a reasonable, factual conversation on gun violence

Suffice it to say we’re not good at all conversations. In fact, it continues to amaze me how frequently I hear the refrain from otherwise, fairly intelligent people that they are actually unwilling to engage in dialogue. Their tune goes something like this: “I know how I feel. It’s what I believe. And nothing you can do or say will change how I think!” (Insert %^&#$!! at said refrain’s exclamatory end.) And just like that, hopes for higher ed are grossly halted.

One of the collective harder conversations is the question of gun control, gun violence, or gun homicide. Our tendency is typically to remain quiet until there’s a mass killing, and then pending the demographics of the shooter and/or victims dictating who/what we focus on and who we feel free to condemn, the situation simultaneously prompts the politicians’ blame game and social media’s plethora of memes pleading basically to “do something.” This may be going out on a bit of a fictitious limb here, but it would seem exceedingly challenging to find any effective solution when blame and memes are our primary communication tools.

What I’d like to do today is wrestle a bit with what’s true, what’s not, not with any sense of advocacy or opposition, but more to help us communicate better when we have these conversations. What are the issues? What’s true? What’s not? Where are both parties actually playing games with us? 

Let me forewarn you now; there won’t be any nice neat, metaphorical bow at the end of this post. I am simply making observations the blame and memes tend to omit. Not everything fits with their desired narratives. Hence…

  • Mass shootings are defined differently. The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group (which supplies much of today’s statistics), defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter. The FBI, on the other hand, has not set a minimum number of casualties to qualify an event as a mass shooting, and defines a mass shooting — also called an “active shooter incident” — as an event in which one or more individuals are “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area. Implicit in this definition is the shooter’s use of a firearm.”
  • The estimated number of firearm deaths, excluding suicides, in 2022 was 20,138. When suicides are included, that number more than doubles, as nearly 6 out of every 10 gun deaths are suicides. Suicides are increasing in 2023. The increase in firearm suicide among black teenagers has increased 120% over the last decade.
  • Thus far in 2023, at time of this writing, there have been 12,147 gun deaths. Homicide or unintentional use equates to 5,217 of those deaths. The majority of these deaths have occurred in Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois and Louisiana.
  • Mass shootings account for only a small fraction of these deaths, with 209 thus far in this calendar year. Such equates to 1.7%.
  • According to Britannica’s mass shooting statistics from 2022, a handgun was the weapon of choice in 57% of the incidents. A semi-automatic rifle was used in 32% of the shootings.
  • In regard to where the mass shootings took place, the two most frequent locations where in in the workplace (42%) and then in a school (17%).
  • Gun homicides are concentrated in cities—half of all gun homicides took place in just 127 cities.
  • Cities with the most homicides in 2023 are: (1) St. Louis, MO, (2) Baltimore, MD, (3) New Orleans, LA, (4) Detroit, MI, (5) Cleveland, OH, (6) Las Vegas, NV, (7) Kansas City, MO, (8) Memphis, TN, (9) Newark, NJ, and (10) Chicago, IL.
  • According to Pew Research Center, “Americans in rural areas typically favor more expansive gun access, while Americans in urban places prefer more restrictive policies.”
  • There is broad partisan agreement on preventing those with mental illness to purchase guns and also for subjecting private gun sales and gun show sales to background checks. Majorities in both parties also oppose allowing people to carry concealed firearms without a permit. On other gun control efforts, both parties have also blocked reasonable-to-at-least-consider, publicly popular measures that were proposed by the other side, possibly (and this next phrase is clearly opinion) simply because it did not fit their party’s prioritized narrative.

Just wanting to understand what’s happening and what’s not. I also don’t want to be lured by any partisan hyperbole or hypocrisy. The blame and the memes don’t help.