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Tue, Apr

If Guns Are Not to Blame, How Can We Stop the Shootings?

VOICES

ACCORDING TO LIZ - 20,138 = the number of gun deaths in 2022, excluding suicides, slightly down from 20,726 in 2021. 

48,830 = the number of people killed by guns in 2021 – an average of 133 people every single day

Guns are the number one cause of death for Americans under 20, surpassing motor vehicle accidents in 2020. 

More than half – 53% – of gun-related deaths are suicides; more than 40% are homicides. Over 70% of gun injuries are the result of assaults. Men comprise 86% of all gun deaths, and 87% of nonfatal firearms injuries. 

How many of these are defensive is hard to determine due to reliance on small-scale studies where the framing of the question, the population asked, the political timing and many other factors make it difficult to evaluate existing data. 

What isn’t hard to determine is that the economic impact of gun violence costs our country tens of billions of dollars a year in medical bills and lost productivity. 

Yes, reducing guns and restricting access would reduce gun deaths but the Democrats have been fighting that battle for years with little success. The numbers keep going up. 

71,600 = the number of federally licensed gun dealers operating nationwide. 

16.5 million = the number of guns Americans bought in 2022, at least that’s down from 23 million in the pandemic panic of 2020. 

648 = the number of mass shootings in 2022. 

332 = the number of people shot on K-12 school property in 2022. 

79% = homicides committed with guns in 2020 

42% = suicide increase among American Indian and Aleuts between 2019 and 2020. 

Gun violence is a public health crisis, disproportionately impacting communities of color and other minorities. Black males experience 10 times the gun homicides and 18 times the gun assault injuries than the average. Native American and Aleut males are next as an ethnic group at almost twice the average, while LGBTQ+ folks are more than twice as likely to be victims of gun violence. 

Over 50% of gun deaths are suicides; we need comprehensive and accessible mental health services for our veterans and for our children. The gun suicide rate among Black teenagers has increased 120% over the past decade while that of Latino and Asian teenagers has more than doubled. 

Fact: Over a thousand Americans were shot and killed by police in 2022. 

Fact: People with serious mental health problems are more likely to be shot than shoot. 

Fact: We need health care for survivors as well along with the wherewithal to survive and thrive after a family’s breadwinner ends up in the morgue. 

Thoughts and prayers mean nothing; Americans, all Americans, need policies that will correctively reduce the threat of gun violence in our lives and those of people around us. 

While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) doesn’t specifically advocate gun control, it does recommend a panoply of other approaches to reducing the underlying causes of gun violence. These include housing assistance, childcare subsidies, livable wages, cleaning vacant lots and alleys, planting grass and trees. 

These would, of necessity, involve local, state, and tribal government policy makers as well as agencies focused on health, education, justice, and social services plus local businesses and community organizations. 

The country is facing multiple gun violence issues – community violence, domestic and intimate partner violence, mass shootings and suicide – these demand different approaches. 

Every city, every rural county or reservation have to address different concerns and to be effective they need to select approaches based on the local data to ensure their community violence intervention programs and policies meet local needs. 

We need holistic approaches.

The underlying issues are rooted in poverty, often but not always, amplified by the rising tide of racism, and this lack of opportunity for ordinary people to improve their lot, to achieve that American dream, drives the desperation that manifests itself in violence. 

The lack of a living wage, of affordable housing, of healthcare, of satisfying employment and of educational opportunities only exacerbate the divide between the haves and the have-nots, further fueling gun use as those with seek to defend themselves from those without. 

In the words of Aristotle, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” 

We need to increase every Americans’ standard of living as well as addressing the ghettoization of the poor and minorities in areas where services are poor and environmental degradation is great. 

It was Confucius who said that: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” 

Clean air, unpolluted water, healthy food, and homes free from toxic materials – these are the least that humans should expect, especially in the self-styled greatest country on earth. And this must include strong efforts to reduce global warming as it is the poor who suffer most in the hurricanes, tornados, wildfires and other natural disasters spawned by climate change. 

Putting people in prison may remove one shooter from the streets but it is not a solution to the problem, but one more part of a system that breeds criminals. 

A study released last year by the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety ranked the 50 states by the overall strength of their gun laws which revealed that the states with the strongest firearms legislation have fewer gun deaths. 

We do need common sense reform so guns don’t get in the wrong hands. Most gun owners want universal background checks and mandatory training; it’s the NRA which is a front for the gun manufacturers that market the evils of gun control to its base so they can increase sales and profit margins. 

The NRA is also behind another sobering statistic: 25 states now allow residents to carry concealed handguns in public without a license, up from 1 in 2002. This means more guns in vehicles and a majority of gun thefts reported are now from cars, a reversal from a decade ago when most guns were stolen in burglaries. 

We need a smart-on-crime approach and stop with the tough-on-crime: violence only begets violence. Community safety starts with ensuring resources are available to all, not just the wealthy. 

In 2020, counties with the highest poverty level had firearm homicide rates 4.5 times higher than counties with the lowest poverty level. Gun suicide rates were 1.3 times higher. 

As a society we need to develop a collective social conscience and become advocates for caring for those among us with the least, become an FDR, a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King, Jr., a Jesus. 

We need to demand out government deliver on a combination of strategies, based on focus, balance, and fairness to reduce crime/gun violence in cities. This is no left-wing meme; after all it was Ronald Reagan who said: “Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.” 

To find solutions to prevent violence before it happens, we need the funding that was in the Build Back Better bill before it was eviscerated by coal-baron Senator Joe Manchin. And it needs to go directly to the communities where it is needed so those at ground-level can identify what will work for them, not have strategies imposed from on high. 

Communities need to rebuild trust with police and, at the same time find common ground with gun rights people. Together they need to take on the problem of ghost guns. 

Every day we wait to address gun control, we loose another 133 Americans.

(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)