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We're Not an Outlier. Targeted Solutions Will Make America Safer Than Gun Control | Opinion

Newsweek logo Newsweek 5/30/2022 Wilfred Reilly
UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 28: People pray during a prayer service as they visit a memorial for the victims of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting in City of Uvalde Town Square on May 28, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. 19 children and two adults were killed on May 24th during a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School after man entered the school through an unlocked door and barricaded himself in a classroom where the victims were located. © Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images UVALDE, TEXAS - MAY 28: People pray during a prayer service as they visit a memorial for the victims of the Robb Elementary School mass shooting in City of Uvalde Town Square on May 28, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. 19 children and two adults were killed on May 24th during a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School after man entered the school through an unlocked door and barricaded himself in a classroom where the victims were located.

Following the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas last week that left 21 dead, 19 of them children, the Left is again demanding stricter gun regulations, from expanded background checks to banning AR-15s to a national gun registry. "Ban and buy-back every single assault weapon," tweeted California Congressman Eric Swalwell. "America isn't a global outlier on mental health, but it is an outlier on gun control," was a popularly shared sentiment on Twitter.

But the truth is somewhat more complex: Though horrific, the brutal reality is that mass shootings are rare—and the U.S. does not lead the world in this category. Nor are 100 million Americans going to give up their guns. And there is a role in the wake of a horrific event like Uvalde for thoughts, prayers and targeted solutions.

To start with, we are not getting rid of rifles. While AR-platform long guns may be the preferred weapon of mass-murdering lunatics, they are also the gun of choice for a huge number of adult home defenders who almost never break the law. Per the latest data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are currently about 435,000,000 firearms in civilian hands in the United States, with roughly 20,000,000 being AR-15s and other "modern sporting rifles." Think about that for a minute: That is millions and millions of law-abiding Americans who legally possess AR-style rifles that they use safely for their own protection.

Many more are rifles of other varieties, mostly semi-automatics. Although mainstream networks like CNN often appear not to know this, a semi-automatic firearm is simply a gun that fires once when the trigger is pulled. Such weapons are extraordinarily common.

Despite all this, the total number of Americans killed specifically by rifles in a typical year is around 400. Of course, every life is worth trying to protect, but it is not clear that banning rifles would make the United States a safer place, long-term. Scholars have estimated that legal civilian firearms—with rifles prominent among these—prevent up to four million crimes every year.

Moreover, it's not even controversial among scholars that getting rid of rifles would in fact do very little to reduce overall U.S. gun violence. Mass shootings draw our attention for obvious reasons, but, when analyzed seriously, turn out to kill less than 80 people in most years. In contrast, there were more than 20,000 total homicides in 2020.

Addressing these requires venturing deep into politically incorrect territory, for the majority of these deaths involved young Black (and poor white) men killing one another with cheap legal hand-guns and even with knives. These types of murders surged during the "Summer of Floyd" police pull-backs so widely cheered on the political left.

And yet, even this level of violence isn't some barbarity unique to the U.S.: We rank 17 out of the 18 countries in our North American zone in murder rate, second to Canada but well behind civilized players like Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Jamaica.

Enough data. What can we do about the killings that do happen here?


Video: Gun control advocacy groups rally across US (ABC News)

In addition to the thoughts and prayers most of us truly do believe in, a basic after-action analysis of virtually every recent mass-casualty shooting indicates plenty of room for improvement on that front. Bluntly put, almost every one of these cases represents a remarkable example of "team failure" on the part of social media executives, educational authorities, and often law enforcement officers.

The Buffalo shooter had been reported to various authorities on multiple occasions for insane behavior that included wearing a HazMat suit to school once post-COVID classes resumed in person. He once beheaded a feral cat with a hatchet, discussed doing so on Dischord, and apparently asked his mother for help with burying the carcass. Nonetheless, his plot and weapons purchase went on unimpeded.

The Uvalde shooter was at least as publicly abnormal, repeatedly posting live videos of animal torture to social media. His attack was facilitated not only by widespread disregard of this behavior but also by an open entry-way door at his target school and, most disastrously, by the remarkable decision of nearly 20 armed police officers to wait an hour for backup and tactical gear before attacking him inside his classroom of horrors.

Not to be forgotten, the recent New York City subway attacker—not the biggest killer of the three due only to the grace of God and his own poor aim—was a literal social media personality known for calls for violent race war. For that matter, much the same could be said for Waukesha vehicular massacre suspect Darrell Brooks, aka the Black-activist Midwest rapper Mathboi Fly.

What to draw from these past mistakes and oversights? Well, quite a lot. As we saw during the Parkland tragedy years ago, the most basic level of facilities security and avoidance of—for want of a better word—cowardice on the part of very-first responders could prevent many such horrific incidents. So could policies which result in higher correlations between obvious and widely known warning signs and actual punishment, or at least the inability to purchase a deadly weapon. Although a man of the center- right, I openly support the sort of basic red flag laws that would have clearly blocked every killer described so far.

It is also certainly no coincidence that all three of the shootings I described occurred within a month of one another, and will likely be followed by more copy-cats. Given this, I propose another measure for immediate adoption: Mass media should stop naming and (unintentionally) valorizing these shooters, and certainly stop describing exactly how they came to attack their targets. It's the only way to prevent imitators. Those who commit such acts of intentional evil against the tribe should receive its ultimate penalty: being totally forgotten, never to be named again.

As for the majority-minority gang violence, here we should do exactly what the people calling for disbanding the police and for disarming the citizenry have been warning against for two years: We must support the influx of as many tough cops of all shades, armed citizens, and strong dads as possible into the hood (and the trailer park). Most significantly, we as a society should and must focus on the large real majority of murders as much as we currently do on atypical outlier cases involving police killers or "assault weapons." After all, all Black lives, and all other human lives, matter.

Wilfred Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University.

The views in this article are the writer's own.

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