Gun Violence and Policy Solutions: A Call to Look at the Data

In the wake of yet another mass shooting affecting an affluent community, the gun debate has once again been re-awakened. This time, youth from the school affected have been powerfully motivated to take the issue into their own hands and get real action done with the goal of affecting policy that will result in stopping the gun violence epidemic in our nation. They are also going into crime ridden neighborhoods and speaking to the youth that have grown up with the terror and consequential human losses of gun violence on a regular basis throughout their childhoods. These steps are most important as much of our nation’s gun violence actually happens in the small non-random shootings that occur several times a day throughout our nation.

These young people are doing an amazing job. They come from an affluent school with good teachers that have taught them how our political system really works and how to work it — something we should all know if representative democracy is our true goal. As a result of this quality education, they were in situ to respond as affectively as they have. I am wonderfully impressed with their determination, strength and effectiveness.

Though I am not so much impressed with the broader debate as I have experienced it so far. The debate that I have witnessed in internet writing, print media and video or televised news discussions has left out real data: the information we need to understand the impacts, causes and solutions. It’s so easy in our US culture to be miss-informed. Whether fake news outright, or just poor quality of mass media journalism is at fault is neither here nor there, though I’m sure it’s likely a combination.

Frustrated with this situation, I decided to do my own research and find a few good articles that are about the data. There are several articles out there and it did not take much time to get them at hand. I chose the two that presented the information in a way that I believed could most effectively get people’s attention regardless of where one stands on the issue. They are simple to read. Please do!

One of the reasons I chose a New York Times article published just after the Las Vegas Casino mass murders in June of 2017 was because it shows comparisons of rates of gun deaths in several other countries to comparable rates of deaths by other means in the US. For instance, the writers state that “In Japan, where gun homicides are even rarer, the likelihood of dying this way is about the same as an American’s chance of being killed by lightning — roughly one in 10 million.” It lists such comparisons in one easy to see image.

The article is designed to show us how extreme our countries’ gun violence is. The writers point out that though suicides account for most gun deaths (making ours even more out of this world), the focus of this article is on homicides. Giving us a chart of the comparable daily gun deaths in developed countries if all nations had the same population as the US visualizes the starkness of the US’ extreme gun violence statistics. The US is the only nation at the top of the graph at 27 a day while none of the other nations are greater than 5 a day and most are at or below 3 a day at the bottom of the graph. But, still more striking is that “For men 15 to 29, they (gun homicides) are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides (in the US).”

I chose the second article entitled US Gun Policy: A Global Comparison produced by “The Council on Foreign Relations” because it is a straightforward report of gun policy in seven developed countries including the US. The others are: Canada, Australia, Israel, The United Kingdom, Norway and Japan. Should we not be looking at what policies work in other places? It is true that as a nation we have our own character, which is particularly diverse relative to many developed countries. This character will be a large part of what policies we ultimately choose. Seeing what works in various places should give us a good place to start considering what best will work for us to remedy our gun violence extremes.

The article goes into a brief modern history of each country’s laws and where they currently stand. Most of these other developed countries require registration of many firearms categories. Only Norway is the exception to this rule among the other developed nations explored. Though Norway’s gun laws are characterized as “tough,” licensing is required to own guns and they have a high rate of gun ownership, they still have a much lower rate of gun homicides than the US.

All of the others, if they do not ban semi-automatic weapons, do require registration of such weapons. Some of these countries also require a valid reason for ownership and psychological testing before licensing is granted. Japan’s laws are the most stringent requiring extensive testing, skills development, valid cause and primarily allowing otherwise gun ownership to those that play gun sports. Canada’s laws require registration of hand guns and semi-automatic weapons, but do not prohibit such weapons across the board. However, waiting periods, mandatory training, detailed background checks are required to own guns and large capacity magazines are banned. Gun buyback programs removed large numbers of guns in two of the countries. I believe these are a start to focus on for our badly needed policy changes.

The momentum of the movement began by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students has the potential to change policy for the good if it continues to gain the power in numbers and application of strategy to combat the money of the NRA in our elections. I’ve heard several policy changes put forth, and that is important. I believe that if we as a people will look at good, valid information we can come to a greater consensus on what those policy changes need to be for us. I hope we do that soon.

I write when I feel like writing. I process concerns by writing, hoping solutions and understanding are there to be explored and discovered. Let’s talk!