Gun Violence Surges in 2019
Gun violence rises at unprecedented rate in midst of political races
October 9, 2019
Using the mass shooting definition from the Congressional Research Service (the death or injury of 4 or more individuals), there have been a total of 1,548 casualties this year. 2019 is on track to have more mass shootings than total days in a year according to the Gun Violence Archive. Every day, month, and year, the news of mass shootings has grown on our televisions, phones, and even school, with an active ALICE security training being put into place. During the month of August, the issue has been, once again, placed at the center of American politics with the shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas (happening less than 24 hours apart), and in Odessa, Texas. As the race for the Democratic presidential nominee continues to unfold and the political world draws closer to the 2020 election, guns have been a very prominent issue. From Beto O’Rourke’s passionate anecdotes to Donald Trump’s video game claims, guns are an issue that is here to stay.
Gun Control Performs Well Abroad
NRA blocking research contributes to widespread ignorance
Current United States gun laws are sorely out of date and ineffective. The US makes up under 5% of the global population, yet according to a 2012 study by Adam Lankford, they make up 31% of mass shootings. In addition, the Mother Jones Organization has found that nearly 75% of those shooters obtained their guns legally since 1982. Despite this, Americans adamantly resist looking to international examples of effective gun control, of which there are many.
Australia once was in a situation similar to the one we now face. They had extremely high rates of gun ownership and gun violence. Then, in 1996, a mass shooting caused massive public support for stricter gun regulations. A buyback program managed to net 650,000 weapons, and background checks soon followed. The measures proved immensely successful, and according to a study by Kanye and Cole, the odds of being murdered with a gun in Australia have reduced by over 70% over the past twenty years.
Japan has extremely strict gun control laws as well. It is perfectly legal for anyone in the country to own a gun, but the requirements are particularly stringent. In addition to rigorous background checks, everyone must pass a marksmanship test with over 95% accuracy, take an all day safety course, fill out a written exam, and uphold yearly inspections. The results speak for themselves. Japan has the lowest rate of gun homicides in the entire world. In 2014, they only had six cases of gun homicides, compared to America’s 33,599.
The important question isn’t whether gun control is effective, it’s why the US hasn’t already adopted these policies. The answer revolves around the NRA. Using extreme amounts of lobbying and propaganda, they have caused the gun debate to be one of the most highly politicized issues in America. They have pushed for policies that obscure research about the effectiveness of gun control measures, and have even banned the CDC from conducting research into gun violence. Many people simply aren’t aware that background checks, buyback programs, and safety classes have worked abroad and could also work domestically. As such, the first step to implementing the gun control America needs is by spreading accurate information, and that begins by curtailing the NRA.
Proposed Gun Control Measures Flawed
Red flag laws violate constitutional rights, deemed ineffective
One look at the news over the last several weeks will tell you that mass shootings in the United States are becoming more and more frequent. As a result, millions of Americans are calling for immediate action citing the country’s lack of proper gun control laws. Recently, gun control advocates have been pushing for red flag laws and gun violence restraining orders. While it is critically important to address the gun violence plaguing our country, politicians should not waste valuable political capital on the current proposals which will be ineffective and infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights. Instead, they should focus on other gun violence policies that address the deeper structural issues within the current gun control system.
Red flag laws or gun violence restraining orders (GVROs) are laws that allow police officers or community members to obtain a court order to confiscate a firearm from someone that they believe to be an immediate threat to themselves or others. There are two critical problems with GVROs, and the first is the fact that they don’t work. The main reason is a lack of proper information and reporting. Too often, previous convictions aren’t entered into databases and thus cannot be used as grounds to confiscate firearms. For this reason, experts conclude that GVROs would not have stopped most mass shootings such as those in Parkland, Florida and Dayton, Ohio. Additionally, GVROs are often issued on the basis of false evidence or sometimes no evidence at all, leading police to misallocate their time attempting to enforce restraining orders on those that would never actually need one.
The second is that it violates Americans’ 5th Amendment right to due process and 4th amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The concept that one is innocent until proven guilty is one of the handful of ideals that make up the bedrock of the American legal system. Under a GVRO, the legal system considers you guilty of a crime that hasn’t even been committed yet. Anybody including police, neighbors, distant family members, or disgruntled coworkers can make completely unsubstantiated claims to judges that are not given enough time to thoroughly review the case. Too often will police officers arrive at suspects’ doors to search for and confiscate guns that they may or may not even own – often times without the prior knowledge of the subject of the search – without the suspect being given the opportunity to defend themselves in court.
Luckily, GVROs don’t need to be the hill that gun control advocates die on. Other policies can be passed, such as increasing funding to expand and strengthen the capacity of the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) database which would make background checks more accurate. Additionally, eliminating open carry laws in southern states would prevent shooters from legally carrying guns into large public spaces. Gun violence must be stopped, but not at the expense of our 4th and 5th amendment rights. Doing so would fundamentally undermine the foundation upon which the American legal system stands.