With one side accusing the other of preferring to allow mass killings rather than endure even modest gun safety laws, and the other firing back with accusations of an attempt at total gun confiscation, all in the dust of the mass killing at Umpqua, it is easy to see how some very simple yet interesting facts can get lost.
One such fact is that mass killings, although horrific, are very minor, relative to the number of homicides that occur in the United States. According to IJReview.com from 2009 and 2013, the US lost 227 people to “rampage shootings.” We can all wish that this number was much lower, but it is still only 0.003% of the number of overall murder victims during the same period.
Secondly, despite the President’s claim that “This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency,” this sort of mass killing happens in a number of other advanced countries, and with greater frequency than in the United States.
Also, there seems to be no clear correlation between the number of gun ownership and the number of gun murders. The United States ranks first on the list of guns owned per capita but 111th on list of countries by intentional homicide rate, while Switzerland ranks fourth on the list of nations by gun ownership but ranks only 209 on the list of gun murders per capita, for example. Furthermore, according to the National Review, “The number of guns in the United States has increased by 62% since 1994 but gun violence has decreased by 49% since 1993.
While it would be difficult for anyone who looks at the ranking of countries by intentional homicide rate to miss that while poverty seems to be a contributing factor for a country to have a high homicide rate, it is far from the most decisive factor. Honduras, for example, although a poor nation, is a wealthier nation than the Ivory Coast, but has a homicide rate several times as high, despite a similar rate of gun ownership. It seems safe to assume then that culture plays a greater role than either income or rate of gun ownership in causing high homicide rate.
We see a similar pattern here in the United States. According to neighborhoodscount.com, the Utah county of Tooele has one of the highest number of guns per household in the country (59.1%), a median household income of similar to the New Jersey city of Trenton, but saw no gun murders in 2012, while Trenton saw 37.
The cultural impact upon the murder rate is even more vivid along racial lines. According to FBI.gov, 50% of all murder victims in the United States are African Americans, and 93% of these victims were killed by other African Americans.
It should be noted in a discussion on the correlation between the rates of gun ownership and gun murders that “gun free zones” are not necessarily safer than zones that are not gun free, at least in terms of multiple victim killings. As breitbart.com reports “92% of mass public shootings between January 2009 and July 2014 took place in gun-free zones.” Professor John Lott painted a vivid picture on the attraction gun-free zones have on people intent to killing a mass number of report, reporting that the Aurora mass-killer James Holmes “appears to have carefully selected the theater he did: Seven theaters within a 20-minute drive of his apartment were showing the premier of The Dark Knight Returns. He chose the only one posting signs banning concealed guns — not the theater closest to his apartment or the one prominently advertising the largest auditoriums in Colorado.”
So although the President asks, “So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?”, evidence suggests that it is not the number of guns that endanger us, it is the culture of our community; and more guns can indeed make us safer.
However, this is not to say that all guns are equal, or that they should be treated equally. Some guns are clearly more dangerous than others. Weapons like the TEC-DC9, for example, which was used in the Columbine massacre, and the Bushmaster AR-15, which was used in the Sandy Hook and Aurora massacres, are guns designed to fire multiple rounds in mere seconds, and have no legitimate purpose other than the mass killings for which they are most known. Furthermore, the AR-15 and other similar weapons can be loaded with armor-piercing bullets which are useful, but only for those who wish to be able to shoot several of them per second at police officers wearing bulletproof vests.
It may be impossible to legislate a ruling that would allow homeowners the ability to protect their lives and property with a gun, while preventing the rare individual who wishes to use a gun to kill a group of victims, but there is hope that we prevent the manufacture of weapons designed solely for the purpose of mass killing.
More than passionate speeches following multiple victim shootings or arguing that people need a semi-automatic weapon that can shoot 45 armor piercing bullets a minute for home protection, if our goal is to reduce our homicide rate, our focus should then be to those people most likely to fall victim to homicides.
Few programs did so as effectively as New York City’s Stop-And-Frisk program. Unfortunately, the Stop-and-Frisk is being discontinued by Mayor DeBlasio’s administration, who is acting with the encouragement of President Obama. The reason for phrasing out this program cannot be to decrease the murder victims the President correctly argues we should be angered and saddened by. In fact, murders in NYC in June of 2015 is up 19.5% over June of 2014. Rather, the reason for ending Stop-And-Frisk is that it was deemed racist to protect the people most likely to be murdered from the people who are most likely to murder them.