By John Hnatio
According to Gun Violence Archive there have been 29, 418 shooting incidents so far in 2016 with 7, 578 deaths and 15, 738 injuries. 198 of those incidents were mass shootings. For example:
- On April 22, 2016, the bodies of eight people were found in four homes in Pike County, Ohio. Seven of the victims were discovered to have been fatally shot execution-style. The eighth victim was found shot to death in a fourth house in nearby Piketon.
- On May 19, 2016, five people were found shot dead in a Moultrie, Georgia.
- On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack.
- On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring nine others. Two bystanders were also wounded.
The list just goes on and on and on. As one mass shooting is reported it is quickly forgotten to be replaced by the next news broadcast. During the process we all become desensitized. Most of us put it out of our minds just glad that we were not one of the victims. When asked what we should do about the growing epidemic of mass shootings in America, most of us just shrug our shoulders and say, “What can we do?”
Well, if the truth be told, there’s a lot of things we could do but we don’t. In the absence of a family member or friend being shot in an attack many of us don’t really care. Most of us give lip service saying we really care about what’s going and then say there’s nothing we can do to stop it anyway. Still others who do speak out are quickly labeled as fanatics trying to take away everyone’s second amendment rights.
So, what’s the common denominator in all of this? The first answer might be guns. There are more guns per capita in the United States than any other nation on earth. And, oh yes, there is a significant statistical correlation between the ready availability of firearms, especially military grade weapons, and mass shootings. Using weapons made for the specific purpose of mass killing have proven to be the choice of most mass murderers. Whether you are a progressive liberal or a right wing conservative this fact is simply undeniable.
But there’s also truth in the fact that guns don’t pull their own triggers—it takes people to do that. Some people pull the trigger because they are just plain crazy. Others do it because they are zealots who believe in some type of cause like the Muslim jihad, the black lives matter movement, or the Ku Klux Klan. Others are just criminals looking to steal.
Another common denominator might be that we are not requiring background checks to weed out the mentally ill, jihadists, violent racists and criminals. A weak argument at best. The fact is that you can easily get a gun without any background check at all. Besides there is not as strong a statistical correlation between mass shootings and the use of non-registered firearms as the proponents of background checks would like us all to believe.
Still others look at weapons manufacturers as purveyors of death in much the same way as we look back at the great American tobacco companies of yesteryear. Companies that are ready to provide products that they know can kill all at the right price. Perhaps if we put the gun manufacturers out of business just like the tobacco industry the problem will go away. But alas, there are still a lot of guns already out there.
If the availability of guns themselves, more background checks and putting gun companies out of business aren’t the answer to the mass shooting epidemic in America then what is? Well, like most all inexorable problems the answer to the problem lies with one thing and that one thing is leadership—something we don’t have much of in the current debate (or lack thereof) about mass shootings. True leaders are supposed to use their brains. They also know that consensus is an essential part of problem solving. They find a middle ground on tough issues that includes all of the stakeholders.
True leaders already know that there is no single solution to the problem of reducing the risk of mass shootings. Instead, they know that the solutions must come from multiple actions conceived by multidisciplinary experts from across our society including the National Rifle Association, law enforcement, gun control advocacy groups, constitutional experts, health care professionals, sociologists and others working with the gun manufacturers themselves.
There is much that all of us can and should be doing to reduce the risk of mass shootings in America. In my next piece I will lay out a strawman national strategy for preventing mass shootings. We will seek your comments and try to develop a common middle ground for the types of actions that we can all agree upon whether you are a member of the National Rifle Association or a gun control activist.