After every mass shooting in America, and depending tragically on how many are killed, our nation erupts in a polarizing debate about how the shooting could have been avoided. The NRA sees it as an opportunity to further their agenda of selling more guns to more people in more places.
Gun-violence prevention groups point to a country with a flawed background-check system and a love affair with the "assault rifle," which for ten years (1994-2004) in our country was banned.
The NRA's message is consistent: more guns in the hands of more people will discourage and potentially stop these attacks. The gun-violence prevention groups consistently disagree.
Who's correct, and what are the facts?
Here are three arguments the gun lobbies traditionally make after a mass-shooting, with the counter-arguments following them. President Trump's Twitter stream made versions of these arguments today. You will hear them from our NRA-sponsored lawmakers in Congress, as well as in their counterparts in our state legislatures.
- More guns in more places will discourage these mass shootings. More research is needed (and the NRA has done everything in their power to frustrate that research), but the numbers we do have show, in fact, that mass shooters ignore the possibility of facing an armed civilian. Once a person has decided to commit such a violent act, these kinds of logical considerations fall to the wayside.
- The counter-argument: In fact, more guns not only fail to prevent these shootings, they increase the amount of gun violence in the community at large. More guns, more gun violence. Details here.
- Gun-free zones will always invite mass shooters. Another version of the previous argument. You will hear our legislators use the standard NRA rhetoric: they will speak of "crazy killers," "sicko shooters"—our President's phrase—and "soft targets." But in fact, it has been shown that school-shooters, specifically, do not choose their targets based on whether or not they are gun-free zones. Other considerations are far more important to them.
- The counter-argument: In fact, these school shooters often return to schools where they experienced emotional trauma and never consider whether it has been designated a "gun-free zone" or not. Details here.
- The increase in mass-shootings in America is due to violent video games, a decrease in family structures, a general breakdown in American society, or mental illness. The idea here is to take the focus away from the guns, to stop us from looking at our flawed background-check system and the proliferation of assault rifles, and to insure that our gun manufacturers keep their bottom lines healthy.
- The counter-argument: The reason for the increase in our mass-shootings is embarrassingly simple. Among developed nations, America offers the easiest access to lethal weapons, such as an assault rifle, of any country in the world. And if the NRA has its way, that access will become easier and easier. Details here.
The NRA has spent decades perfecting their propaganda regarding gun-violence in America. It is bold, loud, and often false. Now, if we want to insure the safety of our students and citizens, we must begin to gather the information that will allow us to construct our own responses, based on facts and an insistence on public safety. Many groups are already doing this, and have been doing so for a long time. We are making progress, and with your help, we will continue to do so.
For an introduction to gun-violence prevention, and a list of those organizations that are doing such good work, see my piece, "Getting Started with Gun-Violence Prevention."