Opinion: An American Gun Epidemic?
By Wellington Baumann, Columnist
In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, the debate over the need for the Second Amendment has sprung up once again. If you turn on your television, open a newspaper, or look on social media, you will witness frightening images of students running out of buildings and grieving families huddled in mourning. Any tragedy such as this pulls at the heartstrings. As a result, we have been bombarded with the notion that we are suffering from gun epidemic and that stricter gun legislation or a repeal of the Second Amendment is necessary. All of this hysteria begs the question, is there truly an American gun epidemic?
Senator Bernie Sanders and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were quick to tweet out after the Parkland shooting that this was the “18th school shooting of 2018.” Never mind the fact that Everytown for Gun Safety, the non-profit group that reported this “statistic,” defines a school shooting as, “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds”. That means that the “18 school shootings of 2018” include four instances of a stray bullet hitting a wall or window that resulted in no injuries, four instances of shots being accidently fired that resulted in no injuries, and two suicides on school grounds. There were other instances of intentional shootings, such as a drive by shooting in Louisiana, that resulted in no injuries. These are not the same as a maniac entering a school with the intention to inflict harm. These types of misleading claims exemplify how hard it is to conduct studies on mass shootings when the term is not clearly defined. It is much easier to look at data about gun violence in general.
In 2016, there were 33,000 firearm related deaths. More than 60% of them were suicides. 34% of them were murders and about 80% of these homicides were drug related. This factor is mainly due to crime in cities like Chicago and Detroit, which just happen to have some of the strictest gun legislation in the country. But we all know that harsher gun laws mean less firearm related deaths, right? Additionally, you will barely hear about gang related homicide on the news. Instead, it will be plastered with images of the latest “mass shooting.” Our 24-hour news cycle creates the perception that public shootings are far more common than they really are. The simple fact is that suicide and crime are the cause for the vast majority of American gun deaths, and indiscriminate mass shootings are by far an outlier.
Some of you may be thinking, “it does not matter if mass shootings do not make up a large percentage of gun violence in America. The fact there are so many guns means that there is more gun violence.” Well, U.S gun ownership has shot up over the past decade, but gun homicide is at a new low. Correlation does not prove causation, but this relationship definitely proves that an increase in gun ownership does not lead to an increase in gun violence. When looking at gun homicide rates worldwide, the U.S is not even in the top 30, yet the U.S has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Countries like Germany and the U.K have a higher per-capita rate of mass shootings, despite harsher gun regulation. It is quite clear that legal gun ownership does not lead to gun homicide.
Now, I can hear some of you saying, “we may not have an abnormal rate of gun violence, but we still need universal background checks.” Contrary to what you might hear, you cannot just walk into a Walmart and by a gun. All federally licensed gun dealers must conduct a background check. You cannot purchase a gun if you have a criminal history or if you have certain mental illnesses. Since their inception, background checks have stopped nearly 3 million gun sales. Even though this expansive system is in place, there are times when it fails. For example, the shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force for domestic violence, but that information was not properly transmitted into the federal database. When he went to go buy a gun, he did not appear to have a criminal record. A lack of background checks was clearly not the issue in that particular instance, yet after the tragedy in Sutherland Springs, there was an outcry for background checks that already exist.
Some of you may still be thinking, “we can still limit the deadliness of shootings by banning assault rifles like the AR-15.” Well, the AR-15 stands for ArmaLite Rifle and is not an assault rifle. It is a semiautomatic sporting rifle that is popular within the U.S. While it may look scary, the AR-15 and other rifles are not used in many gun homicides. The majority of gun homicides in the U.S. are used with handguns, yet guns like the AR-15 get all of the attention by lawmakers. As a matter of fact, homicides with knifes in the U.S outnumber homicides with rifles by 5 to 1, yet we do not see legislators calling for expansive “knife control.” This is because we have many politicians who have never fired a gun in their lives. They base their policy on how big and scary a gun looks, rather than on true statistics.
Let us not forget why we have the Second Amendment. We have the right to bear arms because an armed populace is the greatest deterrent against a tyrannical government. I have heard too many times that I should not bother with this argument because it is impossible for some farmers with shotguns to fight off a government with drones and tanks. I am sure that is exactly what the founders thought when they rebelled against the world’s greatest military power of their time. I am sure that is exactly what the Viet Cong thought when they saw the world’s greatest military power display her might. I am sure that is what insurgents in Afghanistan have been thinking for well over a decade. History has shown that a smaller and weaker force can defeat a military juggernaut. Private gun ownership is the best way to preserve our republic.
Furthermore, gun ownership is key to self-defense. A CDC study issued by the Obama Administration found that firearm ownership resulted in, “consistently lower injury rates… compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.” Other countries with harsh firearm restrictions, such as the U.K and the Netherlands, have hot burglaries rates of 45%. A hot burglary is when a burglary takes place while the resident is at home. The U.S only has a rate of 13%. I wonder what is deterring hot burglaries stateside.
Indiscriminate public shootings are dreadful, and the sad reality is that there will always be crime and senseless violence. This does not mean that we are suffering from a gun epidemic and subsequently should disarm ourselves of our fundamental rights. Private gun ownership is the best way to secure our self-preservation and our republic. The founders understood this notion. We cannot forget it.
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