Gun Violence in the United States

Michael E. Kirkpatrick ·

I’m not the most well versed person on gun violence in the United States. And I’m certainly not the person with the policy expertise to suggest a policy solution. But what I learn troubles me and I want to recognize that there is a problem and that change of some kind must occur to reduce the number deaths in our country from guns.

Mass Shootings

As defined by the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is defined as “FOUR or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” Based on their definition, there were 1,002 mass shootings in 1,260 days (January 1, 2013 to June 14, 2016). The Guardian turned this data into an infographic. At the time of publication (morning of June 14th) the two shootings that would occur that day had not yet been reported; hence the difference between their title (1,000 mass shootings in 1,260 days) and reality (1,002 mass shootings in 1,260 days). Source: Gun Violence Archive: Mass Shootings

Mother Jones put together another analysis using the following methodology: “Our research has focused on seemingly indiscriminate rampages in public places resulting in four or more victims killed. We exclude shootings stemming from more conventional crimes such as armed robbery or gang violence.” Based on their analysis of shootings going back to 1982, there have been 81 mass shootings in the intervening 34 years. Comparing their reporting to the Gun Violence Archive, Mother Jones counts 18 mass shootings in the same period: January 1, 2013 to June 14, 2016. Source Mother Jones: US Mass Shootings

Gun Violence

The New York Times reported on Chicago’s violent Memorial Day weekend where 69 people were shot; six of them died. Interestingly the New York Times missed five non-fatal shooting victims in reporting their story. The Chicago Tribune has a account of all 69. That’s 0.0025% of the Chicago population that were shot, or one out of every 40,000 people (total population, 2.722 million) in a single weekend.

Some key facts reported by The Guardian in America’s gun problem is so much bigger than mass shootings:

  • The firearm death rate has hovered at about 10.4 per 100,000 since 1999, according to the CDC.
  • In absolute terms, around 33,500 lives are lost each year. That’s roughly one every 15 minutes — about the same number of people as are killed on America’s roads.
  • About 4% of deaths are categorized by the CDC as being ‘unintentional’, the result of ‘legal intervention’ (i.e. police acting in the line of duty), or of undetermined causes.
  • Almost two-thirds of deaths — a proportion that has risen since 1999 — are suicides.
  • The rest — about 11,000 a year — are homicides.
  • African Americans, who represent 13% of the total population, make up more than half of overall gun murder victims. Roughly 15 of the 30 Americans murdered with guns each day are black men.
  • A tunnel focus on mass shootings has also fueled the public perception that mental illness is driving gun violence. But experts caution that even miraculously curing all schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression in American might only lead to a 4% reduction in overall violence.

Gun Legislation

On Monday, the Senate voted no on four gun control proposals:

  1. Tighten up our background check system (Republican amendment)
  2. Expand background checks (Democratic amendment)
  3. Prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns (Republican version)
  4. Prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns (Democratic version)

Today, the House is having a sit-in to force gun-control votes.