February 21, 2018

If My Daughter Dies in a Mass Shooting: Her Extended Family is Culpable

Here we are two months into 2018 and we've already experienced our 18th school shooting. That brings the total number of mass shootings in 2018 to 30. In terms of frequency of violent gun deaths, we track a lot closer to Iraq than we do to our culturally similar cousins in the UK. This makes us 31st, out of 195 countries, on the list of gun violence worldwide. That isn't surprising given that 6,575 gun related incidences have occurred thus far in this country.

I'm angry that gun violence is somehow still a thing in this country. I'm frustrated at our ineptitude to mitigate this problem as we would any other. This is primarily due to our cultural indoctrination and political maneuvering. You'll hear politicians of one party and one party alone saying something akin to, "it's too soon to talk about gun legislation" or "we shouldn't politicize guns". It wasn't too soon to start talking about treating opioids when it turned out thousands of people were dying each year from exposure (though we seem to be fairly stagnant on that front too). We talked about water quality after Flint, MI, we talked about vaccines after Zika and Ebola outbreaks, and we're talking about infrastructure because roads and bridges are crumbling. Takata airbags cause deaths and we talked about (and implemented) a recall. Hell, things don't even have to be real for people to talk about them such as "voter fraud" and "immigrant criminals". So it seems an unwillingness to talk or do anything about guns is a mix of willful ignorance, cognitive dissonance and party affiliation.
I cannot fathom how gun violence still runs so rampant in this country. The statistics are overwhelmingly in favor of passing gun restrictions of any degree. More guns in a given area results in more gun-related deaths. That trend holds up both nationally (additional source) and globally. More guns in an area means a higher rate of police deaths by firearms. Roughly 1,300 children die a year from gun violence and hundreds are due to unintentional discharges in their own homes. Mass shootings predominantly take place in public areas (not gun free zones) and are more frequently halted by unarmed civilians than armed civilians (21 incidences vs 5 incidence) according to the FBI.

So let's take it down even further, line by line. Background checks do, in fact work (here, here and here). These acts are not committed predominantly by the mentally ill (herehere and here). More armed citizens does not equal less crime (here and here). Gun buyback programs do work (here and here). Mass shootings account for a very small percent of gun violence.  The government is not coming for your guns (here). Arming yourself does not make you or your family safer (here, here, here, here, here, and here). Arming yourself increases the probability of you acting aggressively and possibly using your firearm in an aggressive manner (here, here, here, here, here, and here). Women are far more likely to be shot and killed in this country relative to other industrialized nations (here) oftentimes by intimate partners (here). Arming a domestic abuser also increases the likelihood other loved ones and innocent bystanders will also be shot. In fact, domestic abusers are the predominant actors in mass shootings.

We don't even need these detailed studies to make a qualitative assessment. When we compare ourselves to other Western democracies (meaning predominantly white, predominantly Christian) we see that our rates of gun violence are substantially higher. Australia had a mass shooting 1996 so the government enacted a gun buyback program. Mass shootings are virtually nonexistent and overall gun violence decreased. Britain had a mass shooting in 1987 and enacted stricter gun ownership laws and gun violence has been dropping ever since. The U.S. does not have a monopoly on violent crime or the mentally unstable. What we do seem to have a monopoly on is guns (~5% of world population with ~50% of civilian owned guns). The sheer volume of guns and the ease of their access is the only significant deviation we have from our cousins across the pond that accounts for our firearm epidemic.

All that was a bit non sequitur to my actual thesis: If gun violence strikes my daughter, her extended family is culpable. That may seem harsh but that does not make it untrue. We live in Arkansas and her extended family reside both here and in Texas. So when her family acts irresponsible at the ballot box, they put her in danger. An uninformed vote can be as deadly as a bullet and here's how:

Voting for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush put Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court. Those 5 Justices were the majority in handing down the District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which drastically expanded gun rights for the civilian population. Votes to send John Boozman (AR) to the US House of Representatives along with whatever Republican was on the ballot for Texas yielded a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress that failed to extend the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004. In turn AR-15's have become a mainstay in mass shootings. A vote for whatever default Republican on the ballot for Texas Governor or Congress resulted in the state becoming open carryallowing guns on college campuses and significantly broadening civilian use of deadly force situations. A vote for Bart Hester in the Senate and Robin Lundstrum in the House of the Arkansas General Assembly allowed a bill to expand permissible concealed carry locations to land on the Governor's desk. A vote for Asa Hutchinson as Governor got that bill signed into law. Furthermore a vote for Asa Hutchinson has now caused Arkansas to become a de facto open carry state (based on the Governor's broad interpretation of a 2013 law). The federal level isn't any better as a vote for Republican Senators led to the defeat of universal background check and no-fly no buy bills following the Pulse nightclub shooting.

This is so damn ridiculous. It's that simple. More guns is not the answer. "Good guys" with guns are not the answer (here, herehere and here). It is not anecdotal or hyperbole; it is empirical. So if you want to do something, then be more sensible when you vote because voting has consequences. In this case, those consequences can end lives. Get it together before someone you love ends up on a victims list.

Here are better written summaries of the facts (here, here, here and here).


  1. I was back in ARK this weekend visiting family and the number of conversations we had about guns (during which I was greatly outnumbered) actually makes me kind of nauseous. I cannot understand how people are valuing what they see as their "right" to bear arms over the lives of other HUMANS.

  2. AMEN. If I felt that my gun-loving, "good guys with guns"-spouting family would digest and gain anything from this post, I would absolutely force them to read it. Unfortunately, it seems that people believe what they want to believe about guns. And our children will have to live in fear because of it.


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