Shoot­ings as Amer­i­can as ap­ple pie

Vol­ume of gun vi­o­lence shows need to ad­dress the prob­lem

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Art Hob­son Art Hob­son is a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of physics at the Univer­sity of Arkansas. Email him at ahob­son@uark.edu.

I’m no ex­pert on gun vi­o­lence, but events have surely shown we’d bet­ter pay at­ten­tion to it. The Las Ve­gas mas­sacre was the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory, but it was only one of many shoot­ings and we need to de­velop some feel­ing for th­ese num­bers. Then, maybe, we’ll be­gin to do some­thing.

Did you know that a sec­ond mass shoot­ing oc­curred in Lawrence, Kan., on the same day as the Las Ve­gas mas­sacre? Google the Oct. 1 head­line “5 peo­ple shot in down­town Lawrence; 3 dead,” to read the full story. Fur­ther­more, in the seven days prior to the mas­sacre, there were nine mass shoot­ings with 41 vic­tims (not count­ing the shoot­ers), of whom seven were killed.

Mass shoot­ings are com­monly de­fined as four vic­tims shot in one in­ci­dent, not in­clud­ing the shooter. Let that def­i­ni­tion, one per­son gun­ning down four or more oth­ers, sink in. Ac­cord­ing to data from gun­vi­o­lencearchive.org, mass shoot­ings oc­cur nine times ev­ery 10 days on aver­age. They’re as Amer­i­can as ap­ple pie.

I suggest read­ing the ac­com­pa­ny­ing list of just Au­gust’s mass shoot­ings slowly and aloud, paus­ing af­ter each en­try: “Au­gust 1st, Chicago, Illi­nois, four.” Per­haps read this in a church group or other gath­er­ing. Such a list cer­tainly de­serves thought­ful rev­er­ence.

Th­ese are our fel­low Amer­i­cans, from ci­ties like Mem­phis and Phil­a­del­phia and small towns like Mays Land­ing, N.J., and Danville, Ill. Be­hind each vic­tim, there is a story of a fam­ily and a loved one. It’s easy to look up the de­tails of each by go­ing to gun­vi­o­lence.org. The en­try la­beled “Mass Shoot­ings” lists all 282 such in­ci­dents in 2017. You can learn the names and ages of the vic­tims and the shooter, where in town the shoot­ing oc­curred, the na­ture of the in­ci­dent, what kinds of guns were in­volved, and sources of in­for­ma­tion about the in­ci­dent.

Dur­ing the 1,735 days of the years 2013 to 2017 up through Oct. 1, there were 1,516 mass shoot­ings, av­er­ag­ing nine of them ev­ery 10 days.

Mass shoot­ings are just a frac­tion of our gun-re­lated may­hem. In 2017 to Oct. 16, Amer­ica has had 48,857 in­ci­dents of gun vi­o­lence or gun crime, 12,215 gun deaths (about twice as many Amer­i­cans as have been killed so far fight­ing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), 24,877 gun in­juries, 567 chil­dren (ages 0-11) and 2,549 teens (ages 12-17) killed or in­jured by guns, and 282 mass shoot­ings.

In all th­ese cat­e­gories, Amer­ica is far out in front of all other ad­vanced na­tions. For ex­am­ple, Wikipedia lists the an­nual num­ber of gun homi­cides per mil­lion pop­u­la­tion among the 35 democ­ra­cies of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment. The most re­cent num­bers show 17 na­tions in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Poland, Aus­tria, Hun­gary and Spain, at less than two such deaths per mil­lion; then 11 na­tions in­clud­ing France, Ire­land, Italy and Canada at be­tween two and four deaths per mil­lion; then Por­tu­gal and Greece be­tween four and six deaths per mil­lion; then Chile, Turkey and Is­rael all at about 10 deaths per mil­lion; then fi­nally, the USA at 36 and Mex­ico at 64.

Amer­i­cans own 265 mil­lion guns, nearly one for ev­ery adult, which surely sounds like a lot. How­ever, 61 per­cent of house­holds own no guns while just 3 per­cent of adults own half of all guns. This highly armed mi­nor­ity own an aver­age of 17 guns per per­son. Stephen Pad­dock, the Las Ve­gas shooter, had 23 guns in his ho­tel room.

Amer­i­cans need to dis­cuss what to do about gun vi­o­lence.

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