Reno Gazette Journal August 18, 2019
Last week, in El Paso, Texas, a lone gunman killed 22 and injured 24 innocent people who were out shopping on a Saturday morning at Walmart. Less than 15 hours after the El Paso shooting, another gunman in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people in 32 seconds including his own sister before brave law enforcement officials brought him down. Each and every one of those victim’s families deserve our heartfelt condolences. What those families are going through with these senseless acts of violence is unfathomable.
Following these two mass shootings, the nation has been engaged in a discussion on gun violence. Before we evaluate the solutions proposed, let’s look at the statistics of gun violence. For the year 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly 40,000 firearm related deaths were recorded in the U.S. Out of those deaths, over 24,000, or 60%, were either suicides or unintentional deaths. The FBI statistics show a total of around 11,000 murders where a firearm was the weapon. Of the 11,000 firearm related homicides, over 7000, or 64%, were by handguns. A mere 403 homicides, or four percent, were using rifles, with the rest coming from shotguns and “firearm unknown”.
Let’s take it one step further. According to the FBI, in 2017, 1591 homicides were committed using knives and cutting instruments. Compare that to the 403 by “assault rifles”. Yet, we haven’t heard calls for banning knives. Wonder why? The answer is simple. The benefits of banning something has to be weighed against the cost of banning it. Clearly, if you ban knives, the costs outweigh the benefits. The same holds for banning firearms. Remember when that illegal immigrant killed four people in our neighborhood? Northern Nevada was on edge and every moving tree limb and shadow made us fear for our lives. Have you ever had your home broken into? You hate coming home because you fear someone is lying in wait for you. During such times, the only defense you have is a gun, which gives you a fighting chance to defend yourself and your family. Think of that farmer who lives in the middle of Montana. If he were attacked, his screams would be heard by no one and his body would not be discovered for days. Even if he were to call for help, a police station is tens, if not hundreds of miles away. The only chance he has is with his firearm. If you think through some of these scenarios, you will realize that the costs of banning firearms far exceeds the benefits.
One final point: Guns have always been legal and readily available in America. Yet, mass shootings with alarming frequency have only happened in the last few decades. What has changed? We have 24-hour cable news which cover mass shootings endlessly. We live in the age of social media where we interact less and less with other human beings and people have become de-sensitized to the suffering of others. Nearly a quarter of millennials say they have no friends. When you have no human interaction, you have no concept of human suffering. Video games and Hollywood movies where people shoot each other indiscriminately have also added to this de-sensitization. We need to address the real issue, which is the lack of empathy to other human beings. Let’s stop using mass murders as fundraising opportunities and try to find real solutions to stop these senseless killings.