Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which four or more people are “shot and/or killed” at “the same general time and location.” There have been 307 mass shootings in 2018, which resulted in 502 deaths, including the 12 innocent lives in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday.
To put it into perspective, the U.S. has had nearly as many mass shootings as there have been days in 2018.
In my mind, politics should be a process of prioritizing issues that (truly) present the greatest threat to humans and our civil liberties. (What’s not our greatest threat is a dwindling caravan of Hondurans looking to work and better their lives.)
Unquestionably there exists a pervasive sickness in our country that yields episodic attention but no real attempt at solutions. It’s not an easy problem to fix. There’s the gun factor. There’s a mental health factor. There’s an alienated white male factor.
This epidemic isn’t just costing lives; it’s eroding a sense of freedom in the land of the free. We as a country are increasingly fearful of going to school, of worshiping, of attending a concert, of dancing at a nightclub … of leaving the house.
Here are some facts:
- Of the 30 leading causes of death in the United States, gun violence is the least researched and least funded.
- 99.85 percent of Americans will know a victim of gun violence.
- Nearly 1,300 children in the United States die from gun-related injuries every year.
- About 50 women a month are shot to death by intimate partners in the U.S.
- Gun homicides kill about 13,000 people every year in the United States.
- Universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods are linked to a decrease in suicides.
- Australia enacted gun reform in 1996, and there have been zero mass shootings since.
I see the potential for solutions in #1, #6, and #7. But we need to start with #1. This needs to be a political priority.
First we need to get the NRA out of discussion by fixing campaign financing laws and increasing transparency. The National Rifle Association has handcuffed too many decision-makers, rendering them incapable of representing our best interests. (Note: Taking the NRA out of the discussion is not tantamount to taking away guns.)
Second, we need to recognize gun violence as a public health problem with sufficient Centers for Disease Control funding and research.
Third, we need to demand a special bi-partisan committee (minus those who are funded by the NRA) to review and advise on federal-level actions and reforms.
Regardless of our political affiliations, it’s safe to say we have this common ground. This is a growing problem, and we don’t want to see our children gunned down.
Let’s start there.
Erinn Lynch is vice president of SPARC (Sparking Political Action Response and Change)