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September 21, 2023

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BG24 Newscast
September 21, 2023

Gun control debate should remain objective

Following any disastrous event, the first way most of us respond is with emotion.

The death of children is a horrific tragedy. Responding with anger, sorrow, despair and fear is all understandable. However, few attempts are made at fully understanding complicated issues associated with tragedy. Our emotion often blinds us and reason is kicked to the curb.

This was evident in one BG News column titled, “Focus on guns, not ‘violent culture.’”

The columnist, like so many others, posits the issue is as simple as the bullets in the gun. He writes, “evilness exists, and evil people don’t kill using violent games. They use guns. Guns with bullets.”

All too often, complex issues are simplified and exaggerated to fit preferred narratives of ideologues. The gun control debate has been no different.

Many people feel that it matters not what motivates the killer. They would instead prefer to employ the spilt blood (or lack thereof) as defending evidence. It’s precisely this sort of carelessness that perpetuates ineffective, counter-productive solutions.

Rushing legislation has given us such atrocious policies as President Bush’s Patriot Act and I fear that President Obama’s proposals of 23 new executive orders will prove to be of the same atrocity. If we too successfully mitigate tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting, it will require much more deliberation and responsibility.

The gun debate has featured a tremendous amount of fear mongering. Some have rather arbitrarily suggested these tragedies are becoming more violent, thus requiring more immediate action.

FBI reports reveal violent crime is half of what it was 20 years ago, in 1993. Coincidentally, the use of guns in those crimes has also substantially dropped, according to the same report.

Criminologist James Alan Fox agrees there is no increase in mass shootings, either in average number of deaths or frequency: “In the 1980s, we had a flurry of postal shootings, and the 1990s included a half dozen schoolyard massacres. Other than the copycatting reflected in these cases, the clustering of mass murders is nothing more than random timing and sheer coincidence.”

Schools are safer than they were 20 years ago. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports violent crime and theft in schools have dropped considerably. The rate of victimization has declined from 53 per 1,000 students to 14.

These numbers are interesting considering the fact gun ownership continues to increase during these same time periods. According to, gun ownership in the United States has risen by over 5 percent over the past decade and continues to increase while gun murder rates are the lowest they’ve been since 1981.

I only use these statistics to show that the cry for help, however righteous, must be replaced with reason and that there is evidence to consider on either side. Just the same, we must also be diligent in ascertaining the facticity of those facts. Indeed, one can make a graph or chart say anything.

For example, Republicans and many pro-gun advocates claim the United Kingdom, despite a full gun ban, experiences 2,034 cases of violent crime a year per 100,000 people, while the US only experiences 466. Case closed, right? Wrong. The United Kingdom’s definition of “violent crime” is much more loose than ours, accounting for all sexual assaults and common assaults, not only aggravated assaults and forcible rapes. Suddenly this “fact” becomes another exacerbating incident of misinformation.

My point is the answer is more intricate than illusory correlations. The debate deserves and requires more consideration and a more objective approach.

Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason Magazine, said “the Sandy Hook school shooting is as horrifying a crime as can be imagined. It rips out the country’s heart and the call to action is strong and righteous.” Gillespie goes on to warn, however, that those debating gun control “need to lead with their heads and not their hearts.”

My hope is these issues receive a fair bit more honesty and a fair bit less ideology in the future.

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