The recent spate of mass shootings has been shocking no doubt but the sad reality is that this is just another day in America. The focus on mass shootings to some extent hides the fact that daily gun violence has become endemic and routine. As Lois Beckett writes for ProPublica, the definition of mass shootings as only those that involve four or more people killed may obscure the real picture, and the definition should be expanded to include four or more people shot, though even that does not capture the full reality of gun violence.
The Reddit project’s organizers suggest this broader approach does a better job of capturing the burden of gun violence–including the suffering and costs of treating people who are shot and survive.
“The most obscene incidents of gun violence usually do not make the mainstream news at all,” the project’s introduction says, citing a nightclub shooting in Tennessee in which 18 people were shot and only one person killed. “We believe the media does a disservice to mass shooting victims by virtually ignoring them unless large numbers are killed.”
Yet bundling together all incidents in which four people or more people are shot doesn’t capture the bigger picture.
As ProPublica detailed last week, gun murder in America is largely a story of race and geography. Half of all gun murder victims are black men. The gun murder rate for black Americans is dramatically higher than it is for white Americans. And the burden of violence tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods of certain cities.
Increasingly voices are saying that it does not have to be this bad. Criminologist Frederic Lemieux lists six things we need to bear in mind about shootings.
- More guns don’t make you safer. The US alone had 68% of the total number of mass shooting of 24 industrialized countries, despite being the most heavily armed.
- Mass shootings in the US are getting more frequent.
- It is misleading to automatically all classify mass shootings as terrorism, domestic or otherwise.
- Restricting sales works and countries with more restrictive gun licensing laws show fewer deaths by firearms and a lower gun ownership rate.
- Historical comparisons may be flawed since definitions of what constitutes mass shootings have changed.
- Background checks work.
The last one is perhaps the most important.
In most restrictive background checks performed in developed countries, citizens are required to train for gun handling, obtain a license for hunting or provide proof of membership to a shooting range.
Individuals must prove that they do not belong to any “prohibited group,” such as the mentally ill, criminals, children or those at high risk of committing violent crime, such as individuals with a police record of threatening the life of another.
Here’s the bottom line. With these provisions, most US active shooters would have been denied the purchase of a firearm. [My emphasis-MS]
Larry Wilmore also discusses the latest shooting and uses a roller-coaster metaphor to describe the repeated wrenching emotional ride that ensues.
(This clip aired on December 3, 2015. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Nightly Show outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)