Putting mass shootings into broader context

  • 3 October 2017
  • NormanL
Putting mass shootings into broader context

It took no time at all for the lunatics on the left to erupt on social media and elsewhere in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. Some of those comments can be found here. And, lest we forget, twice defeated Democratic presidnetial candidate Hillary Clinton found time amidst the carnage to attack the NRA.

None of that is helpful.  However, it is important to begin putting what we witnessed in Las Vegas into perspective. One article tries to do that, and says that mass shootings are rare incidents that make for poor policy conclusions:

The historical trends for different kinds of gun deaths don’t all follow the same course. While data suggests that the number of mass shootings similar to the Las Vegas event has gone up, particularly since 2000, homicide rates have fallen significantly from their 1980 peak and continued on a generally downward trajectory for most of the 21st century. Meanwhile, suicides are way up, with the biggest increases among women. The trends are different because the situations are different and the people are different. Maybe different solutions are warranted, as well.

You could, theoretically, cut down on all these deaths with a blanket removal of guns from the U.S. entirely — something that is as politically unlikely as it is legally untenable. Barring that, though, policies aimed at reducing gun deaths will likely need to be targeted at the specific people who commit or are victimized by those incidents. And mass shootings just aren’t a good proxy for the diversity of gun violence. Policies that reduce the number of homicides among young black men — such as programs that build trust between community members, police and at-risk youth and offer people a way out of crime — probably won’t have the same effect on suicides among elderly white men. Background checks and laws aimed at preventing a young white man with a history of domestic violence from obtaining a gun and using it in a mass shooting might not prevent a similar shooting by an older white male with no criminal record.

If we focus on mass shootings as a means of understanding how to reduce the number of people killed by guns in this country, we’re likely to implement laws that don’t do what we want them to do — and miss opportunities to make changes that really work. Gun violence isn’t one problem, it’s many. And it probably won’t have a single solution, either.

That's the kind of sober, broader context we desperately need. It is also very likely to get lost in the mud slinging and moral preening that has already begun. 

We are supporters of the Second Amendment. But we are not so wed to that belief that we will automatically dismiss efforts that promotes legitimate, sensible, gun safety and firearms training. The anti-Second Amendment crowd has co-opted "safety" to cover their larger agenda: a complete gun ban. That is a non-starter, legally and politically.

But the problem with mass shootings, as the article linked above shows, is that firearms aren't the sole source of the problem. There are other issues -- some possible beyond the reach of laws and policy -- that push the distrubed, and the evil, to use firearms as the means to their twisted ends. We could ban everything under the sun that may give those individuals the ability to inflict harm. Such bans would still leave the roots of the problem undisturbed...and would not stop violence, be it against society or self, from happening.