By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN
Reducing gun deaths requires more than just an assault rifle ban Private citizens own between five million and 30 million assault rifles, with Floridians comprising the second highest number after Texas. But, overall, Americans own between 300 million and 400 million guns of all kinds. A survey by Harvard and Northeastern universities, cited by the Guardian, found that three percent of the population own half of those guns, ranging between eight and 140 guns each for an average of 17.
And the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was the 16th mass shooting in 12 states since June 18, 2015, killing a total of 344 people and wounding hundreds of others. Yet Congress, which allowed a 1994 ban to lapse, has refused to outlaw the so-called long guns or “modern sporting rifles,” as the National Rifle Association (NRA) has rebranded them.
Australia took a different approach in 1996 after a man armed with an assault rifle killed 35 people and wounded 19 others, banning such weapons and requiring current owners to sell them to the government – all 600,000 of them.
The Australian model will not be replicated in the U.S. and some experts doubt anyhow that a ban will curb assault gun deaths, mostly because they account for just one to two percent of firearms fatalities, with 80 percent due to handguns.
If there is to be any meaningful gun control here, do not look at Florida. Republicans, who control the entire state government and in the pockets of the NRA, have refused to pass any such laws, even after the June 12, 2016, attack on the Pulse nightclub in Tampa that killed 49 people and wounded 58 others.
That is not surprising because Florida’s only gun control laws are a ban on armor-piercing bullets and a waiting period to buy guns. There are no assault weapon restrictions, no ban on large-capacity bullet magazines or silencers, no gun registration or expanded background checks and gun dealers are not required to be licensed.
Instead, look for feel-good measures as a palliative to the grieving families and friends of the high school victims.
Gun-rights advocates tend to focus, rather, on mental illness, including President Donald Trump, who did not even mention guns in his reaction to the shooting. But a Guardian report said that even if mental illness is somehow cured, it would lead to only a four-percent drop in gun fatalities.
Some analysts believe, instead, that the solution lies in addressing the root causes of gun violence. Leah Libresco, in a Washington Post column on Oct. 3, said based on a study by she and her colleagues “it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-control restriction could make a difference.” She reported that:
* Two-thirds of firearms deaths are due to suicide.
* One in five of the deaths are of men aged 15 to 34 who were probably shot by other males.
* Around 1,700 women are fatally shot, probably through domestic violence.
The response should be “narrowly tailored interventions” focusing on the circumstances of each group, she said.
Lois Beckett of the Guardian cited figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that around 33,500 people are killed with guns annually, or about one every 15 minutes. She too found that suicides account for a majority of those deaths, followed by murder, about 11,000. Mass shootings involving three or more victims placed at the bottom of the list.
A months-long Guardian analysis of Gun Violence Archive data found that “the toll of gun violence in America is dramatically concentrated.”
“Nationwide, neighborhoods that contained just 1.5 percent of America’s population saw 26 percent of the nation’s total gun homicides,” Beckett reported. “This intense and predictable concentration of gun violence points the way to new solutions – local strategies whose success could have a dramatic impact on America’s overall toll of violence.” She cites as examples the Boston Ceasefire and the Cure Violence initiatives.
But Beckett also found that the suggestions coming out of such analysis “simply hasn’t translated into widespread success in making neighborhoods safe.” She cited the case of St Louis, which has some of “the nation’s deadliest blocks” and where the most violence was “forged out of racially exclusionary housing policies and on the receiving end of systematic disinvestment in favor of whiter, more-affluent city regions.”
The issue of race is inevitably intertwined in the debate. In a 2016 national survey of 600 African-Americans, the majority believed that “most people in America don’t care about the gun violence that is affecting communities of color,” Beckett said.
Writing this time in The Washington Post on Sept. 12, 2014, Beckett reported that between 5,000 and 6,000 African-American men are killed with guns, though Black males are only six percent of the population. Of the 30 or so people killed each day by guns, one in two is a Black man.
The current uproar over assault weapons should therefore be expanded to include strategies that take such statistics into account – as well as the culture of violence, of which the gun culture is a prominent part.