294. That’s the number of mass shootings, or “incidents where four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire,” that have happened this year, according to Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post. 294 mass shootings, out of 274 days, as of October 1. When the number of shootings exceeds the number of days that have past, it is absolutely clear that there is a problem—not just with gun regulations and safety, but with the society that induces and perpetuates such violence through its lack of reasearch and education on the topic.
I don’t want to be mistaken in my efforts—I am not arguing against The Second Amendment, because that is not the point of this column—rather, I am attempting to raise awareness for the underlying social and political causes of gun violence and how we can potentially stem it from continuing at such a heinous rate. Regardless of how you feel about gun regulations, The Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association, it’s evident that something must be done to help decrease the amount of shootings this country sees on a day to day basis.
“We’ve gone no more than eight days without one of these incidents this year,” writes Ingraham, “On six days in September, there were three mass shootings or more. If the initial casualty figures in Oregon hold up, that would bring the total deaths by mass shooting this year to 380 so far, with well over 1,000 injured. And of course, there’s the broader universe of nearly 10,000 people killed and 20,000 wounded in nearly 40,000 gun violence incidents so far this year. These numbers only tell the smallest part of the story. And these very numbers will need to be updated again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.”
The issue here is that while everyone is perpetually arguing over gun rights and regulation, there is something sinister creeping out of the shadows—something we cannot ignore if we want to help prevent gun violence in the first place. That something is the lack of real research.
“Is there a causal relationship between gun ownership and gun violence?” asks Forbes contributor Janet D. Stemwedel. “We might know the answers to these questions, or at least have a body of empirical evidence getting us closer to the answers, if government scientists were allowed to study them.”
“In June, the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have repealed a ban on scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducting research to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence,” Stemwedel continued, “Supporters of the ban, including current House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argue that the CDC shouldn’t study these questions because ‘a gun is not a disease.’”
The government—conservatives in particular—are resisting an attempt to study this issue in depth, because of political ideology and popularity figures among their constituents and donors. All the while ignoring the death toll and the troubling rate at which mass shootings occur.
Meanwhile, a House committee and a couple states are investigating Planned Parenthood for an undercover video of a troubling video supposedly exposing illegal activity within the organization regarding the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
If the government can justify a full federal investigation into Planned Parenthood—completely skipping an internal investigation—over a single case of potential wrongdoing, the government ought to lift the ban on the CDC for their studies on the causes of gun violence, because this is more than a damning undercover video—it is an epidemic and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, we need to come together to petition the government to allow the CDC’s research, because while “a gun is not a disease,” as John Boehner said in defense of extending the ban, gun violence very much affects the public health.
According to Chelsea Parsons and Anne Johnson from Center for American Progress, gun violence disproportionally affects youth in America. “On average, 33,000 Americans are killed with guns each year,” they claim in their 2014 report “Young Guns: How gun violence is devastating the millennial generation.” Of those murdered with guns, 54 percent of them were under the age of 30, the report also said.
Any other issue that claimed this many lives, especially that of the younger generations, would garner the immediate attention of the government. I think it’s time we demand action, or at least proper research into the causes of gun violence.