BY RAUL CAMINO
On June 17 of this past summer, the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, NC suffered a vicious terrorist attack. 8 parishioners, and Reverend Clementa C. Pickney, were murdered by a gun-toting racist whose sole determination was to destroy black bodies. Immediately after the attack, many drew parallels between it and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL, which claimed the lives of four young black girls. And while they both are now raw, historical evidence of the racism that sweeps this nation, the Charleston attack belongs also to a long strand of mass shootings that have permeated our culture.
As cynical as it might be to say, shootings like that have become business as usual. They all follow the same procedure. The president speaks, the nation becomes divided, and nothing gets solved. And there are always pro-gun agents to taint the public with their rhetoric.
NRA board member, Charles L. Cotton, heroically jumped at the chance to comment on the attack via a thread on the NRA website saying that, had Reverend Pickney “expressly allowed” members of the church to carry concealed weapons, they would have been alive. And that is just the kind of ignorant, victim-blaming logic that offers a simplistic solution to the intricacies of gun violence.
Such intricacies have been published in a peer-reviewed journal called PLOS ONE. Their extensive study, which includes data on mass shootings, puts gun violence in an eerie perspective. Using a vocabulary that treats mass shootings like an “infection”, PLOS ONE has reported that they occur in this country, on average, every two weeks. The data takes into account multiple shootings since the year 2012, and researchers have been able to come up with a two week “contagion period” based on the frequency of the attacks between shootings. Of course, the evidence is solely grounded on those cold occurrences and extensive research, and does not take into account the influence of the media in any form.
One mass shooting every two weeks should be striking enough to the moral consciousness of any human being, but fakes always trump facts on the air, and online. Public attention is always steered away from studies like this one, in favor of loud, and unsurprisingly, inauthentic ramblings by old men with an infantile fear of having their toys taken away from them.
Aside from their perceived “unconstitutional” notion, the pervading fear of crime among NRA advocates has become more and more baffling. According to a report on the FBI’s official website, violent crimes have been on a steadily decline since 1994, even with the increase of population. Yet, members of the NRA always argue that there have been 2.1-2.5 million instances in which guns have been used in self defense. That number is thrown around casually, despite the fact that the study from which that statistic was derived was written 20 years ago, and, has been debunked by multiple people over the course of that time. The main criticism against that claim being that the data of citizens who had been attacked, does not correspond with the number of people in the United States who actually owned guns at the time.
The “Mutually Assured Destruction Theory” is also a flawed argument that NRA activists attempt to push. The theory assumes that in a threatening situation, there is a clear distinction between “good” and “evil”, and that just the idea that a “good” samaritan could be armed would be enough to stop a plotting criminal. First of all, morality is not so easily categorized. One cannot just arm every citizen and hope that they have it in their hearts to do good. And second, in 2010, the U.S. National Research Council concluded that violent crimes affect those with concealed weapons rather than the opposite. So states in the U.S. with Right To Carry laws suffer from more violence than states that don’t.
Lastly, I’d like to address the fact that there are over 300 million firearms in this nation, all potentially up for grabs by anyone who is willing to make an attempt. And, from A study conducted in 2010 shows that 86 percent of burglaries reported to the police involved stolen guns. In the city of St. Louis, MO, a pace of 200 homicides have correlated with the rise of stolen guns from vehicles, which had gone up 70 percent. In San Francisco, the murder of a woman at Pier 14 was committed using a stolen gun. Chicago authorities seized upwards of 4000 stolen guns, which, according to Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, have been used to “fuel the violence” there.
So what, then, can be taken from this mounting evidence? If there were stricter gun control laws, then, potential criminals would not be able to steal them in order to commit the crimes that NRA spokesmen claim people would be better equipped to handle, if everyone carried a gun.
Of course, stolen guns do not make up all violent crimes in the U.S. Many crimes can happen out of pure hatred, heated passion, or desperation. But crimes do not happen in a void. According to pure empirical evidence, criminals always choose the time and place; it’s what gives them their power. It’s wrong to blame a victim for not having control over when, where, and how they get attacked. What needs to happen in this country is a shift in attention from outdated, fictitious data on to more factual, well-researched studies.
If enough concern is raised about stricter gun laws, maybe we can achieve the status of “greatness” many of our leaders seem to reminisce over. And in order to cement any change, media outlets need to pursue more intellectually-driven stories, instead of sensational fodder for cranky, gun-crazed charlatans. Maybe that can help lead ignorant people away from their own Platonic caves, so that they can perceive their shadowy reality, for what it truly is. Maybe then can we as a public witness a receding flow of blood that spills from our T.V., phone, and laptop screens. Until then, expect an ever-rising tide.