Toastmasters Speech #9: Persuade with Power
(I am dressed in a raincoat, jeans and sneakers.) I hate Toastmasters. I’m sick and tired of your self-absorbed speeches and your stupid table topics. I just want you to shut up. Shut the hell up! Oh, you think that’s funny. I know how to make you shut up! (I put on a mask, pull an imaginary semi-automatic rifle from under my raincoat, and start shooting people.)
(I take off the mask and the raincoat.) In South Korea, it would have been very difficult for me to legally purchase a gun for this demonstration. In the U.S., it would have been ridiculously easy.
How many of you have heard of the shooting on the opening night of a Batman movie at a theater in Colorado? Can we please have a moment of silence for these victims?... and another moment of silence…until all we have is silence instead of a discussion about how to reduce gun violence in the U.S.? Wait a minute, that’s what we have now!
Well I, for one, am speaking up in favor of a lucid discussion about gun violence in America and how to reduce it. I’m going to talk about guns and the U.S. Constitution, about whether owning guns makes people safer or less safe, and about two laws the U.S. could pass immediately that would help reduce gun violence.
Guns are part of America’s heritage. The U.S. began with a rebellion, and those rebels used guns. Gun ownership is enshrined in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees people the right to bear arms. That doesn’t mean you can’t pass laws about what arms citizens can bear. People aren’t allowed to own nuclear weapons, for example.
When the U.S. Constitution was written, people used muskets. Muskets took a long time to load and were quite inaccurate. A well trained soldier could fire four rounds a minute, and while he was busy tamping down that gun powder and musket ball with his ramrod, someone could come up from behind him and tackle him.
Compare that to a modern, far more accurate semi-automatic weapon that can fire 60 rounds a minute, or an automatic weapon that can fire 1000. Times have changed.
Oh, we love guns in America. U.S. civilians own 270 million guns. There are only 314 million of us, and 74 million of those are kids under the age of 18, so we average 1.13 guns per adult. Did you know that after the Batman massacre, demand for guns went up? Why? Because we don’t have enough already? No, because we’re afraid. Many Americans believe that owning a gun makes them safer. But is that really the case?
According to a Harvard study, the more guns there are, the more murders there are. This is true whether you’re talking about countries or states. In the U.S. about 100,000 people a year are shot by a gun. Of these, about 31,000 people die every year.
Of these gun deaths, about 57 percent are suicides. More than 90% of suicides by gun are fatal, compared to 3% by pills or cutting. A suicide is three to five times more likely to occur in a home with a gun than in a home without one.
Fact #!. Having a gun in our home makes us less safe from ourselves.
But what about safety from others? According to the FBI, of those 31,000 gun deaths a year in the U.S., only about 200 are legally justified self-defense homicides. Compared to self defense, a gun in the home is seven times more likely to be used in a criminal assault or homicide, and four times more likely to result in an unintentional shooting.
Some of these accidental shootings can be real heartbreakers:
“'Startled Father Fatally Shoots his Daughter'
A girl who jumped out of a closet and shouted, ‘Boo!’ when her parents came home in the middle of the night was shot and killed by her own father. Fourteen-year-old Matilda Crabtree’s last words to her father were ‘I love you, Daddy.’ Matilda and a friend were supposed to be spending Saturday night at the friend’s home but had decided to go the the Crabtees’ while Matilda’s parents were away. When Matilda heard her parents drive up at 1 a.m. Sunday, she and her friend came up with a practical joke: They hid in her bedroom closet and made noises to make her parents think someone had broken in. ‘It’s sad,’ said a police officer. ‘I don’t know how the father is going to live with it.’”
Fact #2: Those living with a gun in their homes are, on average, less safe than those living in homes without them.
The numerous mass shootings in the U.S. have been receiving the most attention. In my home state of Virginia, a student at Virginia Tech University shot and killed 32 people. A court had previously declared him mentally ill. In the U.S., mentally ill people are not permitted to purchase guns. Dealers are required to perform background checks. But 40% of all guns bought are from individuals, who are not required to perform background checks. This is known as the gun show loophole.
As for the Batman massacre, in the two months prior to the shootings, the shooter legally purchased four firearms, 6000 rounds of ammunition, and a high capacity magazine that could hold 100 rounds. No wonder he was able to shoot 70 people. The sale of high capacity magazines and certain semi-automatic weapons used to be banned in the U.S., but that law expired eight years ago.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are two laws the U.S. could pass now to reduce gun violence. The first is to close the gun show loophole. Make background checks mandatory for everyone buying a gun. The second is to reinstate the law banning the sale of high capacity magazines and certain semi-automatic weapons. Even better would be to ban their ownership by private individuals.
Let’s begin anew a sane, reasoned discussion in the U.S. about gun laws we can live with.