Per the count from CNN, we are up to 22 school shootings in 20 weeks in the US.
What actions are we taking to prevent the next school shooting, or mass shooting, or to better limit or prevent gun violence in the US?
Empty platitudes aren’t solving the problem. Unsupported claims about everything in the sun other than the ubiquity of firearms in this country being the central issue isn’t solving the problem (especially when there are no measures addressing any of the non-firearm issues).
There are things to discuss apart from firearms, but access to firearms can’t be off the table for discussion. The “culture of violence” or video games or mental health issues or what-have-you can’t enable a school shooting or as mass shooting if it is difficult for the would-be assailant to obtain a firearm.
We’ve had 22 school shootings in 20 weeks. It isn’t too soon to get real about solutions. It is far too late.
I don’t generally prefer to cite Wikipedia, but their link to school shootings in the US since the founding of the country is well referenced and sourced. By century, they count 1 school shooting in the 18th century, 28 in the 19th century, 226 in the 20th century, and 212 (including today’s) during the first 18 years of the 21st century. This is not a positive trend.
A quick acknowledgement: guns do not cause people to commit violence. However, guns facilitate gun violence, and firearms are more lethal than other means of violence available to the average citizen. Although it isn’t the only issue that needs to be addressed, it isn’t reasonable to discuss mitigating risk of gun violence without addressing the issue of firearms access in the US.
This is the point where some will say, “How appalling that you would politicize this tragedy to advocate for gun control!” This is a discussion about risk mitigation. We aren’t seeing an increase of mass casualty events with hammers, bats, knives, or fists at schools in the US. We are seeing an increase in fatal, mass-casualty shootings. Access to firearms has to be part of the discussion. What I find more appalling is that people will continue to put the well-being of the firearms industry ahead of the well being of children.
Let’s also not couch discussion of firearm regulation as an issue of fundamental rights. There are no inviolable rights in this country. Each enumerated right in the constitution has caveats for issues of public safety and national security. This is most certainly a public safety issue. Finding ways to better regulate firearms sales to mitigate risk is not an infringement of anyone’s fundamental rights. The goal is to protect the citizenry – especially children – from gun violence. It is irrational to argue against that to protect the firearm manufacture industry. And, let’s be clear about that point: those who advocate against taking active measures to limit gun violence are not interested in individual rights – they are interested in the profitability of the firearm industry. Is that worth selling out your children’s’ safety?
I’m not offering any specific course of action. I am, however, insisting that there must be a serious discussion about how to mitigate the risks posed by firearms in our country. That can’t happen as long as we continue to claim that it “isn’t the right time” to have the conversation. There is no better time than now. Let’s have the conversation before this happens again. Based on the apparent trend, we may not have much time.
Although some believe now is not the proper time to discuss gun control, the increasing number and severity of major incidents suggests that this conversation should have taken place long ago. We will attempt to look at this as dispassionately as possible, though to be clear we believe that better regulation of firearms is necessary as a public safety matter and our writing seeks to support that position. In order to keep this digestible, we will address the overall topic of gun control in small portions. First we will address some of the common arguments against gun regulation, and attempt to dispel some myths and misconceptions.
- Gun control advocates seek to ban all gun ownership: False. While I cannot say with certainty that no single person or even group of people advocate a wholesale ban of firearms, that is not a mainstream position, and certainly not a position that would gain any traction in our state or federal legislatures. There is not one coherent plan being put forth to address gun violence, but the larger goal is fairly uniform, which is to work to create legislation that limits access to bad actors while protecting the right to firearm ownership as provided in the constitution.
- The Constitution provides that all individuals may own firearms: Not specifically in its original form. The Heller case is the first from the Supreme Court that specifies an individual right to bear arms over a collective right, so current interpretation is that firearm ownership is an individual right. However, it is not an unrestricted right, either in its original constitutional form or its legal interpretations through the years. Regulation for public safety is deemed appropriate by the courts. This is not a situation unique to the 2nd amendment; all amendments are subject to restriction or regulation to the extent that the regulation can be shown to serve the public good.
- Other things kill more people than guns: True, but irrelevant. A discussion about mitigating gun violence and deaths has nothing to do with other things that may kill people. However, for what other things that kill people – whether more or fewer than firearms – do we take no action to mitigate risk? We take action to limit injuries and deaths attributed to disease, chemicals, tools, cars, boats, machines, alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, toys, you-name-it… Why not firearms?
- Guns don’t kill people, people kill people: True. And people kill people with firearms more than any other method, per FBI statistics. That has been a continuing trend for many years, most likely due to the fact that firearms are meant to kill efficiently. They are certainly not the only way to kill another human being, but they are the best way available to the average citizen. Of note, handguns are far and away the most used firearm when it comes to homicide.
- This is a mental health issue, not a gun control issue: False. Regulation of firearms and addressing mental health are not mutually exclusive; it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s fair to say that both aspects need to be addressed in order to mitigate the risk of gun violence.
- Gun regulations can’t stop all gun violence: True. While it would be nice if no innocent life was ever again taken by a firearm, that isn’t a realistic expectation. And we know this. The goal is to reduce the number of people killed and injured; to mitigate the risk; to make our country a safer place to live.
- People will always find a way if they really want to kill someone: Probably. With that being the case, why make a highly efficient method readily available to anyone who wants to kill someone, or to injure hundreds and kill dozens in one event? Knives, baseball bats, airplanes, cars, explosives, and all manner of other implements never intended to take life have been employed at one point to kill or seriously injure someone. But none have been used as effectively over time as firearms.
- Gun control is a conspiracy to disarm the population and institute totalitarian government control: False. This is a baseless conspiracy theory. If you subscribe to this idea then you are deluded and need to reconsider to which sources of information you give attention.
This first part has no specific recommendations. We just need to have a level playing field for discussion. And, really, that’s the first step that we on the gun control side of the coin want the most: honest discourse. No disingenuous arguments, no ad hominem attacks; just an honest discussion about reducing the risk of death by firearm while protecting the constitutional right to bear arms.
So please, if you are railing against having a discussion or taking any kind of action, stop and think about what you are arguing against. We don’t want to take all your guns away. We do want fewer people killed by firearms. That seems like an idea more people could get behind.