Gun violence in the US is not epidemic. It does get a lot of play on the news. The statistics you see where there are x number of mass killings in 365 days is woefully manipulated and incorrect. Mass Shooting Tracker showed 294 mass shootings as of Oct. 1. About 122 of those incidents — or about 42 percent — involved zero fatalities. A mass killing is defined by the FBI as 4 or more people shot and killed at one time. The federal government’s more restrictive definition means it tends to count fewer incidents than Mass Shooting Tracker. Using 2013, the most recent year for which federal data is available, the Congressional Research Service found 25 mass shooting incidents — far less than the 363 counted by Mass Shooting Tracker.
Politicians or others who want to make a point about guns choose a set of data and a definition that reinforces the point they want to make. People who want more gun control tend to choose more expansive definitions. What I find is that people espousing “sensible gun control” are really saying, “Let’s eliminate all guns, put gun companies out of business, and take away all guns from all people-then there won’t be any fear of any gun violence.”
Where I live in Chicago, no one walks around afraid they are going to get shot. In a few neighborhoods, there is definitely a fear of getting shot because of gang land violence. Gangs generally don’t get guns legally. Gangs don’t care how many laws you write, or what they say.
Gun violence is tragic. It’s right to be emotionally upset about it. But, it’s important not to make public policy based on emotion. The outcome generally leads to bad public policy. There are plenty of examples throughout American history where policy based on emotion lead to bad things happening in the future. For example, Milton Friedman warned President Nixon not to engage in a total war on drugs. He correctly predicted it would be an abject failure and it is. Some of the gun violence we see in America is a direct result of the drug war. A current example might be some of the government reaction post 9/11. We created a heavily bureaucratic organization with the Bureau of Homeland security. We got ourselves in a war that we probably shouldn’t have started. We have used technology to infringe on all kinds of personal freedoms without really gaming out the consequences.
Let’s not make the same mistakes again.
California and other states have background checks. The Brady Campaign praised California and Colorado for instituting expanded background checks, saying, “Strong background checks laws are the first step to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.” Moreover, they gave California the highest marks that any state received for gun control in 2013–they gave California an “A-“. Only four other states received a grade that high: they were Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.
California has gun registration requirements for “assault weapons,” which President Obama commonly refers to as “weapons of war.” The California terrorists used AR-15s for part of their California jihad. The registration requirement appears to have posed no hindrance.
Gun control doesn’t work. In my own state of Illinois, there is a one day waiting period to buy any gun; even some pellet guns. Criminals have and will always have access to guns. They manage to get them in every gun control paradise you can name, from Venezuela to France. The laws in France didn’t stop or deter terrorists from killing Charlie Hedbo, the Jewish grocery, or the concert. No law can stop bad guys from getting guns. If someone is committed to violence, they will stop at nothing to get the tools to achieve the outcome they want.
There are those that want to arm everyone. Obviously that is not an answer. But, people should be free to buy and own a gun if they choose to own one. One thing that would be a good law to enact is that the gun shop they buy it from give them a safety course in how to handle, take care of, and store their weapon so it’s safe. People that learn gun safety generally are not the ones that society worries about.
You know what works? Probability and statistics. Instead of rushing to ban guns which we know won’t work; why not take a step back and think in terms of Game Theory; Prisoner’s Dilemma and Nash Equilibrium. How do we make it so a potential shooter/terrorist has a very high probability of not being successful so they are deterred from taking action? What root causes are running through a lot of the random gun violence we see today? (Most of it is mentally ill people, so why are we not concentrating on mental health?) What root causes are running through gun violence in overwhelmingly African-American neighborhoods? Why aren’t we thinking about ways to solve those?
Most of the outrage and comments I have seen on either side of the gun issue is fodder for pushing old agendas and not really doing anything about the root cause of the problem.