Like with any mass shooting that happens in the United States, the central conversation shifts almost immediately to what our lawmakers in Congress can do to restrict the sale and purchase of firearms beyond what is already regulated.
However, according to one statistician from the website FiveThirtyEight who researched gun deaths in America, sweeping common-sense gun control legislation is not the answer to prevent mass shootings like in Las Vegas, Orlando, or Sandy Hook.
Leah Libresco, a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, wrote in the Washington Post that she used to think gun control was the answer, until she did her own three-month research project with her colleagues at the data journalism website. She admitted that she grew frustrated when analyzing all 33,000 gun deaths per year in the United States.
“We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence,” Libresco wrote. “The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.”
She found that using the examples of Britain and Australia, who have very strict laws on gun ownership, aren’t the perfect examples that liberals use in their pro-gun control arguments. In Britain, the gun ban and buyback program in 1996 had little impact on crimes involving guns as they continued to rise in the late 1990’s and peaked in 2003-04.
In Australia, homicides declined after the ban and buyback were implemented, however, they were already declining prior to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
It should be noted that gun deaths don’t just include mass shootings like Las Vegas, Orlando, and Sandy Hook, they also include suicides, gang violence, and domestic violence. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. One in five gun-related homicides is of young men between the ages of 15 to 34. These were shootings that took place on the street either through gang rivalries or at random. Meanwhile, 1,700 women are shot and killed every year as a result of domestic violence.
For each of these gun-related deaths, how can you truly regulate guns through a sweeping, generalized piece of legislation? Each instance requires different preventative measures that don’t always involve regulating the sale and purchase of firearms. Potential victims of gun suicides need guidance and counseling, domestic violence victims need improved police protection through restraining orders (and restricting gun sales to abusers), and young men getting involved with gangs could benefit from a mentor and support network.
Just like with alcohol and drug prohibition, people who are looking to obtain firearms to commit acts of evil by any means necessary will find a way. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) summarized it best when he said, “To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs…You can’t regulate evil…”
Sweeping bans rooted in emotions don’t work, but policies based on facts and evidence do.