If one were asked to name the top five issues on America’s collective mind as we head into 2016, gun violence would almost certainly make the list.
A string of incidents that culminated in the massacre in San Bernardino earlier this month has put gun control back in the limelight as the nation debates the best way to prevent mass shootings.
Some suggest gun violence should be a designated as a public health issue. “Supporters, including doctors and medical associations, say that designating gun violence – which they define to include homicides, suicides and injuries – as a public health issue will save lives,” US News & World Report wrote over the summer. “Doctors already counsel patients about a range of safety issues, including avoiding lead paint, wearing seatbelts, getting vaccinated and dealing with the dangers of backyard pools. If the designation were to change, they could more often ask patients about whether they keep a gun in the home and, if so, how it is secured.”
That rather surreal sounding idea is in many ways reflective of how frustrated America has become with the issue. The right to keep and bear arms is not only enshrined in the Constitution, it’s also part of the country’s consciousness and identity - even most gun control advocates would likely be loath to see citizens’ gun rights curtailed wholesale. Even so, the perception that gun violence is on the rise and the nation is powerless to stop it has led some to question whether it may be time to consider taking a more drastic approach when it comes to limiting access to firearms.
What gets lost in the debate is the fact that when it comes to gun violence, mass shootings really aren’t the problem. That is, as horrific as they are and as often as they seem to be occurring, “less than 2 percent of more than 33,000 gun deaths in [America] are due to mass shootings,” Trace wrote, earlier this month.
"The gun control debate often plays out in monolithic fashion in this country," WaPo writes, adding that "the traditional understanding is that there's one overarching problem — gun violence — that can be addressed by a more or less uniform set of solutions: better background checks, improved technology, etc."
However, "one shortcoming of this approach is that it elides over the sometimes drastic differences in how different populations experience gun violence and gun ownership in their lives." WaPo goes on to present the following rather stunning chart from The Brookings Institute. As you can see, there's a marked difference between how African Americans and whites are killed by firearms. More specifically, "among whites, 77 percent of gun deaths are suicides. But among black Americans, 82 percent of gun deaths are homicides."
Consider that, then consider the following chart which depicts parents' perceptions of the risks their children face. We present it below and leave the issue for readers to discuss: