Today marks a significant historical anniversary that is likely to go largely unnoticed. World War II really began 75 years ago today, when Great Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany for attacking Poland.
For the next six years, humans violently murdered each other at the rate of about 10 million a year.
This anniversary is likely to get little notice because so much else is going on – and because historians are busy commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.
Now here is a little Michigan news story that isn’t likely to get much notice either. According to Livingston County police, a 69-year-old man was driving a pickup truck yesterday afternoon, when he passed a 43-year-old man driving a smaller vehicle.
They then both were stopped at a traffic light. The younger man got out of his car and approached the truck. And the truck driver shot him to death. Police say they were both from Howell, but didn’t know each other, that this was just a case of road rage.
If that’s the case, the shooter likely will end up in prison for years, maybe the rest of his life, costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Three lives are pretty much ruined – the shooter’s, the dead man, and the dead man’s wife, who saw her husband blown away. Yet few of us will think about this.
And that’s because we don’t think we can do anything to stop other such senseless deaths. Six years ago, in a case called the District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court by a single vote said people had the constitutional right to possess a firearm for conventionally lawful purposes. They reaffirmed that ruling in a second case and made it clear it applied to every state.
However, they did not say it applied to all weapons, and the justices specifically said some regulation was permissible.
But even our most decent politicians, cowed by these rulings and the financial strength of the gun lobby, have essentially given up. So this year, something like 10,000 other people will die victims of gun violence. People in other countries think we are crazy.
And that’s because we are. Japan, for example, has about half our population. They have firearms fatalities too. Two years ago, for example, 11 people were shot to death in the entire country. They had 11, we had 10,000. Of course, nationwide we have almost nine guns floating around for every 10 people.
Japan has about one gun for every 200.
In America today, advocating tougher gun laws is seen as politically futile. But let me tell you something about America when World War II started. Back then, it would have been extremely radical to argue that black people should have a right to live wherever they could afford, or to eat in any restaurant or shop wherever they chose.
Nobody thought that possible then.
Eventually, a bunch of starry-eyed romantics took on the system. There was a lot of struggle, and some people got killed.
But the Supreme Court reversed itself, and the world was changed. And some days, I like to imagine it could be again.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.