Nostalgia Not Beneficial When Talking Guns

Glock Model 21" by Michael @ NW Lens is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED.

It’s human nature to think of the past as a better time. I think we all do it to some degree or another, not just history buffs like me. I’m a medieval nut, and there’s a part of me that looks at the Age of Chivalry wistfully, like we’re missing something we could sorely use today.


And that’s before guns were as much of a thing, which is a bit of a paradox for me.

But for most people, it’s just looking back at a time in their life when things just seemed better. A time when things were simpler for them, so it must have been better all around.

And there seems to be a fair bit of that in this piece that supposedly focused on guns and how violence involving them is impacting kids.

Gary police Cmdr. Edward Gonzalez has investigated countless homicides throughout his 20-plus-year career. However, his first exposure to gun violence started long before his career in law enforcement.

Two doors down from where he lived with his parents near the intersection of 41st Avenue and Jefferson Street, a 7-year-old Gonzalez heard his neighbor shoot his wife. He said he remembers looking outside the front door and seeing the woman, a friend of the family, as she lay bleeding on the sidewalk. His parents rushed outside to render aid to her. His mother placed a pillow under her head and draped a blanket over her body.

“I remember that incident pretty well,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t really realize how those things affect you.”

An estimated 3 million children witness a shooting each year, according to data from a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics and Everytown for Gun Safety.

Between 1999 and 2020, the rate of children 17 and younger who were killed by guns in the United States stood at 2 fatalities per 100,000 residents, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data. The rate in Indiana is slightly higher than the national rate; however, the rate in Northwest Indiana was double the national rate.

Of the 782 Indiana kids who died from guns during this time, 23% were from Northwest Indiana.

Growing up in Gary in the mid-1990s, neighborhoods were very tight-knit, Gonzalez said. Mothers welcomed the children of their next-door neighbors into their homes after school. Children knew the name of the elderly woman who lived at the end of their block, and could be sure she would call up their parents in the event she saw them misbehave. The community held children accountable for their actions. Many children and teenagers didn’t think about weapons because they feared the trouble they could get in.

“In my experience, that was the difference when I grew up,” Gonzalez said. “Now, (youth) think guns gives them a certain status level. Just because you have a gun, it doesn’t make you powerful.”


Now, this is interesting. Why? Because the 1990s saw significantly higher homicide rates across the nation than we saw even in 2020 when violent crime saw a massive spike.

In fact, Gonzalez’s own anecdote provides yet another data point showing how that supposedly idyllic time was nothing of the sort.

The 1990s were the height of gang culture, a time when teens with guns were everywhere and causing major problems in our inner cities. School shootings weren’t mass shootings in a school but usually gang-related violence that followed students in off the streets.

So why bring up the 1990s?

Because it’s a way to attack Indiana’s gun control laws. Shortly after this section, the state’s gun control measures are described as “weak” in an effort to clearly connect these anecdotes with the horrors of today’s violent crime rate.

Yet guns became more and more a part of American culture and gun rights became more protected and celebrated at the state level at a time immediately following these anecdotes, a time when the homicide rate continued to drop.

Nostalgia paints the past as a glorious, perfect time just because it was as close to perfect as many of us will ever see. Yet it wasn’t. Not for everyone and not everywhere. In this case, this supposedly amazing era also contained some pretty high murder rates across the board.

The past is wonderful to think about, but don’t blind yourself into thinking it was better than it was.


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