The 2020 election is undoubtedly the most important election in my lifetime. This is a call to all students (and faculty) to become involved in the political process and help create a more inclusive and free society. Health care, the environment, student loans, education, Social Security, Medicare, medical, veterans benefits, etc, are all under attack currently. Register; become active; and, most importantly, VOTE. Remember – it’s WE THE PEOPLE who are in charge – as long as we show up and participate.
Senior Adjunct Professor of Sociology
In the wake of new mass shootings, the Campus Times has drawn attention to the issue of gun violence in America (“We need gun control,” Sept. 6). The article states that we are living in “a place of constant fear” due to mass shootings. A recent Reuters poll suggests 59% of Americans fear mass shootings as the biggest threat to their safety. The article notes that 1,207 people have died from mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
There is no doubt that every death by gun violence is a tragedy to be mourned and soberly considered, but how do these numbers compare to other causes? Are they a unique outlier and overly common? Regardless of your position on gun rights, it is worth considering if these fears are justified.
The National Council for Behavioral Health notes that mass shootings are extremely uncommon. They constitute only 0.2% of homicides and 1% of homicide victims. The article in the Campus Times points out that a “mass shooting”, defined as “four or more people shot in one incident” occurs nearly every day. Yet this twists our understanding of the term “mass shooting”; we colloquially understand it to mean a public event of wanton violence, unrelated to other crimes, but many of the events included by this definition in statistical analyses are domestic violence episodes or criminally-related events like gang shootings. The public is not generally endangered by those events, but how we impart the statistical analyses determines how the public views them.
In fact, data from sources such as the National Safety Council and other institutions demonstrates that there are far more common catalysts for death than mass shootings or even gun violence generally. Your chances of death by gun are 1 in 315; from mass shootings, 1 in 11,125. You are more likely to die from heart disease, diabetes, suicide, any motor vehicle incident, drowning, fires, bicycling, or “any force of nature.” You are, quite literally, more likely to be struck by lightning than be in a mass shooting. Is it reasonable to fear gun violence in this context? The article closes by accusing “the people handling these guns” of being responsible for mass shootings. Is it reasonable to hold responsible the millions of gun owners in America for the actions of a heinous few, who also do comparatively little violence?