The line in the story Sunday about the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart hit me hard: “Her 19-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son threw themselves to the ground, then ran out of the store through an emergency exit.”
This is what we’ve come to: So many mass shootings for so many years that an entire generation of kids know to hit the floor at a loud sound, as if they lived in Yemen or Syria. This is us now in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. It shouldn’t be this way.
As happens after every mass shooting, politicians and pundits are debating why we’ve had three mass shootings in less than a week. Is it the video games? The dark internet sites like 8Chan, where evil begets and feeds more evil? Is it the isolation caused by social media, the failure of a mental health system, or maybe the rantings of our highest politician about “hordes of migrants”? Is it just something wrong with white men in their 20s?
It is probably all of those things. But you know what else it is? Too many damn guns and too little leadership. Need some science to believe me?
This article details research showing that the U.S. isn’t any more mentally ill than the rest of the world, that we don’t play more violent video games than in other countries, and that U.S. people are not more more violence-prone than other developed countries. This research is controlled for things like poverty, race, age and other factors. What is different about the U.S? Our “astronomical number of guns.”
As of 2017 – and Lord knows the figures are probably higher now – we have 270 million guns in our homes and (surprise!) we’ve had 90 mass shootings from 1966 to 2012. No other country in the entire world has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. Moreover:
Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama. Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.
So, how about we just get rid of one-third of the guns on our streets and in our homes through gun buybacks (making sure we destroy what we get back so guns don’t wind up in the hands of criminals), and then have an executive order enacting red-flag laws, banning AR-15s, and raising the age at which someone could purchase a gun to 30?
The age restriction makes sense because research has shown conclusively that the brain doesn’t fully develop until after the age of 25. The reason there are higher car insurance rates for boys than girls is due to research proving boys under the age of 25 have issues with impulse control and risk-taking.
The other actions would reduce the numbers and types of guns available for killing, putting us more in line with other countries who, I remind you, are also filled with young men who access the dark web, get depressed and angry, and play video games, but who don’t have mass shootings.
Every time anyone talks of gun control, people who have multiple weapons flip out. I do not understand that. Do you really need an AR-15? I know you want one, that maybe it is fun at target practice, but do you need one? The Second Amendment didn’t imagine anything but muskets. What does it take to change someone’s mind?
We need legislators to stand up to the gun lobby because we can’t make parents do the right thing so their children don’t shoot each other, or a toddler doesn’t shoot an infant, and you can’t reason with white supremacists or members of the KKK or people who make their livelihood by stoking other people’s fears. (Yes, I’m looking at you, FOX “news”.) You can’t help mentally ill people who don’t want to get help, and we will probably never be able to fully eradicate the damage we’ve caused young soldiers through the endless, needless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But we can keep guns out of all those people’s hands by reducing the number of guns available and making them much, much harder to get. Because while, yes, you can kill someone with a knife or nunchuks or your bare hands or a broom, the chance of you killing numerous people at once with any of those is slim to none. It is time to stop pretending otherwise. So, to paraphrase a popular politician years ago, it’s the guns, stupid.