According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 2,697 mass shootings in the United States from 2014 through 2020. That’s an average of 385 per year. A mass shooting was defined as four or more people injured or killed, not counting the perpetrator.
The Atlanta spa and the Boulder, Colo., tragedies are indicative of a very sick country. Just when we thought it was safe to eat in restaurants and go shopping, with the COVID-19 virus abating, we now wonder when and where the next shooting will occur. Perhaps we all need to buy a bulletproof vest. What a country!
Gun-related deaths unfold in tragic circumstances across the country daily. But it is often mass shootings that ignite the debate over gun control in the country and shine the spotlight on its position as a global outlier. The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population and 46 percent of civilian-owned guns worldwide. Around 66 percent of United States’ gun owners possess more than one, while 73 percent say they couldn’t imagine not owning one.
Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Also the nation’s gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries.
New Zealand moved quickly to restrict gun access, after 50 people were killed in the Christchurch massacre in 2019. The country’s parliament voted almost unanimously in favor of banning military-style semi-automatic weapons. In other countries, restrictive gun laws have proven to make a difference in curbing massacres. In Australia, four mass shootings occurred between 1987 and 1996. After those incidents, public opinion turned against gun ownership and Parliament passed stricter gun laws. Mass shootings have become rare in Australia since the introduction of tight gun control measures. Japan has one of the lowest rates of gun crime in the world. In 2014, there were just six gun deaths, compared to 33,599 in the United States. Handguns are banned outright and only shotguns and air rifles are allowed.
We need a new Second Amendment to the Constitution (can you hear the hollering now?). The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This amendment is ambiguous since a well-regulated militia and arms are not adequately defined. The Founding Fathers lived at a time when arms consisted primarily of muzzle loading muskets and crude mortars. They had no concept of our rifles, automatic pistols, assault weapons, machine guns and other modern weapons. But what constitutes arms? An arm might be defined as anything used for individual defense, collective defense or predation (hunting).
A hammer, screwdriver, ice pick, scissors, knife, spear and bow and arrows, not to mention guns, could be considered arms for individual defense. Collective defense would consist of all the weapons used by our military, while arms used for predation are usually just shotguns, rifles and fishing poles. Automatic rifles are not very sportsmanlike for hunting.
Yet many gun enthusiasts insist they have a constitutional right to have an AK-47 or equivalent, but they don’t make the same claim for a rocket launcher, hand grenades, cannons or flame throwers. If they did, it would be completely rejected. Why? Because legislators passed laws prohibiting them for the safety of the population. We certainly need much stronger control of gun ownership. This includes the type of weapons allowed, registration of all public and private sales of guns and background checks of all buyers. Where do we draw the line? Gun owners do not need to have assault rifles, semiautomatic pistols, nor other military type weapons.
Unfortunately, our country is saturated with handguns and assault rifles, held hostage by the NRA and the gun manufacturers who buy-off unscrupulous politicians. There will be speeches, hand wringing and prayers, but, as usual, nothing will be done to solve the problem and heal the nation. If you want a sane society then vote out of office the gun-supporting legislators.
David Keranen is a retired teacher.