Thou shalt not kill.
It’s right there, set in stone, No. 5 on the Almighty’s heavenly top 10 list that old Moses carried down the mountain, sandwiched between honoring your parents and not cheating on your spouse.
The edict is pretty clear and unambiguous. Thou, which means you and me. Shalt, which means shall. Not, which is pretty self-explanatory. And kill, ditto.
But it seems we’re not listening.
In the year of our Lord 2020, we as a species pretty much ignored Commandment No. 5.
The FBI reported nearly a 30% increase in murders in 2020, the biggest single jump since the bureau began recording crime statistics in 1960.
Not that 2020 was the killingest year on record. That came in 1995, when there were nearly 25,000 homicides reported. Last year there were merely 21,570. Of course, this is with only 15,897 of the eligible 18,619 law enforcement agencies submitting data to the feds in 2020.
In our fair state, 287 of our friends and neighbors were murdered in 2020, up 15.3% since 2019.
So what happened?
Well, the pandemic, for one. People were cooped up at home more, which in some cases led to tension, with family members getting on each other’s nerves. Politics split the country, as did the response to the pandemic as well as the burgeoning social justice movement. Many adults lost their jobs and kids were not in school.
Gun sales soared in 2020, with nearly 23 million firearms sold, according to Small Arms Analytics, a Greenville, S.C., consulting firm.
“Eventually, those guns get used in the heat of anger,” James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, told USA Today.
I know, guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but it is easier to dispatch someone with a gun than without. In fact the FBI reports that 77% of murders reported in 2020 were committed using a firearm, the highest share ever reported. Of the murders committed in Oklahoma last year, 69.3% involved a firearm.
Actually the number of mass shootings, defined as a shooting in which there are four or more victims, was down in 2020. Last year there was a mass shooting every 73 days, as compared to one every 36 days in 2019.
We are doing better in 2021. Somewhat. Thus far in 2021 murders are up some 10%, which isn’t great but it is better than 30%. Yay for us.
Our kids didn’t fare well during the 2020 killing spree, with nearly 300 children ages 11 and under being killed in 2020, up nearly 50% from 2019.
And you know how they say you always hurt the one you love? In Oklahoma in 2020 the majority of victims, 78.8%, knew their killer, and the most common relationship between killer and victim was husband and wife, accounting for 31.4% of familial homicides.
In 18.1% of murders in our state last year, there was another felony, such as robbery, involved. For those killings in which another felony was not involved, arguments were the most common reason for the murder. Too often, it seems, arguments escalate rapidly into homicide. Somebody cusses out somebody else, one party disrespects the other, the guns come out and the bullets fly.
So why do people kill people? Experts will tell you the primary reasons are love, lust, loathing or loot. These four can be broken down into sub-genres, like greed, revenge, obsession, frustration, hatred, jealously, passion, psychosis and protecting a loved one.
No matter the reason, in the end someone ends up dead.
There is a plague among us that has, to date, killed nearly 700,000 Americans, which makes U.S. murderers look like pikers. The point is too many people are dying, there is no need to add to the death toll out of anger, hatred or greed.
Murder is not going to go away, it has been with us since Cain got jealous and dispatched Abel, but whatever happened to the concept of live and let live?
Whatever happened to the value of a human life? Is getting mad at somebody a good enough reason to end their life? Is that all a life is worth these days?
The author Henry James once said, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
Be kind people, and if you are intent on killing someone, try to do it with kindness.