Yet another mass shooting in Texas happened over the weekend, with seven people, not counting the gunman, dead. That makes, according to the online nonprofit Rivard Report, 192 Texas mass-shooting deaths since the 1966 Texas Tower shooting. Four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history took place in Texas, including two in the past two years: Sutherland Springs (26 killed) and El Paso (22 killed). Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data show that Texas has the most guns; it also has weak gun laws that became even weaker on Sunday.
But … thoughts and prayers, right? Pay no attention to that man jumping like a rabbit because correlation isn’t causation.
Still, the coincidence …
I grew up around guns and did my fair share of shooting; I knew to respect and be careful with them. I’ve never been a fan of hunting for sport (give the animals a weapon and make it a fair fight!), but I don’t have a problem with people who hunt for food, or those who use guns for target shooting. (I’ve done it myself; during Citizens’ Police Academy, I enjoyed the MP-5—which is perfect for people with short arms—immensely.)
However, I have plenty of reason not to like guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, not even counting that my college lab partner was killed in the Westside Middle School shooting.
I had one friend who was shot and killed at age 10 when another friend was showing her his dad’s rifle, which had been stored loaded. The perfunctory nature of a one-word quote from the coroner in the story about her death still chills me: “Dud.” For more than six months, I was terrified to turn 10 because that’s how old she was when she died. Hers is one of the graves I always visit when I go to our cemetery back home.
When I was a teenager, a daughter of a family that my family was close to committed suicide by shooting herself in the stomach, bleeding to death before anyone found her. I was disgusted to hear how the adults were talking about her at church, not caring about the deep depression she must have been in. She was a star basketball player, but she couldn’t win against her demons.
Most of us probably have stories like this. Not everyone knows somebody killed in a mass shooting, but many of us know victims of gun violence, accidental or intentional. And many are now reticent to go out in public for fear it will happen to us, especially considering there are people out there who worship guns and stockpile them. Most gun owners are responsible, but c’mon; is there a sane reason to build an arsenal to fight the gubmint?
The research nerds among us would love to point to studies that show the effectiveness of this or that gun policy, but finding unbiased research is hard to do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is barred from using federal funds for gun-violence research that might advocate gun control. Former Arkansas U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey sponsored the original bill restricting research, but told Huffington Post in 2015, two years before his death, that he regretted it: “I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time. I have regrets. … If we had somehow gotten the research going, we could have somehow found a solution to the gun violence without there being any restrictions on the Second Amendment. We could have used that all these years to develop the equivalent of that little small fence.”
Because of the law’s chilling effect, most gun research is privately funded, much of it with an agenda.
“If there is no research, it is harder to make suggestions for policy reform,” Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California at Davis told Huffington Post. “And if you have a vested interest in stopping policy reform, what better way to do it than to choke off the research? It was brilliant and it worked. And my question is how many people died as a result?”
Dickey told NPR’s Steve Inskeep in 2015, shortly after the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon: “[I]t wasn’t necessary that all research stop. It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether. … [T]hat’s where my regret is. I was on to other things and worrying about my constituents. And I didn’t follow through and say, we need—still need to do research. I didn’t do that.”
Research was still being done, but not as much or with the same rigor as many other topics. RAND Corp. analyzed thousands of gun-policy studies, releasing a report last year that points out just how little we know about the link between firearm laws and gun violence, with only 63 of those studies establishing a causal relationship between specific policies and outcomes. The report stated, “[T]he U.S. government has spent just 1.6 percent as much on gun policy research as it has on research involving causes of similar levels of mortality in the United States, such as traffic accidents or sepsis, meaning that published studies on gun policy are correspondingly rare.”
The analysis did show that laws preventing access by children to guns appear to reduce suicides, accidental injuries and deaths in youths. Had such laws been around when I was a kid, neither of those girls I knew might have died.
After every mass shooting, the NRA tells us it’s too soon to talk about policy, and anything you want to do will be an infringement of gun rights. Gun-control advocates counter: What better time to talk about restrictions, and what about our right to live? Both sides dig in and nothing gets done because one side is sure the other wants to take all their guns, and that side thinks the other wants to live in the Wild West. Rinse. Repeat.
Meanwhile, public opinion polls on the whole show that the majority of Americans believe our gun laws should be stricter, and that universal background checks and red-flag laws should be implemented.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted after the El Paso and Dayton shootings found that 73 percent of those surveyed (including 54 percent of Republicans) support stricter gun laws, and 91 percent want mandatory background checks. It also found overwhelming majorities want to block sales to people reported to law enforcement as dangerous (89 percent) and people with violent misdemeanors (84 percent).
The poll also found that those surveyed were pretty realistic. Politico reported: “[A]lthough voters support these measures, they aren’t optimistic Congress will act … . Only 39 percent said they think it’s very or somewhat likely Congress passes gun control legislation in the next year. A slight majority, 52 percent, said it’s either not very likely or not likely at all.”
We hear that no law could have prevented a mass shooting, and that the laws already in place aren’t being enforced. See … this is where federally funded gun-violence research would come in handy. What’s stopping us from enforcing the current laws and making a few new ones? If they work, good; any death prevented is a positive. If laws don’t work, repeal them. No law will stop every crime, but doing nothing gets us nowhere but in another convoy to the cemetery.
Frankly, I think most of us are tired of that trip.
Don’t forget: I want to know what food always makes you think of home.
A lot of things in my childhood revolved around food. Aunt Thelma’s chicken and dumplings (made with strips of pie crust, I believe) always disappeared quickly at Fifth Sunday lunches at church. While I make mine with biscuit dough, I still remember her when I cook dumplings.
Mama’s deviled eggs, which were simple but delicious, always vanished nearly as quickly as she could make them, and they were at nearly every holiday meal. Now that she’s gone, who knows who’ll pick up that torch?
Let me know your memorable foods at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in the comments below.
Please. I’d much rather write about food than death.
P.S. If any of this appears disjointed, blame RBG. As I’m editing the blog post, I’m watching/listening to the livestream of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg lecture at Verizon Arena. That woman is a firecracker. May she live forever.