Gun Violence is Still a Problem, Let’s Do Something
by Ted Miller
(originally published in Tumbleweird September 2019)
The rate of gun violence in the United States continues to rise. Mass shootings dominate headlines, but every day over 100 people are killed with a gun and we barely notice. Hundreds more are injured. Gun violence is so quotidian that it takes an act of terrorism to even break through the news cycle. The statistics show we have a problem, but the debate about what to do is hobbled by polarizing rhetoric.
Some blame mental illness, violent video games, the breakdown of the family, and, ironically, not enough people with guns. But these arguments as the cause for gun violence don’t hold up under scrutiny.
Gun violence is a complicated issue. There are many factors that lead to gun injuries and deaths and there is no single solution. But there is one thing that all gun violence has in common: guns.
Access to guns is the common factor in all gun violence, but that doesn’t mean just having access to guns causes gun violence. We can reduce the risk that a gun will be used in a violent act by regulating gun access without infringing on the rights of responsible gun owners.
The vast majority of Americans believe there are practical, workable steps that can be taken to reduce gun violence. We refuse to believe that we have to accept the status quo, but where do we start?
First, we need to get out of political polarization paralysis and agree that something can be done. Collectively, we need to demand action from federal, state, and local governments. Individually, we can support organizations that are working to reduce gun violence and vote for candidates that support common sense gun regulation. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Gun violence is a public safety issue.
In Congress, the House of Representatives passed two bills earlier this year that would close gun sale loopholes and require universal background checks. After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the Senate may finally consider passing this legislation. Improved background checks will close legal loopholes that allow guns to be transferred or sold to those who should not have access.
So-called “red flag” laws, also known as Extreme Risk laws, allow family members and law enforcement to petition a judge to temporarily remove guns from someone who poses a danger to themselves or others. In the seventeen states that have these laws, there has been a reduction in homicide and suicide without restricting the right to due process. Congress should take up legislation to expand this nationally.
Military-grade weapons have no place in civilian ownership. The assault weapons ban should be debated and reinstated. In 30 seconds, the Dayton shooter was able to kill 9 people and injure 26 more before police were able to stop him. There is no reason to allow unrestricted civilian access to a weapon that can kill so many people so quickly and efficiently. These are weapons of war, not sport or self-defense.
Other regulation that could help would be universal gun license and registration, required gun safety education, gun owner accountability, and technology that uses biometric recognition to allow a gun to be fired. All these will require more study and debate, but they could significantly reduce gun injury and death.
In addition to gun control, we can provide more funding for gun violence research, mental health and suicide prevention, combating white nationalist terrorism, and countering hateful rhetoric that leads to violence.
Guns are deeply rooted in the American culture, but we can have our guns and reduce gun violence, too. We don’t have to repeal the second amendment or confiscate guns from responsible citizens. But we must do something.
Acknowledging that America has a gun violence problem isn’t enough. As a frustrated crowd chanted to the governor of Ohio after the most recent mass shootings, we must Do Something!
Note: Sources of gun violence data may be found at gunviolencearchive.org and everytownresearch.org.