Submitted by Barry Bookman.
Everyone is horrified by the mass shootings in recent decades, but I am still surprised when a gun owner says “I support banning of assault weapons.” It’s important we get our facts and perspective straight and ask the right questions. Most groups define a “mass shooting” as four or more shot in a single incident. Over 90% of the mass-shootings in the US have been with a handgun, and have been gang related.
In a Sept. 1, 2019 article, the LA Times analyzed 53 years of data on mass shootings. In the 1970s the annual average was 5.7 deaths per year due to mass shootings. Today the average is 51 deaths per year. What changed? The US has 100 million more people than we did in the ‘70s, so murders per 100,000 are actually lower, but we never really had mass shootings.
In 2018, of the roughly 40,000 deaths by firearm, approximately 2/3rds (28,000) of them were suicides. Of all the murders committed, over half were gang related. According to FBI statistics, annually, fewer than 400 people are murdered by rifles, but roughly 100 more are killed every year by hammers and blunt objects. There is no outrage over hammers because of how and where such murders take place.
Why so many mass shootings now?
In past decades, guns were far more prevalent and far easier to get. When I was a kid, we used to buy rifles at the hardware store and take them to school to go hunting afterwards. Until the 1968 Gun Control Act, anyone (even a child) could order an AR-15 through the mail, with as many 20-round magazines as you could afford.
Many feel society changed. So many boys are being raised without fathers, kids are on SSRI drugs that didn’t exist, nor did so many chemical food additives, preservatives, flavors and fragrances, kids are addicted (it’s now officially a disorder) to interactive violent video games (the military uses interactive videos for training; visual advertising obviously works or a 30 second Super Bowl ad or it wouldn’t cost millions), many kids’ formative years are spent in daycare and not being loved and raised by parents, etc. Society has changed – a lot, but guns really haven’t.
Assault weapon is still a poorly defined term. Usually if a rifle has the look of a military firearm, or some accessories, like a pistol grip, it’s called an “assault” rifle, but it doesn’t function like a military weapon. They are not machine-guns; they do not “spray” bullets nor have a high rate of fire. They are semi-automatic firearms that fire one bullet with one trigger pull, just like any semi-auto hunting rifle, and they fire cartridges with the same muzzle velocity as hunting rifles.
The Founding Fathers were aware of semi-automatic firearms, as the first was introduced prior to the drafting of our Constitution. The first magazine that held more than 10 rounds was invented in the 16th century. When the Bill of Rights was written, the common man could and did own the same weapons that were used by the military, including long guns, cannons and even battle ships, (such as the Privateers). Most of those weapons had higher caliber cartridges than a modern AR-15 or AK-47.
The 2nd Amendment was never about hunting or self-defense, as those rights were considered obvious. It was about a “free state” and a citizenry being able to defend itself against a “tyrannical” government. Given our history, one can understand why such protections ranked so high on the Bill of Rights, second only to speech.
Our leaders should understand the minuscule role rifles play in nationwide homicide statistics, and not lazily grab the low hanging fruit by thinking banning “assault” rifles will have meaningful impact on violent gun deaths. Not when such weapons play such a key role in fulfilling the intent of the 2nd Amendment and, statistically, harm so few.
Our leaders are not asking the right questions.
Why are the shooters typically white, middle-class boys? What do they have in common?
It isn’t the guns.