On Mass Killings: It is Time to Change the Debate On What “Needs to be Done”

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By Keith Murray, Professor of Marketing

Whenever there is a mass shooting the mass media goes wild. Indignation about regulatory, political, and the public’s indifference to a sweeping gun ban “solution” is loud and clear. It is argued as patently obvious to an enlightened few that America is in deep denial that “something needs to be done” to stop the pointless deaths that make front page coverage.

For the record—and because of all the political bigotry and virtue-signaling by some—it should be noted first and foremost, that what occurred most recently in Parkland, FL, and before that in Sutherland, TX, and before that in Las Vegas, are unspeakably horrible tragedies. Anyone indifferent to such calamities is not worthy of being accepted as a participant in decent society.

However, the media—including all who write, speak, and in turn all those who accept at face value the screed to ban guns are, at best, turning a selective and blind eye to what else, even more awful than mass shootings, threatens much of human life and tranquility in this country—and doing so by a wide margin. Here’s the simple reality—but one the media has no particular appetite to focus on—that in the U.S., the equivalent death toll of 12 Florida school shootings occur daily—over 1,400 deaths every week of the year.

The media and anti-gun zealots are comparatively silent on protecting citizens who are helplessly preyed upon by traffic injuries and fatalities from DWI drivers. For starters, every day there is a loss of life the equivalent of two FL shooting incidents on the streets and roads in the U.S. as a result of reckless individuals driving after consuming a legal beverage and then operating a properly licensed vehicle with the capacity to kill. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 13,365 transportation related deaths occurred in 2015—while their dead bodies are not strewn on the same sidewalk, that toll corresponds to 36 people slaughtered each day, twice the Parkland calamity.

If safeguarding citizens from one another is really the issue for good people to rally around, an even more preponderant risk to tranquil life in America comes from the threat of gruesome deaths attributable to illegal drugs. By the reckoning of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, more than 64,000 Americans died last year from illicit drug use—that’s the equivalent of 10 Florida shootings and more than a triple hit of Las Vegas sniper proportions—every day of the year—and affecting thousands of families and friends in the process, propagated by an entrenched underworld industry. Again, the dead bodies can’t be photographed or buried together, but the pitiable deaths are real, just the same.

Despite these enormous killers, the media and anti-gun zealots are, again, quiet. Where’s the outrage and insistence that “we must do something” for what amounts to a much larger collection of victims and their families? The call for sweeping suppressive steps isn’t seen or heard. Instead, it seems that anti-gun zealots care almost exclusively about eroding and, ideally, banning public ownership of firearms by ordinary, law-abiding citizens, not fundamentally protecting innocent lives.

Apparently, it is only after events like the tragedy in Parkland or Las Vegas, that anti-gun extremists and public figures decide to posture so predictably in the media spotlight, wringing their hands and extolling their pat-but-flawed remedies—for what they consider a particularly serious public safety problem. What gets overlooked with all the fretting is how selective their concern is and how insufficient their proposed remedies really are.

The enthusiasm of anti-gun proponents seems especially misguided when the fact that in the last 20 years, American firearm owners have accounted for a tiny fraction of the violent crimes, compared to the general population. Findings from the Center for Disease Control underscore this reality: As guns in the population have increased by slightly more than 50%, the number of violent crimes involving firearms has decreased by the same proportion, from 7 per 100,000 to 3.6 per 100,000. A recent study in the City of Pittsburg found that nearly 80 percent of guns used in crimes are stolen or otherwise not owned by the perpetrator.

Thus, it is an enormous irony that there is such manifest media zeal for limiting or banning firearms, when bans, severe restrictions, police enforcement, and serious prison-time have been far from adequate in curbing other threats to public welfare. Cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., where gun rights are most restrictive, have the highest crime rates, a perfect testament to the futility of bans, regulations, and restrictions to gun ownership by good people.

Americans have historically demonstrated a strong distaste for banning stuff, including alcohol, drugs, and guns. Simply put, legislative measures don’t work despite laws and the threat of incarceration for things Americans want to legally buy, own, and consume.

For thoughtful people in a free society, it would pay to ask two key questions. First, why does the media selectively, grindingly want to take firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, when the threat to the national tranquility comes from other causes far more burdensome?

And second, why do so many anti-gun screeds foolishly call for bans and legal restrictions on firearms when extant restrictions and legal prohibitions on other more immediate and pervasive dangers to public serenity are largely ineffective in hitting their intended targets? To either of those two questions, the media and anti-gun zealots have no reasonable, evidence-based answers.

Understandably, it is particularly attention-arresting and compelling when mass-shootings occur; however, there is no logical, persuasive reason to selectively overlook the daily and greater public threats from other mass-killers simply because their victims’ dead bodies are geographically dispersed. Furthermore, there is no good reason to believe that the tired remedies proven inadequate to quell these greater stalkers of public safety will magically “work” against the misuse of firearms in the hands of a few devious people.

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