Saturday, July 21, 2012
Aurora And Thoughts On Gun Violence
Before going further, let me make one thing clear. I am a progressive, but I can read -- and I know the Constitution guarantees individuals (not militias) in this country the right to purchase and possess firearms. And I do not think overturning the Second Amendment is a good idea -- and I would oppose it. Having said that, I am in favor of reasonable but stricter control on firearms, especially handguns -- and I would like the ban on assault weapons to be restored.
But stricter control of guns, including making those buying guns at gun shows subject to background checks, would not have prevented the shooting in Aurora. The suspect was an honors graduate from a California University, and was in a post-graduate program in a Colorado university (although it seems he was in the process of withdrawing from the Colorado university). He had no criminal record (other than a single traffic ticket), and had no history of violent mental illness. He could easily have passed any background checks, and did (having bought several of his guns from popular sporting goods stores).
But as I said, while this incident may have had a lot of victims (making it newsworthy), it is far from an unusual occurrence in the United States. We average about 20 mass shootings a year in this country -- and that figure has been relatively stable for several decades. If you doubt this, just go over to the Brady Campaign website where they have a list of hundreds of multiple shooting victim incidents since 2005. And many of these incidents could have been prevented by more reasonable gun laws.
Our politicians like to try and scare Americans over the prospect of terrorists attacking. But the truth is that people are far more likely to be shot and killed by a fellow American citizen (who probably has no relationship with any kind of terrorist organization). In 2007 there were 31,224 firearm-related deaths in the United States (17,352 suicides, 12,632 homicides, and the rest "accidental"). According to The Atlantic Magazine:
As of 2007, 10.2 out of every 100,000 people were killed by firearms across the United States, but that rate varies dramatically from state to state. In Hawaii, at the low end, it was 2.6 per 100,000; in New York and New Jersey it was 5.0 and 5.2 respectively. At the high end, 21.7 out of every 100,000 residents of the District of Columbia were killed by guns, 20.2 in Louisiana, 18.5 in Mississippi, and 17.8 in Alaska.
Will this new tragedy push Americans to re-evaluate their attitudes and laws regarding guns? Probably not. There was a lot of talk about that after the shootings in Arizona, but nothing happened. And the talk has already started again. But Americans seem to love their guns, and they're willing to put up with too many gun deaths to avoid any kind of restrictions on what kind of guns they can have or where they can take those guns. And the politicians are too afraid of losing votes to even discuss the issue. Nothing will change, and the multiple killings with firearms will continue -- and far too soon we will have another huge mass killing like the one in Aurora. It's the way most Americans want it.
For your edification, here is a map showing the general rate of gun deaths in each state (per 100,000 inhabitants):