Guns were invented for killing, and yet they are barely regulated at all in some states. Human lives should matter more than guns, and the science of gun control shows that it works in stemming gun violence. We are literally the only ‘developed’ country in the world who has this problem.
This is a complex issue, but I do believe we can approach this in a safe and comprehensive way. One way to start is to regulate guns as heavily as we do cars. Cars were invented for transportation, but we recognized that they can be lethal if used wrongly. Same approach should be done for an instrument invented for killing. I will cover the action plan on how to do this as well as how to change our culture of gun violence after I discuss the root of the issue and a bit of history.
Arming more people with guns does not bring down the mass shootings. Gun sales have increased in the past decade, and the mass shootings have also increased. (See the science in the articles linked at the end of this discussion for the analysis on these statements.) The correlation here is high, especially when placed in the larger context of the entire world. Gun deaths in other countries declined when gun control regulations were implemented, which also gives credence to the high correlation of more gun sales and easy to obtain guns increases the likelihood of mass shootings.What else plays a role in American mass shootings?
Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths.The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms.
So what is the true culprit?
Most shooters are white cisgender men, and most have histories of violence, such as psychological or verbal abuse and death threats, sexual assault, domestic violence and/or homicides.
Another factor is the how these men were socialized within American society. There is a toxic ideology that the best way to be a man is to be dominant and aggressive. Couple this with the real issues of white supremacy and patriarchal culture, and the end result is mass shooters with history of violence, who are emboldened, and many with ties to white nationalist groups. Add in the easy access to guns, and this creates a deadly combination of factors that play significant roles in the horrifying amount of mass shootings in America.
One way to deal with the easy access to guns involves a hard look at the 2nd Amendment itself. This route requires two quick definitions and a look at past Court cases.
There are two approaches to the 2nd Amendment. One is the collective right and the second is the individual right. The 2nd Amendment directly states that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” That’s the national guard and/or our large military — in this view it’s a collective right of the state to bear arms in order to protect the state. In the collective view, the “well-regulated militia” is the defining factor for interpreting how to apply the 2nd Amendment. Thus, in the collective view, the right is not in individual gun owners bearing arms, but in the state’s ability to have a “well-regulated milita” that is able to “bear arms” for the protection of the state.
In an individual right approach, the focus is not on the words “well-regulated militia” but instead on the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” This approach either ignores the “well-regulated militia” wording or states that the individual citizen’s right to bear arms is in addition to the “well-regulated militia.”
Although individual approach to 2nd Amendment may have existed in isolated cases throughout American history, it wasn’t the precedent in America. As described by Cornell Law:
“In 1939 the U.S. Supreme Court considered the matter in United States v. Miller. 307 U.S. 174. The Court adopted a collective rights approach in this case, determining that Congress could regulate a sawed-off shotgun that had moved in interstate commerce under the National Firearms Act of 1934 because the evidence did not suggest that the shotgun “has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated milita . . . .” The Court then explained that the Framers included the Second Amendment to ensure the effectiveness of the military.
This precedent stood for nearly 70 years when in 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court revisited the issue in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290).”
That case in 1939 wasn’t the only time the US had adopted a collective rights approach, but it was part of the precedent for such cases, and it stood for nearly 70 years until it was challenged in 2008.
As much as I would love to revisit the purpose of the 2nd Amendment, I also realize that in such a polarized society the push to reevaluate the 2nd Amendment or push it back toward the precedent of the collective approach may be too radical for us to safely consider in our current state. It also doesn’t even begin to touch on the other factors that radicalize young white men toward horrifying violence.
Instead, I will focus on ways to regulate guns for the safety of the American public, but still allow for some people to keep specific types of firearms. As this is a complex topic, we need a multi-pronged approach in order to hit the roots of the issue.
Action 1: Remove the Dickey Amendment and allow the CDC and other agencies to research gun violence. The NRA stifling research is making this issue worse, and it is putting guns as more important than human lives. That’s an issue of morality, and it’s a disturbing approach.
Action 2: Implement gun permit laws and required by law training courses on how to safely store, lock up, and use a gun. All states should be consistent.
Action 3: Demilitarize the police. They do not need assault weapons, tanks, and other army equipment.
- Equip them with heavy training in de-escalation tactics and nonlethal ways of detainment and dealing with stressful or dangerous situations.
- Seriously look into the ideas for community-led systems that could replace the problems with current policing that Black Lives Matter and other marginalized groups have developed. Because if we are to implement gun control measures, we need those in power to not hold all the weaponry, especially considering the high rates of police brutality we have to deal with in many marginalized communities.
Action 4: Add a regulation that anyone with a history of domestic violence, assault (sexual assault as well as physical), and murder/homicide should not be allowed guns. Most states don’t have that law on the books, and statistics show those with a history of violence are more likely to kill with guns far more than any other demographic.
Action 5: Ban (and/or heavily restrict) assault weapons, especially automatic or semi-automatic firearms. Not even police need these.
Action 6: Build better support systems for all people.
- Safe educational environments — this means get guns and police out of schools. The ACLU report below shows the harm that police have done in schools with high populations of people of color.
- Boost and fund programs to teach respect and enthusiastic consent, boundary-making, and empathy for one another starting at a very young age and continue such programs all the way through college.
- De-colonize education, and build a more diversified curriculum that digs deep into the sins of America as well as the things we did well. We need to acknowledge our genocides and history of violence if we are to heal, engage in reparations, and move forward as a nation.
- Free/affordable mental and physical health services for all people.
- Community-led programs to provide equal access to all resources (especially food, shelter, clean water, sustainable energy sources, transportation, and Internet).
Action 7: Teach healthy masculinity, which in turn will help us dismantle white supremacy that still clings to American institutions. Toxic masculinity socializes men into thinking that ‘to be a man’ they must not show emotion; they must be aggressive; they must be rugged and individualists; they must be dominant; they must be sex-driven. These taken together create a culture that celebrates violent tendencies, entitlement, and anger. We need to acknowledge the toxic masculine behaviors our society teaches to men, which leads many toward violent and/or harmful behaviors.
- What is healthy masculinity? It is the idea that men are diverse and should not be forced into one role of existing as a man. It means healthy emotional responses to situations — where emotions are not ignored or suppressed but allowed and taught to manage in healthier ways. Where men are taught that respect, vulnerability, and enthusiastic consent are important and essential to relationship building. That honoring and instituting safe and healthy boundaries is essential. That it is okay to have feminine traits as well as masculine. That diversity is celebrated rather than scorned. One of the stars of Jane, the Virgin has a good Ted Talk on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cetg4gu0oQQ
That’s my proposal. Personally, I think we should just do what Australia did, but doing that means police and government officials needs to give up their weapons too, where they’d utilize de-escalation tactics and nonlethal methods of detainment. I recognize this is a pretty intensive approach, and there’s room for refinement of action points as well as adding in more comprehensive and evidence-based programs as well. We need to work together on this in order to stop the endless streams of violence. For children’s sake, for our future, for each other.
Here’s the science on the above analysis (there are quite a few studies linked in the following articles):
More guns do not stop more crimes evidence shows: https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/more-guns-do-not-stop…/
More studies on gun violence: https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/gun-science-proves-ar…/
Various laws that stem gun violence according to the data: https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/4-laws-that-could-ste…/
America’s gun problem (includes a lot of links to great studies, and shows comparison models with US versus other countries): https://www.vox.com/…/94…/gun-violence-united-states-america
ACLU White Paper on Police in Schools that have caused more harm than good: https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline/bullies-blue
Students rising up to take a stand on gun control: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/21/florida-school-shooting-town-hall-cnn-students-nra-what-happened
Black Teens fighting for Gun Control for Years: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/black-teens-have-been-fighting-for-gun-reform-for-years/amp?__twitter_impression=true
The inconsistent state of gun laws in the US: https://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/jan/15/gun-laws-united-states
How we compare to other nations: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/worldwide-gun-control-policy/423711/
Gun laws and how they affect gun homicides and/or suicides: https://www.factcheck.org/2015/10/gun-laws-deaths-and-crimes/