By: Maryam Karimi
Gun control is one of the most contentious issues facing Americans today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading researcher regarding mortality data, between 1999 and 2016, at least 26,000 children and teenagers under the age of 18 were killed as a result of guns. Another study by Pediatrics journal concludes that the third leading cause of death amongst children under the age of 17 is gun related violence.
The source of these guns is likely not from local gangs or purchased by the shooter, but actually sourced within the family. A Giffords Law Center study reports that of applicable school shootings within 26 states, about 66% of attackers used a gun found within the home or used a gun owned by the attacker’s own relative.
For perspective, according to Business Insider reports, the odds for an American to be killed by gun assault is 1 in 315 while the odds for an American to be killed in a mass shooting is 1 in 11,125.
These facts become important focal points in the discussion of gun violence and responsible gun reform because without a clear understanding of these figures, irrelevant reform will do nothing to curb the tragedies that ensue from gun violence.
Although these figures are stark and grim, many Americans still do not support gun control measures. Whether it’s because of the rights vested in citizens under the Second Amendment, or personal views and experiences, some believe that no reform is necessary. Others believe that only certain types of guns and weapons should be restricted or that licenses allowing for possession and use should be more restrictive. Therefore, for better or worse, law and politics are significant aspects of this discussion.
The problem is that effective law on the matter of gun control and gun reform is as limited as is the research. As of 1996, Congress passed an amendment whereby the CDC was prohibited from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” The effect of this bill, which was staunchly promoted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), continues to stifle any research and advocacy related to gun control because it has cut funding and as a result, acts as a catalyst of gun-related deaths.
Additionally, there is no comprehensive database indicating the number of gun related deaths or number of guns owned within each American household. Therefore, the use of statistics which would normally be used to guide the public’s attention becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for those with their own implicit or explicit biases. Therefore, for members of the public, it becomes an onerous task to understand statistics regarding gun use and the resulting violence.
However, it will be a short sighted endeavor for one to undertake the discussion of gun control and reform without fully understanding reliable statistics demonstrating the composition of deaths resulting from gun use.
Current research indicates that at least 95 Americans are killed by guns daily. In contrast to other developed countries, the rate is monumental. Rates of gun-related homicide in the United States are 25 times higher than in other similarly situated countries, and amounts to 13,000 gun homicides annually.
As a result of the way news and media is publicized, gun-inflicted killing is viewed as synonymous with socio-economics or organized crime. For example, although many assert the need for guns within their home for protection and self-defense, guns kept in the home are actually more likely to be used to kill or injure an innocent person as opposed to a home intruder.
The rate of homicides by guns should be more correctly correlated to variables including: gender, age, race, and whether the killing was a self-inflicted suicide killing.
According to data from Every Town Research, 62% of firearm deaths in the United States are suicides. On average, about 50 women are killed as a result of gun- violence by their intimate partners daily. On average, in the United States, seven children are killed as a result of gun-violence every day. Black men are more than 11 times as likely to be killed as a result of gun violence in the United States than white men.
These statistics are a stark contrast to many common misconceptions and current political discussions regarding gun homicides.
Although as of March 22, 2018, the FY18 Omnibus bill was released which reportedly lifts the ban placed on the CDC and allow for the CDC engage in research of gun violence, the bill still does not provide or appropriate funding towards this endeavor.
As a result, the gap between science and research in this field and responsible gun reform must be filled. Moreover, with the current political climate, funding must be provided by platforms outside of the federal government. This movement can be seen through a recently established Kaiser Permanente program aimed at research in preventing gun injuries and deaths through the lens of a public health.
Gun violence is more complicated than the mass shootings in the headlines would tell. Solutions that address mass shootings will not stop suicides or accidents; effective gun control becomes more than banning certain guns or increasing the purchasing age. It is a comprehensive approach. It will only be accomplished by the organization of independent groups with the goal of reducing gun related deaths.