No matter where you sit on the political spectrum, there’s one thing we can all agree on: gun violence in America is a serious problem with no end in sight.
But what can we actually do to solve the gun violence problem in the US? I certainly have my own opinions, but I wanted to see what everyone else thinks, so I enlisted the help of a few dozen people from all over the political spectrum. In no particular order, I’ve shared their thoughts below on what we can do to solve the gun crisis in America.
How can we reduce gun violence in America?
Ken: Hello, I am 57 this year. I grew up on a ranch. My friends would have to mow a lawn before they could play, I had 700 trees to clear of deadwood before I could go. Months later, when I could play, I appreciated the reward. Now kids don’t know how to mow a lawn or start a lawnmower. Learning strong work ethics has helped me in life, relationships, exercising, and just being calm.Giving kids structure and a safe place to grow up has a bearing on the future adult.Letting kids hang out with no supervision is a start to bad things. If we give caring, loving environments for our kids it hard to pick up a gun..They will learn to talk instead of fighting. Funny, but learning how to fight by practicing karate is the best way to avoid violence, when you know you are in control there is no need to prove it.
Tina: I’m Tina Willis, a wrongful death lawyer based in Orlando, Florida.
Any discussion of possible ways to reduce gun violence should really include passing state and federal laws that allow wrongful death and personal injury lawyers, like me, to sue gun manufacturers for negligence, on behalf of shooting victims. (Currently, shooting victims can only sue gun manufacturers for very narrow legal claims, such as defective products — and most guns can kill just fine without being defective.) In 2005, George Bush passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which gave gun manufacturers broad immunity. This almost completely ended lawsuits against them — and left victims of gun violence often without anyone to compensate them for their tragic and unimaginable losses.
We also really need a ban on assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and universal background checks. (President Bill Clinton passed a ban in 1994 (and universal background checks), which expired in 2004. That needs to be reinstated because gun violence has massively increased since the ban expired. Although there are debates about the causes of the increase in mass shootings, it seems logical to me that not allowing these guns would reduce violence.)
Essentially, we need the state and federal governments to pass a number of laws, which, together, would logically reduce gun violence — and make gun manufacturers get involved in protecting the public by taking proactive steps to reduce the chance that guns would land in the wrong hands (like tougher sales criteria, and making sure that criteria were enforced by their distributors).
Shortly after the Pulse shooting, an Orlando, Florida nightclub, I was extremely upset, and scared. And one of the fathers of one of the victims contacted me, hoping to sue someone for the death of his daughter. He didn’t want money. He was angry and wanted justice. But there really was no one to sue. So I had to decline the case. (Often family members, after a shooting death, desperately NEED money because the breadwinner died, and the remaining family members are so distraught that continuing to earn money becomes a huge mental health challenge, which is sometimes impossible. Other people are simply angry and want JUSTICE for their lost family member.) Around that time, I wrote this article:
That article explains a little more about why, at least in my opinion, shooting victims should be able to sue gun manufacturers. If the laws do not strongly encourage corporations to take responsibility for whether their products kill people, then they have no incentive to take part in finding real solutions.
Tim: The question of what can be done to reduce gun violence in the United States is a complex one. Coming from the pro-gun side, I like to talk about stats first and clarify what we define as ‘gun violence.’ To me, we should not include suicide in this discussion or refer to suicide as ‘gun violence’ anymore than we should refer to overdoses of prescription medication as ‘pill violence.’ That leaves us with 10,265 homicides in the US from firearms with the vast majority of those committed with handguns, 6,603. A lot of politicians like to tout an ‘assault weapons’ ban as effective but in 2018 there were 297 homicides committed with all rifles, not just the scary looking ones. To put it in perspective, twice as many people were killed with fists and feet than with rifles. To me, the most effective way we’re going to be able to reduce gun violence in the US is by educating people on laws, offering better mental health support, and by building better inner city relations as a majority of homicides are committed by the demographics that fall into these categories.
James: Since murder and suicide are intentional, gun laws are not likely to effect those numbers. They will simply find another means. Those events are behavior issues, therefore require social/behavior solutions. As far as accidental gun injuries, education and training are the answer. I see unsafe weapons handling at the shooting range often, and unsafe weapons storage is far too common. If we examine where gun injuries are the lowest, it is in places where guns/capita are the highest. This is because it is in their culture, and weapons safety is a way of life since childhood, and the novelty/curiosity is not there. Increased weapons education requirements as well as the social issues are the only way to reduce violence.
I would cite London’s recent spike in knife attacks, as well as Australia’s steady murder rate post-gun control. It is important to not look at murder rates as the same as gun deaths.
Another key concept that eludes those who are pro gun control is that the gun is not the dangerous object, the bullet is. Therefore limits on how many guns a person can own, etc are not even possibly effective. The ammunition is what needs to be controlled, if anything. This is because a person can only shoot one gun at a time….100 guns will not make that person more dangerous.
Another concept that eludes most people is that we are not as differently opinioned on this issue as many think. A NY Times study showed that 90% of Americans believe in gun control. The issue is in the wording, labels, and what extent of gun control one might favor. If you were to ask a “pro gun control” person what gun laws we should have, and a “pro gun” person what laws we should have, they would give you very similar answers. The extremists are the ones who would say “confiscation” or “2A is the only gun law we need.”
Bruce: More than 65,000 Americans die each year from suicides and homicides, and almost half of these are not gun-related.
When confronted with gun deaths, many want guns to be the problem. They’re easy to see. Dealing with them should be simple and fast; just pass new laws to keep guns away from people. However, this approach hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t work in America. A different strategy has far more potential for saving lives.
Because guns are not significant in the cultures of most other countries, many have been able to implement substantial gun control. But because guns are a core element of the American culture, the sorts of gun measures that have been accepted in other countries will not work in America.
“What Can We Do To Reduce Gun Violence in the United States?” may be the wrong question. A much better question is “how can we reduce the overall rates of suicide and violent crime in America?” Focusing on underlying motivations and circumstances has been shown to work where it’s been tried.
Mass shootings get the press and attention and knee-jerk legislation. But while cost-effective ways to curtail mass shootings are being sought, consider where the most lives might be saved, now:
- A mere 5 percent reduction of suicides would save about 2,300 lives per year, half of which would have been gun-related.
- A mere 5 percent reduction in urban violence would save 1,000 or more lives per year, 75 percent of which would have been gun-related.
- A mere 5 percent reduction in domestic violence would save 200 to 400 lives per year, many of which would have been gun-related.
- A 100 percent reduction in mass shootings would save an average of only 100-200 lives per year.
Much more information at https://historyspeakstoday.com/Gun-Mania.php.
Konrad: Gun violence is something that is really important to me. A friend of mine, Carrie Parsons, was shot and killed in the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting when she was attending a concert. Like the others who were killed that day, she had no idea a senseless act of violence would end her life.
Gun violence also affects America in other ways. Michigan didn’t reopen its legislative session because of domestic terrorists (a.k.a. “protesters”) brandishing semiautomatic weapons around lawmakers. Students routinely practice lockdown and active shooter drills in school, and parents can buy bulletproof backpacks. When parents are having to think about bulletproofing their kindergarteners, things have gone too far.
Unfortunately, Americans are obsessed with firearms. Instead of the lone hunting rifle or family heirloom, teenagers are given guns as gifts and people stockpile stores of guns in their homes. What was essential when the constitution was written is now hopelessly outdated; there’s a reason the constitution has been amended 27 times. I fully support an amendment to the constitution calling for an overall of the second amendment. Private citizens should not be allowed to own firearms; there’s simply no reason to have them other than for hunting. I suggest during hunting season, hunters check out a numbered gun from a government repository, get limited ammunition, have to take a safety course, have to have a firearm license, and have a current mental health evaluation. After hunting for a specified period of time, the gun is returned to the repository. I would also propose no one would be eligible for hunting who has a stalking, domestic violence, or murder charge (among other disqualifying crimes). That may sound drastic to some people, but that’s the point – gun violence is an absolute epidemic that needs major change.
Casey: There are generally two views on the subject. Either guns kill people so we should take away the guns or people with guns kill people and you can’t stop all evil people. America is a pretty good case study in this. We have a lot of guns and a lot more gun related homicides and suicides than any other country. So the evidence suggests that this is a cultural issue and people who like having guns really don’t want to give them up, but that’s the problem.
It wouldn’t be easy to reduce gun violence since even if the supply of guns available to purchase was reduced. Eventually old guns would break down, but black market guns would become much more valuable. A national licensing system would help since that could screen out criminals and those with mental issues from buying guns legally. Paired with a mandatory gun buyback program would help address the guns currently shifting around the country. When Australia implemented a gun buyback program the number of murders and suicides each year plummeted.
Paul: While any violence is a major problem to those involved, when it comes to gun violence in America, the first thing we should do is avoid exaggeration and hyperbole and deal with facts. There isn’t a major gun violence problem in America, but there is one in several of our major cities. According to FBI statistics, both murder and violent crime are down over the last decade. While the national average for murder is approximately 3 Per 100,000, cities like Philadelphia (22.2/100,000), Washington, D.C. (22.8/100,000), Memphis (28.6/100,000), Detroit (38.9/100,000), New Orleans (36.8/100,000), and St. Louis (62.3/100,000) are where the real gun violence problems exist. (FBI Unified Crime Report: 2018 Crime in the United States report https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018) So what can we do to reduce gun violence in these few cities?
First, let’s stop acting like violence against someone is worse because of the tool used. Would any family feel better to find out that their loved one was stabbed, beaten, or choked to death rather than shot? The manner of death or serious injury is not the problem, the person who inflicted it is. That includes laws that make the punishment for a crime greater because a certain tool is used. Is someone who beats a person to death less guilty that if they shot their victim?
Second, let’s remember that we all have an unalienable right to life, which includes protecting it. As a society we should stop punishing people who defend themselves because they used a particular tool. Why should a person who defended themselves against a violent attack be charged because the government didn’t give them permission to exercise a right protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?
Third, those we elect to represent us should redirect all the time, effort, and resources currently used to persecute law-abiding citizens who wish to exercise their rights toward efforts to punish those actually committing the crimes. How much manpower and tax dollars do states spend registering, tracking, and verifying gun owners in their state? How much would be saved if district attorneys didn’t prosecute innocent citizens for exercising their right? Could that available time and tax dollars be used to prosecute actual criminals?
Last, but not least, the American people should stop pretending that the police, and in fact government as a whole, has the primary purpose of keeping us safe. The Declaration of Independence says that governments are instituted among men to protect our rights, not to keep us safe. That means the primary purpose of government, and by extension law enforcement, is to protect our rights so we can protect ourselves. If you wish to wait around for someone who gets a government paycheck to protect you, be my guest. But stop acting like you have the moral authority to tell the rest of us that we have to live as victims as well.
“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”