In the emotional aftermath of any tragedy, we all possess a natural propensity to immediately seek a scapegoat, regardless of whether the blame is truly justified. After a natural disaster, the blame usually falls on the lack of preparation by the government. In a recession, blame often falls on the current political party in power. In the case of a shooting, it is the gun that is blamed. In the aftermath of recent mass shootings, gun control advocates have attempted to use the attention that mass shootings draw and this innate proclivity to promote major gun control legislation, frequently demonizing anyone who disagrees in the process, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The morning after the Las Vegas shooting, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took to Twitter, saying, “Our grief isn’t strong enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.” The night after the Las Vegas shooting, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel gave a monologue on the incident, criticizing politicians for their pro-gun positions, stating, “We have a major problem with gun violence in this country, and I guess they don’t care.” On the day of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren used the incident to call for gun control policy, asking, “How many more people must die at churches or concerts or schools before we stop letting the NRA control the country’s gun policies?”
While we all agree that action must be taken to stop gun violence, gun control proponents have repeatedly used these tragedies to skip over policy debate and paint themselves as moral arbiters, proclaiming that if you do not support their proposed gun control legislation, you either do not care about the dead or are somehow “in the pocket of the NRA.” They employ this desperate strategy of moral framing because, in reality, most gun control policies have failed at preventing gun homicides and would not have prevented any of the major shootings that have occurred over the past few months or years.
First and foremost, mass shootings are not representative of gun violence in America. Regardless of which “mass shooting” definition you use, which can put the number of mass shootings in 2016 anywhere between five and 477, mass shootings still end up accounting for only a fraction of a percent of gun incidents according to the Gun Violence Archive 2016. Rifles, the number one target of most gun control advocates, were used in only two percent of murders in 2016 according to the FBI crime statistics. This is in stark contrast to handguns and knives, which accounted for 47 and 11 percent of murders in 2016, respectively. Even when assessing mass shootings specifically, handguns have proven to be just as deadly as any rifle under the right circumstances and are used much more frequently. In the Virginia Tech shooting, Luby’s massacre and the Edmond post office shooting, the third, sixth and ninth most deadly mass shootings in modern U.S. history, respectively, the shooters used handguns exclusively to take the lives of 70 people in total.
In states with strict gun control legislation, the laws have little effect on gun homicides prevention, and even the prevention of mass shootings. Just a glance at the top 10 cities with the highest murder rates from 2016 shows there is no difference in murder rates between cities in states with relaxed gun control policies and strict gun control policies. Chicago, which sits at eighth on this list and has been repeatedly cited as one of the strictest cities on guns, went as far as to try to ban gun stores in the city in an attempt to reduce crime, a measure that was declared to be unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang back in 2014. Looking at mass shootings, the Virginia Tech, Orlando, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs shooters all passed federal background checks to obtain their guns, an indication that the current background check system needs improvement.
While I do not doubt the sincerity of gun control advocates in their efforts to stop the killings of innocent people, the simultaneous demand for gun control legislation or bans and diabolization of pro-gun individuals immediately following mass shootings is both naive and not conducive to gun homicide prevention. Rather than taking measures like banning silencers and assault rifles in the hope that it will reduce gun homicides and not simply disarm law-abiding citizens, we should be looking to improve the current systems of regulation and enforcement of gun laws, using statistical evidence rather than anecdotal to write future gun control legislation and uphold the Second Amendment.
Contact Connor Madalo at [email protected]