How Many More Must Die?

BCK FILE--Just one month after the bloody weekend when a gunman killed 22 victims at an El Paso Walmart and another nine people were killed by a gunman in Dayton, Ohio, yet another mass shooting left another 7 people dead and 22 injured.

A 17-month old girl, shot in the face, was left with a hole through her bottom lip and tongue, as well as shrapnel in her right chest. (Photo above: 17-month child hit by shrapnel in Odessa mass shooting.) 

Three mass shootings in a month. In 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the United States has had 37,690 incidents of gun violence and just under 10,000 deaths -- and it’s only the early days of September. 

  • 19,980 injuries from gun violence
  • 456 children (0-11) killed or injured
  • 2,065 teens (11-17) killed or injured
  • 283 mass shootings
  • 208 incidents involving police officers shot or killed
  • 1,093 unintentional shootings

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 100 Americans are killed every day by guns. Everytown acknowledges “significant data gaps remain--a result of underfunded, incomplete data collection at the state and federal level.” 

To put this into perspective, U.S. gun deaths as of August 31, 2019 for the year are over double the casualties in the Iraq War.  

The Pew Research Institute looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the FBI, and other sources to answer some questions about gun violence in the United States, based on most recent data from 2016-2017. 

Three-quarters of US murders in 2017 (14,542 of 19,510) involved a gun, as well as over half of the suicides that year (23,854 of 47,173). 

The United States gun death rate is higher than most other nations, in particular, industrialized nations. 

Per 2016 statistics per 100,000 people:

United States: 10.6 

Canada: 2.1

Australia: 1.0

France: 2.7

Germany: 0.9

Spain: 0.6 

Why does the United States have over ten times the gun casualty rate of Australia and almost five times the rate of Canada? 

Certainly, the answers are complex, but one variable is restrictions to gun ownership and the types of guns private citizens can purchase. The variables across states mirror this. 

Per a Gifford’s Law Center analysis of gun violence state by state, fewer people on average die of gun violence in states with strong gun laws. Conversely, states with the most lax gun laws have higher gun violence. 

Alaska, which has the weakest gun laws, also has the highest gun death rate--nearly 25 people per 100,000. Hawaii, which has some of the strongest gun laws in the U.S., has the lowest gun death rates--2 per every 100,000.  

Just hours after the most recent Texas mass shooting, laws further weakening Texas gun laws have gone into effect. The state legislature passed these laws during the 2019 session, which ended in June. Texas was the location of 4 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. 

Changes include: 

Weapons on school grounds: A school district cannot prohibit licensed gun owners, including school employees, from storing a firearm or ammunition in a locked vehicle on a school parking lot, provided they are not in plain view. (House Bill 1143) 

Marshals at schools: House Bill 1387 removes restrictions on how many armed school marshals can be appointed by a district. 

Guns in foster homes: House Bill 2363 permits some foster homes to store firearms and ammunition in a safe, secure place.  

Weapons in apartments: House Bill 302 bans homeowners and landlords from prohibiting residents from lawful possession, carrying, transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition on the property.

Handguns during a disaster: House Bill 1177 prohibits residents from being charged with a crime for carrying a handgun during evacuation from a state or local disaster area. 

Firearms in places of worship: Senate Bill 535 allows licensed handgun owners to legally carry weapons in churches, synagogues, and other houses of worship.  

Each time, we read about mass shootings and gun violence, there’s an echo chamber of calls for sensible gun legislation vs. “thoughts and prayers.”  Gun violence and mass shootings have been blamed on everything from video games, single parents, lack of prayer in school, as well as the long-gone days of corporal punishment at home and in schools. The latest blame tactic has been “mental health” and “devious intent.” If only there were more good guys with guns. 

NRA influence aside, guns and violence are deeply embedded in this country’s Wild West Cowboy culture and history. Gun ownership is a rite of passage in some areas. Certainly, a small percentage of gun owners’ resort to violence. But there’s a notion that one’s personal liberty should supersede the common good, as well as the right of others to life, liberty, and happiness.  

Any restriction on firearms is seen as an assault on the personal freedoms of gun activists. The close to 10,000 Americans who have died from gun violence since New Years are collateral damage, including the 17-month old injured in Odessa and the couple who died in the El Paso mass shooting trying to protect their surviving daughter.  

Until we weaken the hold of the NRA on our government and gun advocates can appreciate that gun restrictions are necessary for the common good, there’s little hope anything will change until the next shooting.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a professional writer living in the Los Angeles area. She covers Resistance Watch and other major issues for CityWatch.)