The Epidemic of Gun Violence
Typically, I would start out by pointing out the numerous mass shootings taking place in the United States on a near-daily basis. But I wanted to start this off on a more personal note and tell my own story.
Moving from New York City to Pennslyvania was a bit of a culture shock, people acted differently, I saw animals I’d never seen before, and the laws were different. Compared to New York, Pennsylvania has relaxed gun laws. You can even purchase a rifle or pistol at your local Walmart.
This laxness intrigued my father who suffered from an extreme version of bipolar disorder and was prone to fits of violence. He found a local seller and convinced my mom to register the gun he purchased under her name, the seller knew all of this was happening but proceeded with the sale anyway.
Eventually, my father wasn’t content with one gun so he had to buy four more. We had a 40 caliber Glock pistol, 9mm Glock pistol, 9mm SCCY pistol, and an AR-15. The AR-15 in particular had armor-piercing rounds, a scope, and a bump stock. I often went to the range with him to test out his new toys, so I am pretty proficient with firearms, particularly pistols.
However, one day my father was upset with my mother in his usual fits of rage. Rather than hitting her, which he often did, he pulled his gun out and aimed it at her stomach. It was the same 40 caliber Glock that I own today with hollow-tipped rounds. Luckily, he didn’t shoot her and soon after he passed away. Finally, we escaped a life of hell under an abusive individual who had severe mental illness… he had no business being near a firearm.
I’m telling you this not for sympathy, but to highlight one case out of the many that could often end in tragedy. These tragedies are in large part possible due to the relative ease of having a firearm in the United States.
Now let’s cover some of the empirical evidence.
Yes, Gun Violence Is A Problem
It’s good to set the stage with the premise that gun violence in the United States is indeed a problem.
The United States is not even the safest country in the world. Our homicide rate overall is by magnitudes higher than our Western European counterparts.
Overall, the United States has higher gun ownership, higher firearm homicide than other developed nations, and a higher overall homicide rate compared to Western European countries.
To state the United States is “the safest country” in the world is empirically false and high gun ownership does not change that fact.
Separating Facts from Narrative
There is an issue with gun violence in Chicago particularly during the pandemic. Perplexingly, Illinois has some pretty strict gun laws. How is it that a state with strict gun laws is having surges of gun violence in its cities?
The answer might be that individuals who are getting these guns are not getting them from Illinois but from neighboring states with more relaxed gun laws. In fact, a report from 2017 seems to suggest just that, with the majority of confiscated guns traced back to states such as Indiana, Mississippi, and others with more relaxed gun laws.
This is a consideration many on the right and the anti-woke do not want to discuss… How are individuals getting guns into cities/states with stricter gun laws? One potential way could be going to states with more relaxed gun laws and bringing them over.
The issue with state laws keeps rearing its ugly head. For instance, there are numerous loopholes and differences in state laws that allow for easier access to firearms.
For example, in Ohio, if a background check takes longer than three days a gun shop can then legally sell a weapon without a background check. Imagine a person who fails a background check due to a criminal record or other related issues having purchased a weapon… that is a possibility due to weak federal laws and non-existent state laws.
Even if we look at CDC data for firearm mortality we see a rather interesting picture.
States such as Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri have some of the highest age-adjusted death rates for firearm mortality. Yet these same states have stand your ground laws, no background checks for private sales, no restrictions for NFA weapons, no firearm registration, and no bans on assault weapons.
So, essentially, you can go to many of these states and purchase an assault weapon without a background check or registration… How can that not lead to potential issues?
Defining the term assault weapon is a bit complicated given various regulating jurisdictions. However, the Department of Justice defined it previously as, “ In general, assault weapons are semiautomatic firearms with a large magazine of ammunition that were designed and configured for rapid fire and combat use,". However, this definition is often contested and debated amongst the public and politicians.
Nevertheless, the term assault weapon is more so referring to guns such as the AR-15. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle of interest as it has been involved in most of the United States’ deadliest mass shootings. With certain attachments, such as a bump stock, weapons like the AR-15 can shoot much more rapidly. Now let’s add an extended clip and armor-piercing rounds to that weapon and you have the perfect killing machine. Something that could take out even law enforcement.
The ironic twist is weapons like this were banned in 1994 and the ban stood for nearly a decade. While this ban was notably criticized for not really reducing overall gun crime, that wasn’t the point. Assault-style weapons are typically not used in crimes committed with guns but are rather used for mass shootings. To that end, the ban seemed to have an impact with decreased rates of mass shootings during the decade of the ban.
Mass shootings have steeply increased over the past decade. The Violence Project, the most comprehensive database on mass shootings, has highlighted this recent increase and has shown that nearly a third of weapons used for mass shootings are assault weapons.
Therefore, banning these weapons seems like a reasonable step toward reducing the incidence of mass shootings.
My Other Thoughts
These are the facts, more access to guns equals higher rates of homicide. States which have the highest amounts of firearm homicide tend to have extremely relaxed gun laws.
The United States has high gun ownership, high levels of mass shootings, and high rates of firearm homicide compared to other developed nations. America is exceptional in its violence with firearms and also its ability to deny the truth.
Well, what is the truth? The United States needs stricter gun laws.
There should be universal background checks for both public and private sales of firearms. Assault weapons should be banned along with extended magazines, armor-piercing rounds, bump stocks, and other attachments which make assault weapons or pistols deadlier. There should be a national database to see which guns are registered to whom along with those background checks. Loopholes for gun ownership without the necessary background checks and registration should be closed.