The U.S. has experienced a massive increase in the number of mass shootings the last 30 years, with a mass shooting defined by the Mass Shooting Tracker as four or more people shot in one event.
As The Washington Post reported last July:
The Mass Shooting Tracker is different from other shooting databases in that it uses a broader definition of mass shooting. “The old FBI definition of Mass Murder (not even the most recent one) is four or more people murdered in one event,” the site’s creators explain. “It is only logical that a Mass Shooting is four or more people shot in one event.”
Looking at 2015, as of October 3 there were 294 mass shootings and there have been 878 people killed by police officers and we were only 276 days into the year so far.
The problem is escalating, and there are clear reasons why an objective understanding of those reasons will bring us answers.
For starters, the increase in firearms has far exceeded population growth in recent years. Back in 1995 there was an estimated 200 million guns in the hands of private citizens. Today, that number has increased at the rate of 50% to around 300 million. However, the U.S. population only increased by 20% during that same period. At this rate, by 2020 there will be a gun for every man, woman and child – if not sooner.
Additionally, of grave importance are the recent rollbacks of gun restrictions across the United States. In the past 4 years alone, the NRA and its political backers have pushed through 99 laws making guns easier to own and carry in public across 37 states. At the same time, the NRA has been able to roll back laws enabling the government to track guns.
Currently, 8 states allow private citizens to take their firearms with them to bars; and in Missouri, intoxicated individuals are allowed to shoot to kill as long as they believe they are “acting in self-defense.” In Louisiana, citizens are allowed to take guns to church and, most alarming (considering recent events), Kansas allows ordinary citizens to carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools. Earlier this year, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons on college campuses – making it the fifth state to allow firearms on campuses.
Currently, 80 percent of our states recognize gun permits from other states – creating grave concern over lax states like Virginia, where an applicant is only required to complete a brief course online to obtain a weapons permit. Due to the ease of obtaining a permit in Virginia, the state is now being flooded with out-of-state applicants, effectively making their regulations – or lack thereof – the law of the land in a majority of our country’s states.
Gun advocates would have us believe that the increase in firearms, coupled with the decrease in government regulations, should be lowering the number of firearm deaths and mass shootings. But that is not the case: homicides brought about by guns have increased in the past 30 years. Additionally, the number of mass shootings in the U.S. have actually increased steadily. Not surprisingly, the only dip in the death rate from firearms was during the now-expired ban on assault rifles.
I’ve heard gun-toting friends claim, “It’s too bad one of the teachers wasn’t carrying.” What about that?
A recent study found one striking pattern in the data: “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. […] And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed”. SOURCE
The report goes on to note:
“Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says [Dr. Stephen] Hargarten [a leading expert on gun violence and emergency medicine], ‘given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances.’ A chaotic scene in August at the Empire State Building put this starkly into perspective when New York City police officers confronting a gunman wounded nine innocent bystanders.” SOURCE
So the problems are clear – and the solutions rather obvious.
Mass shootings and deaths by firearms are not unique to the United States. However, what is unique is our inability to work towards any meaningful solutions.
On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, and the United States embarked on an ongoing global “War on Terrorism,” resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Yet more than 10,000 people are being killed annually by firearms at home – but we are not allowed to even discuss solutions.
When automobiles, toys or other manufactured goods are deemed unsafe they are recalled and new laws and regulations are put into place. When food items, drugs or medical procedures are deemed the same, there are quick solutions put into effect. Yet when tens of thousands of persons are killed by guns over an incredibly short period of time – with numbers escalating significantly in just the last few years – we are somehow deemed un-American for daring to ask questions, for asking for some sort of national dialogue on the matter.
To me, the problem seems to be a lack of clarity and vision by the gun lobby and other gun proponents. They consistently see things in terms of black and white. “The Second Amendment guarantees the right to an assault rifle and armor piercing bullets.” Or what about – “Any attempt at gun control undermines America’s freedom.” Or the ever popular – “You can pry my dead fingers off the trigger.” Or the “The Second Amendment was enacted so the people could protect themselves from the ‘Tyranny of Government.'”
Well what about your “Tyranny of Stupidity” and willful ignorance you are inflicting on the rest of us who live in the real world?
This attitude is contrasted by those of us on the other side of the fence who are interested in discussing solutions and compromise. Most on the left aren’t interested in outlawing guns or going into people’s homes and taking away their firearms. To the contrary, the vast number of Americans — both Democrats and Republicans — firmly support the Second Amendment. But there is a need for a meaningful look at laws and regulations in light of the overwhelming evidence that current legislation is simply not working.
And don’t be fooled by the claims of the gun lobby that private citizens do not want meaningful gun-control laws in place. They love to point to polls such as a recent one conducted by Pew that found only 45% of Americans favor the broad idea of stricter gun laws. However, polls asking more specific questions consistently paint a completely different picture.
For example, take a look at these figures:
- 88 percent want to prohibit those on the terror watch list from buying guns (January 2011 American ViewPoint/Momentum Analysis poll)
- 86 percent believe in further background checks, regardless of where a gun is purchased (January 2011 American ViewPoint/Momentum Analysis poll)
- 69 percent want to limit the number of guns a citizen can buy in a period of time (April 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll)
- 66 percent want a National Gun Registry (January 2011 American ViewPoint/Momentum Analysis poll)
- 63 percent want a ban on high capacity clips (January 2011 CBS News poll)
WE NEED MORE COMMON SENSE GUN REGULATIONS NOW!
(Don’t forget, it’s working out pretty damn well for the rest of the planet.)
- Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011, Harvard .., http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/mass-shootings-increasing-harvard-re (accessed July 29, 2015).
- Mass Shootings in America | Stanford University Libraries, http://library.stanford.edu/projects/mass-shootings-america (accessed July 29, 2015).
- Mass Shooting Tracker, http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Main_Page (accessed July 29, 2015).
- Going for a record: 204 mass shootings in 204 days — in 2015 .., http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/24/there-have- (accessed July 29, 2015).