Americas “Gun” Problem

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In recent years, guns have been one of the most politically covered topics, and that’s because they should be. In the past decade, there have been 51 mass shootings from 2008 – 2017 which is 2.4x the amount of the decade prior to that. People from both sides of the argument have different views. The more liberal approach is to restrict the access to guns even more and the more conservative approach is even more gun rights for law abiding citizens. But maybe the real solution is somewhere halfway.

 

The US has a population of 325.7 million. That’s the third most populous country in the world. When the USA’s gun statistics are compared to other countries, they usually forget to mention this. The US has actually shown a steady decline in crime. In 2016, for every 100k US Citizens there were 4 homicides by firearm. In 1993, there were 7 homicides by firearm per 100k. The US actually ranks 30th on a world scale in total homicides, and 80% of homicides due to firearms are actually gang-related. Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles are all breeding grounds for gangs, and these cities are all heavily gun regulated.

 

In 2016, there were 2,744,248 deaths in the United States. 37,353 of which were by firearm (1.3%). Of those thirty-seven thousand, 22,938 were suicide by firearm (61.4% of all firearm deaths), and then 549 were legal interventions (1.4% of all firearm deaths). That leaves a number of 13,821 rearm related deaths left (37%). Which 80% of that number (11,056) are all gang-related. Of these deaths, 71 were involved in a mass shooting. A study ordered for the CDC, but conducted by the The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine and National Research under an executive order by past President Barack Obama, concluded that guns are used in self-defense 500k – 3 million times per year.

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_05.pdf

 

https://www.nap.edu/read/18319/chapter/3

 

There is evidence that can be provided that shows there is a correlation between gun ownership and the mortality by one, especially in the North West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming) and South East (Arkansaw, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi). But there is also evidence that disapproves this statement: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine, South and North Dakota, and Vermont. These numbers also include suicide by firearm which inflates the numbers tremendously. Montana is the #1 ranked suicide rate state (26 per 100k), Wyoming is 3rd (25.2 per 100k), and Idaho is ranked 7th (21.3 per 100k). So maybe there is something to said about the correlation between gun ownership and suicide rate.

 

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/firearm_mortality/firearm.htm

 

Now the question that gets asked is “Should we heavily regulate guns due to a high rate of suicide?”. The answer is clear, no. The US is the 3rd most populous country in the world and it is 38th in the world of suicide per 100k people. The right for someone to own a gun shouldn’t be taken away due to a high rate of suicide by firearm and I’ll show you why. Heavy regulation of guns doesn’t actually limit suicide or suicide by firearms. In 1996, Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement. This allowed the Government to heavily regulate guns and even buy back guns from gun owners. Australia ranks 39th in the world of suicide per 100k. They also have a population of 24.6 million. With these heavy regulations in place, it has actually had little impact on the suicide rate as a whole and even the homicide/suicide rate by firearm. The graphs below show this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The legal definition of a mass shooting defined by the FBI is 4 or more fatalities by a lone shooter. Information shows that there has been a steady increase in mass shootings in recent years. This past decade has had the most mass shootings in the history of the US. The following information was gathered by using the definition of 3 or more fatalities. From 1982-2018, there have been 107 mass shootings. Of which, 97.3% have been in gun free zones. Gun free zones are defined as places where any type of firearm is prohibited. A question that can get asked by this is “Should we get rid of Gun Free Zones?”.

 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1b9o6uDO18sLxBqPwl_Gh9bnhW-ev_dABH83M5Vb5L8o/edit?usp=sharing

 

There is a big misconception in the United States about automatic weapons. The fact is, you can’t buy Automatic weapons made after 1986. The Firearm Owner Protection Act of 1986, a more revised and smart National Firearms Act, outlawed the civilian ownership of automatic weapons after it’s passing. Anything prior to 1986 that was grandfathered in. However, all automatic weapons made prior to that, are all heavily regulated under federal law. In order to manufacture, own, or sell any of these weapons, you must get a special license by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. This also comes with a thorough and lengthy background check. When it comes to owning an automatic weapon from prior to 1986, any machine guns must be registered with the ATF. However, the process of registering with the ATF is a costly, invasive, and time-consuming one. Federal law requires extensive background checks of anyone wanting to buy a NFA (National Firearms Act) item. It takes close to a year and requires the submission of fingerprints. And the purchase is even more costly as automatic weapons prior to 1986 can cost up to $50,000.

 

To pair with the banning of automatic weapons, the modding of a Semi-automatic weapon to make it automatic is illegal. Another misconception is that there are ways to buy guns without a background check, this is simply false. All legal ways through a gun dealer and gun show require a background check and a valid ID. Another misconception that gets commonly thrown around is “The Gun Show Loophole”. This isn’t a real thing. You can’t walk into a gun show and walk out with a gun. They require background checks like all arms dealers. One last big misconception is about “Big scary rifles”. Long guns like the AR-15 have been under scrutiny due to recent mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland. The facts are 62% of all mass shootings are done with a pistol, 25% are semi-automatic long rifles, and 13% are shotguns. AR-15’s are most used in a defensive way due to it handling better than most handguns, however they have been showing up in numerous mass shootings in recent years which has sparked a lot of controversy.

 

So what is the real solution to America’s gun epidemic? Mental health awareness and the identification of someone mentally distressed or impaired like maybe a friend or family member could be a big factor. With the identification of those who are mentally ill, the state or local government needs to make sure that they never get their hands on a gun. With the addition of a crackdown on mental health, removing gun free zones could pose as a big threat to potential shooters and would make them second guess themselves. However, the main problem with removing gun free zones is threat of police misidentifying “a good guy with a gun”. It happened recently in an Alabama mall where Emantic Bradford Jr. was concealed carrying when he heard gunshots and rushed toward them gun drawn. An off duty police officer mistook him for the shooter and he was fatally shot. But then there are stories like Stephen Willeford who was living nearby the Church in Sutherland Springs that faced that awful attack last year. He heard gunshots, grabbed his AR-15, and rushed into danger and shot the lone gunman twice. The shooter fled on car, crashed, and died of self inflicted gunshot wounds. As for schools, arming teachers isn’t a bad idea, but I think it should be at least talked about or be a last resort. I’d much rather see the addition of more than one resource officers and metal detectors at doors. When discussing the politics of guns, we all have to remember that we want the same thing, just in different ways. Be respectful of others opinions and maybe listen and learn something new.