The media get lots of readers when there is a mass shooting. And there have been a number of them recently. But they are only a small part of a lot bigger problem. In what follows, this larger problem is set forth and solutions offered. And for the first time, there is reason to believe significant actions will be forthcoming.
In 2017, 437 people died in US mass shootings with 1,803 injured. So far this year, the numbers are 313 killed with 1,250 injured. Table 1 puts these numbers in perspective. Mass shootings amount to less than 3% of all shooting deaths and about 5% of all shooting injuries. That means that on average, there are more than 40 shooting deaths per day. And these numbers do not include gun suicides running at just over 22,000 annually.
Table 1. – Mass Shootings and Other Gun Deaths
Source: Gun Violence Archive
We don’t hear much about individual deaths because they happen so often. I mean, who wants to cover any of the 617 gun deaths that occurred in Chicago last year? But the media did cover these accidental gun deaths:
What to Do About It
It is truly amazing that US governments at all levels allow this carnage to continue. And there is no reason what should be done will infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment’s rights. Consider the following:
As with all other dangerous weapons – like cars, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes – restrictions are needed for guns. Banning guns is not the answer. In addition to being in violation of the Second Amendment, history tells us that in the US, banning anything for which there is a market never works. It simply means that the banned good will be provided by a criminal element – consider what happened when we banned alcohol and what is currently happening with drugs. And consider cigarettes, a well-documented killer but still legal.
What we should do with guns parallels what we do with autos.
In addition to titles, tests and training, we should have a national data base on gun owners (as we do with drivers) on any past legal violations. And finally, we should require liability insurance for all guns as we do for autos.
I think most Americans would view these requirements as quite reasonable. But unfortunately, the National Rifle Association (NRA) does not. The NRA has evolved from being a membership group for hunters to a lobbying group for gun producers. And in this role, it views any restrictions on guns as an attack on the Second Amendment. And the NRA has been extremely effective in blocking any changes, despite the ongoing gun deaths and injuries.
However, this all might be changing.
Growing Opposition to the NRA
The New York Times reports that gun control groups outspent the NRA in the midterm election cycle. There are two large groups that are focused on gun control: Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety created by Michael Bloomberg four years ago. Together, they spent more than $37 million at the state and federal level in the midterms, compared with at least $20 million by the N.R.A. While the figures are not yet complete, there is no question the NRA was outspent by these two gin control advocacy groups. And further, a report by the Center for Responsive Politics found that NRA membership dues plummeted last year.
Both the NRA and Everytown said about 80% percent of the candidates they endorsed won. Giffords poured nearly $5 million combined into four contests and won all of them.
The NRA is running a deficit. By the end of 2017, the group spent $26.1 million more than it brought in, expanding its existing deficit from the previous year to $31.8 million. “Their current business model cannot be sustained the way it is going,” said Brian Mittendorf, an accounting professor from Ohio State University. “It can be sustained in the short term, but not the long term. The financial statements would indicate that.” NRA’s membership dues are falling from more than $163 million in 2016 to $128 million in 2017.
For many years, the rest of the developed world has been amazed at shooting deaths in the US. The NRA has been an extremely potent force. But times are changing. Stay tuned. It appears the IRA has met its match.