Deep scars have once again been seared into the moral conscience of America due to the senseless mass gun violence in El Paso and Dayton. These cities join a long and growing unenviable list of communities brutalized by horrific gun massacres involving semi-automatic weapons over the past years and decades:
Austin, Aurora, Binghamton, Blacksburg, Charleston, Edmond, Fort Hood, Gilroy, Killeen, Las Vegas, Littleton, Newton, Orlando, Parkland, Pittsburgh, San Bernardino, Seattle, Thousand Oaks, Virginia Beach… The list goes on. Will it ever end?
Consider some shocking statistics about guns in the USA:
▶︎ There are more firearms among the American civilian population than people — over 400 million according to a 2017 global ranking by the Small Arms Survey (part of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland).
▶︎ “No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters — the U.S. is way worse than the Philippines, Russia, China or India.”
▶︎ A survey by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva (part of the Small Arms Survey) shows the gun ownership rate for Americans is 120 per every 100 people. The next highest rate in Yemen, with less than half that many (53 per 100 people).
While Americans reportedly own 120 guns per every 100 people, the rate for Japan and Indonesia is less than one gun per every 100 people.
▶︎ There have been more mass shooting incidents this year than the number of days in the year — over 250 according to Gun Violence Archive (and counting).
Now pause for a moment to let that sink in…because the horror caused by these tragedies won’t heal any time soon. The epidemic of mass gun violence in America raises many alarming questions. Yet some critically important questions need to be addressed now:
- Will common sense leadership on guns ever prevail among lawmakers in Washington, DC?
- Can Democrats and Republicans finally work together to safeguard the civilian population against mass gun violence via assault weapons?
An extensive analysis by The New York Times concludes: “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.”
Smart First Step
It’s apparent by now that a comprehensive multi-pronged approach is needed by the public and private sectors to address a broad range of issues related to firearms, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Strong enforcement of current gun laws, or lack thereof.
- Closing legal loopholes, such as no background checks at gun shows.
- Studying the relationship between mental health, age and gun violence.
- Regulating industries which desensitize young people to gun violence.
- Leveraging Big Data to improve background checks and gun tracking systems.
- Enacting stronger deterrents and harsher penalties for those who violate gun laws.
- Increasing citizen engagement through enhanced public education, outreach and awareness campaigns.
- Fostering non-partisan partnerships to promote smart gun laws.
The first sensible gun measure which the federal government should try to immediately implement is a more stringent version of the prior assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Any new version of this national prohibition would have to close loopholes the firearms industry intentionally exploited while the ban was in effect for a decade. Military-style high power ammunition, clips, and magazines should also be banished from public use, in addition to semi-automatic weapons.
In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton massacres, Americans of goodwill from all sides of the political spectrum should push hard to build a national consensus for a new assault weapons ban. This is a sensible measure to proactively prevent more mass murders involving semi-automatic weapons by deranged gunmen.
Prohibiting the sale of military-style weapons to the public would be a good first step in a larger strategy to end mass gun violence.