My 10-year-old came into the room last night while I was preoccupied with a very important activity - okay, I was playing Spider Solitaire if you must know - and asked me if I knew how many students die each day in the United States.
Because I had no idea, I googled “How many students die each day in America?” and a link to a Children’s Defense Fund page came up. I dig that organization and its founder, Marian Wright Edelman, so I clicked on it and was treated to some genuinely sobering statistics:
Each day in America:
- 2 mothers die in childbirth.
- 5 children are killed by abuse or neglect.
- 5 children or teens commit suicide.
- 8 children or teens are killed by firearms.
- 32 children or teens die from accidents.
- 80 babies die before their first birthdays.
- 186 children are arrested for violent offenses.
- 368 children are arrested for drug offenses.
- 949 babies are born at low birth weight.
- 1,204 babies are born to teen mothers.
- 1,240 public school students are corporally punished.
- 2,058 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
- 2,163 babies are born without health insurance.
- 2,573 babies are born into poverty.
- 3,312 high school students drop out.
- 4,133 children are arrested.
- 4,717 babies are born to unmarried mothers.
- 18,493 public school students are suspended.
Nothing kills a Cabernet Sauvignon-inspired buzz like reading a bunch of statistics about how much it sucks to be young and vulnerable in this country.
I don’t know why Maya asked this question. I told her I didn’t know the answer but the number probably wasn’t large and I assured her that she’s safe. “I’m sure nothing bad is going to happen to you,” I said.
But I’m not sure. A few months ago I would have argued that it’s ridiculous to think a gunman would or even could enter an elementary school anywhere in America and use a Bushmaster rifle and two handguns to slaughter 20 innocent first-graders and six adults.
I also came across an interesting article online authored by a guy named Paul Brandus, a member of the White House press corps and founder of WestWingReports.com. Brandus points out:
Let's face facts: Congress hasn't passed a major gun control bill since 1994, when at the behest of Ronald Reagan, it approved an assault weapons ban (long since expired) and, in 1993, the Brady Bill, which requires background checks on gun buyers when a gun is bought for the first time. (Subsequent sales of those used weapons are often unregulated, thus the so-called "gun show loophole.") The fights to pass those laws were nasty and protracted, and in the ensuing years, positions have hardened even more. Bottom line: As disturbing and outrageous as the Newtown massacre was, there is essentially zero chance that Congress will do anything of substance about it.
Why we pay Congress 3.4 times more than the average full-time American worker – putting our lawmakers among the highest paid in the industrialized world – when its members have proven they’re unwilling and/or unable to address the most important issues facing the nation is a true mystery to me. Most people I know want to talk about banning assault weapons, improving access to mental health services and prohibiting high-capacity magazines; Congress wants to privatize the Post Office and politicize the murder of a U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi.
Anita and I took the kids and our two Maltese to a local park yesterday. The sky was blue and the sun was out but it was cold; after we all walked in the woods for a bit, I pushed the kids on a merry-go-round while Anita and the dogs waited in the van. And as I grabbed each cold piece of steel and pulled to the right as hard as I could – and the kids screamed and laughed and challenged me to go faster – I thought to myself, “I sure am lucky that I can do this with these children, that they’re safe and sound and happy right now.” I consciously filed the memory away in case something happened and I couldn’t experience such a magical moment again.
Sources: Theweek.com, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Children's Defense Fund.