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Focus on mass shootings ignores main sources of gun violence

The way Americans talk about gun violence needs to change. Discussions die down a week or two after mass shootings occur.

News of the shooting in Kansas City, Miss. on Oct. 6, 2019 stormed social media for a couple days, but after a week, the usual discourse about gun rights and mass shootings died down. Four people died and five were wounded, yet most of the nation moved on after the initial shock factor faded away.

However, the Kansas City shooting paints a different picture than most of the recent mass shootings in America. This shooting did not take place in a school, nor was it racially charged. The story is about two men who got into a fight at a bar and started shooting.

The entire dialogue surrounding American mass shootings is wrong. According to the World Population Review, the U.S. is actually ranked 66 in the world for mass shootings per capita. The media often portrays that the U.S. has a mass shooting problem, but mass shootings only make up a sliver of the larger gun violence issue in this country.

According to Nurith Aizenman and Marc Silver of National Public Radio (NPR), the U.S. has the 28th-highest rate of deaths related to gun violence in the world, worse than Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. Considering suicide and general homicides, the U.S. has a serious gun violence issue, not so much a mass shootings issue.

Although mass shootings are tragic, the broader focus of anti-gun activism has to be suicide and homicide prevention. Assault weapons should be banned, but that legislation would have no effect on other gun-related deaths.

Three-quarters of homicides in the U.S. involve a gun, and half of suicides do as well, according to the Pew Research Center. Suicide accounts for about two-thirds of all gun-related deaths.

Stronger background checks on all guns are the only way to keep the amount of gun-related deaths down. The focus on extremely violent weapons, such as assault rifles, keeps the National Rifle Association (NRA) in business for the more common and publicly-deemed “safe” guns.

For example, handguns can be used for suicide or homicide, but no anti-gun activism includes banning or restricting handgun sales because they are not considered as dangerous as assault weapons.

Mass shootings are a problem and should be addressed, but to disregard suicides and homicides is a complete disservice to the tens of thousands who die from guns.

The fact that the conversation about guns avoids suicides and homicides shows that activists only pay attention to the flashy news stories on social media instead of focusing on how most gun-related deaths happen.

Between January and September 2019, 21 deadly mass shootings occurred with only 124 people dying, according to Meghan Keneally of ABC News. On the other hand, in 2018, the New York Times reported that over 30,000 people were killed due to all types of gun violence. Comparing that significantly larger number, we can see tens of thousands die every year due to other gun-related violence, yet 124 deaths have been leading the country’s dialogue on gun legislation.

Instead, the nation must change its discussion on gun issues. Mass shootings are a problem and should be addressed, but to disregard suicides and homicides is a complete disservice to the tens of thousands who die from guns.

Not all mass shootings are school shootings or hate crimes. Mass shootings only account for a tiny amount of all gun-related deaths. Most gun-related deaths are suicides. We can not let shock value dictate our activism anymore: we must address gun violence.

larion1@stolaf.edu

Karen Larionova ’23 is from Eden Prairie, Minn. Her major is undecided.