It seems like a never-ending cycle. Every few weeks, the nation is horrified by a new act of violence that leaves the entire nation in mourning. Most of these atrocities are shootings. Each one scares and shocks people more than the last leading people to believe that they are becoming more and more common and that the only way to stop these shootings – as politicians from a certain party often advocate – is to outlaw guns.
Mass shootings gain the most attention and often spawn discussion on gun control, but, though tragic, according to Pew Research Center, less than 1% of shootings leave more than three people hurt. The high profile shootings lead people to believe that gun violence is growing, most likely because of the media’s role in spreading fear. However, the opposite is true. Gun violence has been falling almost continuously since the 1990s. In fact, there were fewer homicides in 2010 than in 1993 even though the total population has grown significantly since then. Though gun violence has decreased dramatically in the United States in the last 20-30 years, the U.S. remains the country with the most gun violence, and since the U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate, too, many link the two.
Many jump to the conclusion that there is therefore a simple solution to gun violence: prohibiting guns. However, as many Psychology teachers are fond of saying, correlation does not imply causation. For one, a large percentage of guns used in crime are illegal. Banning guns would not make a difference if many criminals aren’t simply walking into a store to purchase them in the first place. According to the Bureau of Justice, in a 1991 survey of State Prison inmates, of inmates who owned a gun, 9% got it by stealing it and 28% bought it illegally.
It is also important to examine the definition of gun crime. Gun crime is not just defined as a homicide or deliberate harm to an individual but as any sort of violence, including suicide. According to Pew Research Center, six-in-ten deaths involving firearms are suicides, the highest rate since at least 1981. That is certainly a problem gun control cannot solve.
The media and politicians use the grief and shock in the wake of a tragedy to win over support for what they present as a simple solution to a complicated issue. There are many other factors in play, and thought it would be great if there were a simple solution to solve America’s gun violence, that is not the case.