Last year, we produced a series of stories on American gun deaths and the people behind the statistics. From that reporting, and other sources, we know mass shootings are different from other kinds of gun deaths in several ways.
First, they’re rare, and the people doing the shooting are different. The majority of gun deaths in America aren’t even homicides, let alone caused by mass shootings. Two-thirds of the more than 33,000 gun deaths that take place in the U.S. every year are suicides (click through the graphic below to see how gun deaths break down)…
And while people who commit suicide and people who commit mass shootings both tend to be white and male, suicide victims tend to be older. The median age of a mass shooter, according to one report, is 34, with very few over 50. Suicide, however, plagues the elderly as much as it does the middle-aged.
Second, the people killed in mass shootings are different from the majority of homicides. Most gun murder victims are men between the ages of 15 and 34. Sixty-six percent are black. Women — of any race and any age — are far less likely to be murdered by a gun. Unless that gun is part of a mass shooting. There, 50 percent of the people who die are women. And at least 54 percent of mass shootings involve domestic or family violence — with the perpetrator shooting a current or former partner or a relative.
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 2000,2homicide 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 gunand using it in a mass shooting might not prevent a similar shooting by an older white male with no criminal record.
I, for one, am against the entitlement to guns in the USA and I think the original amendment and the laws built around it deserve to be reconstituted.
Having said that, guns laws on the books aren’t the problem in most of these cases. More gun laws are unlikely to solve America’s gun problem, unless those gun laws are radical. Of course, tighten laws on semi-automatics and automatics and devices that modify semi-automatics.
Best book I’ve read on this? James Atwood.
I have opposed guns and supported the tightest of gun laws but such laws, when strictly enforced, do not eliminate the vast majority of gun violence.
The only solution is radical; America is addicted to its guns. The only way to change things, legally or socially, is to end the addiction to this idolatry.
Preach the gospel; show people the way of Jesus and the cross.