For the most part the news cycle has moved on. The papers, the television, and social media are no longer inundated with information about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings. For the parents of the children killed the news cycle is irrelevant. After the loss of a child three weeks is barely long enough to not expect them at the breakfast table.
In the aftermath of this latest school shooting, as memory fades for most of us, I want to address some of the risks all of us face and what can be done. Other than following the FBI Active Shooter guidelines, ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ from the point of view of safety it makes sense to know something more about gun violence in America.
As I said in my previous article, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention no longer studies gun violence. Since 1996 what we have in information is sourced from other countries, universities, and individual states. However, even with this limited information, we can make some educated guesses about how to stop gun violence, specifically school shootings in the United States.
To begin with, as many have said, “Denial will not help solve a problem.” So let’s talk about what is happening with gun violence in America. In the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting twenty-seven people were killed, the largest numbers of those killed were six and seven-year-old children. Since that shooting in 2012 there have been more than 1600 mass shootings in the U.S., killing more than 1800 people and wounding more than 6400. “The U.S. has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times that of Sweden, and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to the United Nations data compiled by the Guardian. The U.S. makes up about 5% of the world’s population and has about 31 % of the global mass shooters. (VOX, February 21, 2018).
Can we admit we have a problem?
All of the countries listed above allow gun ownership; people hunt and target practice. Why don’t these countries have the carnage at the hands of active shooters that we have? Some of the countries that allow gun ownership and do not have mass shootings are a great deal like us. So what exactly is the problem?
Here is what the data says. The U.S. is not more prone to crime than other developed countries. “Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal (Zimring and Hawkins of the University of California). “A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.” (What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparison Suggest an Answer, New York Times). America’s high rate of gun ownership is a major reason the U.S. is so much worse in terms of gun violence than its developed peers (Boston University of Public Health, 2013). What do we do?
Here is what a country much like us did. Australia’s response to their last mass shooting in 1996 was to pass a law banning automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. There was a buyback program involved in the law passed. Australia did not ban guns or hunting. “…noted by Hemenway and Vriniotis in 2011: “While 13 gun massacres (the killing of 4 or more people at one time) occurred in Australia in the 18 years before the [Australian gun control law], resulting in more than one hundred deaths, in the 14 following years (and up to the present), there were no gun massacres.”
Another serious consideration is the way we die from automatic weapons fire. There have been several articles in the papers in the last three weeks written by doctors who have been on duty in gun violence situations.
“The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal” (The Atlantic, “What I Saw in Treating the Victims from Parkland should change the Debate on Guns. (Sher, February 22, 2018).
Military grade weapons are designed to make it nearly impossible to survive. To survive at all involves incredible luck and a really good Level One Trauma Center. Idaho does not have a Level One Trauma Unit. That bears repeating, in Idaho you can’t actually get emergency care for an AR-15 weapon’s wound with any immediacy. If a school shooting occurred in any small town or even in Boise the children would have to be flown to Utah, thus reducing their chances of survival. Even Broward County’s Trauma One was overwhelmed, as is made clear in the Atlantic article.
My conclusion is this, having AR-15’s floating around in the civilian population is like driving in old days, driving 75 mph down a poorly banked road, with your toddler in the passenger seat, no seat-belts, no airbags, chugging a Coors. A lot of people died that way. We can do better.
Mary McCarthy, FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BEAR LAKE NEWS EXAMINER