The mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, which killed 58 people and injured 489, has once again sparked heated debate on gun control laws. In response, right wing figures have told people to not “politicize tragedy.”
It seems that, after every mass shooting, our country gets into another debate about gun control, with people like Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity and Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell telling pro-gun control advocates to stop using mass shootings for a political agenda, and with pro-gun control individuals saying that discussion should not be silenced.
Demands to not politicize a mass shooting cannot be met, for mass shootings are proof that we need tighter restrictions and better our gun policies. To pretend otherwise is to remain callous to the lives lost in mass shootings.
A mass shooting as defined by Gun Violence Archive is when “four or more shot and/or killed in a single event at the same general location and time, not including the shooter.”
There have been 277 mass shootings in the United States in 2017 and 383 mass shootings in 2016, according to Gun Violence Archive.
Though an Oct. 2 article on Vox by German Lopez notes that most gun related deaths didn’t occur during mass shootings, the United States still has a unique gun problem, as the Center for Disease Control put the number of gun-related deaths in 2014 at 33,594.
The United States can learn from Australia, which “banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases” after the 1996 massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania, according to Uri Friedman’s 2015 article in The Atlantic.
Mass shootings in Australia, which has the threshold of five or more casualties rather than America’s four, went from 13 in the 18-year period before 1996 to zero in the decade after, according to a 2014 Policy Paper by the Geneva Declaration.
Joshua Tewksbury of Tewksbury Lab compared the number of firearm related deaths in the United States to those of other developed countries, or with a similar Human Development Index. The HDI is a way of measuring the development of a country through life expectancy, education, and per capita income. He found that not only does the United States have more guns per 100 people, it also has more gun related deaths per 100,000 people than other developed nations.
According to a review of 130 studies from 10 countries published in Epidemiologic Reviews in 2016, laws restricting ownership of firearms leads to fewer gun deaths. At this point, gun control laws should be seen as common sense.
Since not all states have the same rate of gun-related deaths or the same gun laws, the gun problem can be analyzed state by state. Among the ten states that Guns and Ammo magazine identified as the most “gun friendly” were Alaska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Montana, which are also among Business Insider’s top ten states with the highest firearm deaths in 2015. Conversely, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Hawaii, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey were listed as eight out of the ten least gun-friendly states in Guns and Ammo magazine, and among the ten states with the lowest firearm deaths in Business Insider.
One of the biggest obstacles for gun control is that more Republicans care about gun policy than Democrats do. In August, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked, other than foreign policy, national defense and the economy, which one or two issues “are important enough to you to have an impact on how you vote in an election.” Among Republicans, 45 percent chose “gun rights or gun control” as one such issue. It ranked above immigration at 36 percent and abortion at 26 percent. For Democrats, only 29 percent rated “gun rights or gun control” as such an issue.
Republican demands to not politicize mass shootings are just an excuse. They simply do not want people to support gun control. They want to pretend that we do not have a gun problem, despite that among the developed countries, this problem is unique to the United States. It is easier to pretend there is no problem than it is to act on it.
However, our country has just seen its deadliest mass shooting since 1949. It is time we stop pretending that we do not have a gun problem, and it’s time that we begin a comprehensive gun reform.