Gun Control: The Facts, Figures And Frustrations
When I think of Chicago, my mind goes to Wrigley Field, Michael Jordan and the Sears Tower. Over the last few weeks, I have added something else to this list: gun violence.
Since Friday, 17 people have been shot in the city.
A couple weeks back, on the night of March 11th, ten shootings occurred in Chicago. Just to be clear, that is over the course of ONE NIGHT. Only the Chicago Tribune reported on these incidents, resulting in most Americans not even hearing about them.
This is an irresponsible omission; an incredibly disturbing trend; a manifestation of our hyper-desensitized RoboCop society that dismisses ten shootings as just another night in the Windy City.
Have we given up on making society safer? Are we really going to ignore the obvious solution? Isn’t it worth letting some guns out of our cold dead hands if it means stopping even one gun-related death?
Shockingly, some say no: gun-toting, ill-informed NRA members who miss the days of the West being wild; brainwashed Fox News viewers with a confederate flag painted on their pickup who “need” an AR-15 for hunting ducks; and everyone in Florida (joke, laugh).
These people claim that gun control doesn’t work. They say that the solution to gun violence is obvious. More guns.And there is one more group — politicians who are so afraid of losing reelection that they capitulate to the desires of the gun lobby, brushing aside their constituents and disregarding their interests with a cold shoulder and silent “who cares”.
The contention is as follows: more guns in the hands of responsible citizens will make our society safer by allowing people to defend themselves and serve as a deterrent for criminals.
Statistically speaking, however, this is a blatant fallacy. States with more gun ownership are in fact less safe than those with less gun ownership.
Logically speaking, it is also quite obvious that more guns are not the answer. When you fight fire with fire, everything goes up in flames.
Opponents of gun control further claim that there is no indication that gun control legislation is effective.
If only we had an example of a country implementing widespread gun control legislation that could set a precedent for the United States...
As it so happens, the Australian government did just that after a mass shooting in 1996 left 35 dead and 20 injured.
The reforms standardized gun laws throughout Australia, prohibiting semi-automatic rifles and resulting in around 700,000 guns destroyed after the world’s largest firearm buyback. Furthermore, gun ownership applicants must have a justifiable reason for owning the type of gun they are seeking (i.e. people can’t get assault rifles for hunting small game).
The results of these reasonable changes are astounding.
In 1996, Australia’s firearm mortality rate was approximately one-quarter of the U.S. rate; today it is less than one-tenth of the U.S. rate (this includes suicides and accidental shootings). If we only consider gun homicide rates, the United States boasts a rate which is a staggering 30 times that of Australia’s (see below for John Oliver’s entertaining exposé on these effects).
So why haven’t we followed in the Aussies’ footsteps?
There are two problems — politicians catering to the gun lobby, and a lack of media responsibility.
The first quandary has a simple solution: our leaders need to demonstrate a willingness to lose reelection in order to do what is best for the people. Many of the Australian lawmakers who voted for gun reform lost their jobs as a result. But their priority was to protect Australian citizens, and if that meant losing office, so be it.
The majority of our Representatives and Senators are too afraid of losing their power to do right by the people, and they need to join the few who are championing the cause regardless of the threat of losing office.
Unfortunately, this is the way of our government, and it is unlikely that it will change in the near future. In the meantime, it is the job of the media to make a meaningful difference.
Newspapers, networks, and online publications have a duty to the American people to report every time there is gun violence. It is omnipresent, happening all over the country, and yet we only hear about it when there is a mass shooting in a public place.
For every Trayvon Martin, there are hundreds like him who go unseen. For every Newtown, there are dozens of cities who suffer from tragic loss of life outside of the public eye.
If every single person was notified of every single shooting, we would surely care enough to change our priorities and bypass the deadlock in Washington. In forcing politicians to support gun control in exchange for our votes, the American people could reclaim the power to shape policy and take the gun lobby out of the equation.
Or perhaps if every American was as adamant about gun control as every parent who has lost a child to gun violence, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
Reach Contributor Kevin Litman-Navarro here.