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Ruminations of an Angry Knitter

Gunshot is now the third leading cause of death in American children.

In the past year I increasingly find myself in need of things that distract my mind from the events happening across the world. I read dozens of books, play too much solitaire, eat chocolate (that my waistline does NOT need). And, after a hiatus of several years, I have begun to knit again while wars rage, orphans starve and Americans shoot school children.

Knitting is meditative for me: just distracting enough that my instinct to hurl epithets at media announcing the news is dampened, and my ability to consider some issues raised by the latest — and there seem to be multiples each day — is honed. To the background clicking of my needles, I think about pastimes, the pursuit of happiness, and the Rights of Americans . . .

It has been said that mass shootings seem to be carried out by white males. While this is largely true (54 percent), sadly we are not aware of most of the mass shootings, even the mass SCHOOL shootings, that take place. There are a share of shooters who do not fit the white, “toxic masculine” profile. There are shooters who are clearly mentally ill, though (and I wrote an academic thesis on this) criminal insanity is a slippery issue; “Sanity” is a legal term connoting competence, not murderous craziness per se.

There is ONLY ONE common denominator in mass shootings: the guns. Countries that have radically curtailed the rights to carry guns have seen massive drops, even the elimination of mass shootings: The statistical odds of being killed increase in homes with guns. And yet, Americans view their Second Amendment rights as sacrosanct, in many states even to the point of being unwilling to strengthen permitting laws or background checks. Many gun owners are hunters. Many feel that their weapons protect themselves, their families or their communities. Many simply enjoy the sport of shooting on a gun range. Many are responsible gun owners.

Some, however, find an outlet for their rage or fear in the murderous use of their guns, both legally and illegally obtained. And all proclaim their RIGHT to carry arms.

My kneedles clicking furiously now, I began to think of Rights beyond those conveyed by the Second Amendment. On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the preamble to which states that the foundation of life in a free, peaceful and just society lies in the “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” We, the people of the United States, establish legislation to protect these rights, presumably so that we may remain free to pursue life liberty and happiness in ways that do not impinge on those same rights justly belonging to our fellow people.

The first guarantee in the Bill of Rights, however, is the right to Life. And here — DAMN; I dropped a stitch and had to rip a row out to fix it — is where I begin to get angry.

In many states my right to use my cell phone while driving is restricted. I can’t talk to my family, friends or business people while driving because my use of my phone may endanger my safety or that of those who share the road. Most states require me to use a seatbelt while driving and a helmet while riding my motorcycle. While traveling by air I can’t carry on more than 3 ounces of liquid anything, cuticle scissors, a lighter or, and this one REALLY fries me, my metal knitting needles. I can’t even bring my needles with me into a courthouse or most government buildings (in the latter case, probably a good thing)! Each of these items has a purpose other than dastardly deeds. Yet each is restricted because, in some way, my right to carry them does not justify the potential risk to the health and safety of others.

In most states I MAY, however (assuming I pass certain background checks), legally purchase and carry an assault rifle designed specifically to kill and injure as many human beings as possible in the shortest amount of time, a right which has increasingly caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent Americans. Why, exactly, is there a right for a civilian to own a weapon of war?

The ONLY common denominator in mass shootings is the guns themselves. They are wielded by old, young, male, female, white, non-white, native-born and immigrant, self-proclaimed Christians, Patriots and zealots of other stripes. They are used by homegrown and visiting terrorists, by shooters described by those who knew them as bat-shit-crazy or shockingly normal. And in each and every case of a mass shooting, they are used precisely for the very purpose for which they were designed.

The NRA is the most powerful Lobby in America, and it makes millions of dollars worth of contributions to our lawmakers every year to insure that the right to bear (and the gun makers’ right to sell) arms is NOT restricted. While states with the most restrictive gun laws seem to experience fewer gun related deaths gun death statistics are complicated. One fact remains: America owns almost half of the guns (48 percent) in the world. And we place second only to Yemen in incidence of mass shootings.  Sixty-four percent of all homicides involve guns. And gunshot is now the third leading cause of death in American children .

From my point of view, no one’s right to “enjoy” owning a military assault rifle or any gun is worth more than a child’s right to live. Or my right to carry my knitting needles.

And while I cannot guarantee that my knitting keeps me from killing people, it certainly helps.

________

Long-time Berkshire County resident and photographer Claudia d’Alessandro makes her home in Great Barrington with her fiancé musician David Reed, and two cats who enjoy tangling her yarn.

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