we have to fight like they fight, but for our issues.