The mass shooting in Las Vegas was the largest the country’s ever seen — and once again, gun violence is brought to the forefront of conversation. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the rights listed under the Second Amendment. And it seems there are more and more shootings going on in America every week.
You know the damage mass shootings can cause, but what about other forms of gun violence? First, let’s delve into some facts about firearms in America, and then we’ll take a look at the most popular type of gunfire deaths (page 5).
Guns in America — a uniquely American health crisis?
Though you may not see many guns where you live, NPR notes a new study’s findings suggest the country needs to start considering gun violence a public health crisis. Over 30,000 people in the U.S. die a year from guns. That means more people are killed from firearm-related violence than HIV, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, anemia, and viral hepatitis. And some research even suggests gun violence has the ability to spread like a viral disease.
The research overwhelmingly suggests more funding and studying need to go toward gun violence to stop it.
The current laws regarding gun control are ready for change
You can’t purchase a machine gun at your local gun shop, but there are a few loopholes that need addressing. In the case of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, he converted 12 of his firearms to rifles capable of firing hundreds of bullets at once using “bump stocks.” These are kits that turn semiautomatic weapons into automatic ones, the San Francisco Chronicle explains.
Semiautomatic weapons are legal in Nevada, and anyone who passes the background check can buy an unlimited number of handguns or long guns. There’s some variance from state to state for gun laws, but even so — it seems Paddock, and many others who commit mass shootings, had little trouble obtaining their weaponry.
Background checks help, but they aren’t perfect
Evidence suggests background checks are vital before allowing someone to purchase a firearm. NPR notes one study even found the gun homicide rate decreased by 40% with background checks in place. Here’s the problem, though — many who commit mass shootings obtain their weapons illegally or online.
And when it comes to mental illness, there’s a lot that falls through the cracks. The Virginia Tech shooter had a history of mental illness, for example. But because his records were never submitted to NICS, he had no trouble buying guns.
Guns are a particular problem in domestic violence situations
Mass shootings are a serious concern, but gun violence in the household is actually more prevalent. The Trace says domestic violence assaults are 12 times more likely to end in death if there’s a gun involved. Having a gun present at the time of the assault increases the likelihood of death fivefold.
And here’s what’s worse — there’s no law explicitly saying domestic abusers who are also gun owners have to surrender their existing firearms. They may not be able to buy new ones, but the ones they have, they usually can keep.
The 1 type of gun violence that kills the most: Suicide
This one may surprise you. Everytown for Gun Safety explains 62% of firearm deaths in the U.S. between 2011 and 2015 were suicides.
Harvard Public Health reminds us while the question of “why” is important when it comes to suicide, there’s also the question of “how.” Gun owners are more likely to kill themselves than non-gun owners because of how accessible their weapons are. And, because guns are so lethal, this makes for a lower chance of survival after a suicide attempt.
Banning bump stocks would have no affect on suicide rates
Most agree that the public shouldn’t have access to bump stocks. But in reality, the suicide rate won’t change whether bump stocks are prohibited or not. And HuffPost notes the talk of suicide and gun violence is largely absent from the national conversation about gun control.
Experts suggest families should lock all unloaded firearms away if there’s a suicidal person in the household. And ammunition should also be locked separately. Suicide is often impulsive, so removing access to a gun decreases the risk of death significantly.
Gun violence and the stigma of mental illness
This may shock you, but The Atlantic notes only 4% of violence of any kind is attributable to a mental health disorder. Those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression aren’t typically any more violent than those without these disorders, yet the stigma still stands — especially when gun violence occurs.
So, why is there such a connection between suicide and gun violence, then? Because suicide can be a spur-of-the-moment decision for some, having a gun available greatly decreases their chance of living. And there’s an increased risk of violence if substance abuse or anger issues are involved.