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What is Behind the Rise in Gun Violence?
May 11, 2023
The topic of gun violence in the United States has been complicated and controversial for years. Many debates have been fought for and against guns and the prevention of gun violence. Some say gun violence is going to be around as long as guns exist, while others say guns are only one means for violence, and that if people can’t use guns to commit violence, they’ll turn to something else.
But while there are many different opinions floating around about how to end violence, there are also a number of facts regarding the topic which get little mention in the media.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 13,600 gun violence deaths in the United States in 2023 as of April 28. As of this writing, there have been 173 mass shootings, sometimes more than one a day.
One thing that might surprise people is that most gun-related deaths are actually suicides. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 7,800 out of the 13,600 gun deaths, about 54%, in 2021 were suicides. Suicide has been one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. for a while, often affecting people between the ages of 10 and 32, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
In addition, in the last couple years, firearms surpassed car-accidents as the leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 18. CNN notes that in 2022, 312 children under the age of 11 died from gun violence, and 1368 adolescents from ages 12-17 died from gun violence as well. Homicide by firearm makes up 60% of the gun violence incidents in minors.
One idea often cited in articles about gun violence is that there are more guns in the United States than people. Some question the validity of this observation, but it actually appears to be accurate. When the Small Arms Survey (an independent research facility) ran a survey to see how many guns there were in 2017, they found that there were about 393 million firearms owned in the U.S. At that time, there were 326 million people Americans. So based on this study, there are indeed more firearms than people in the United States. Some attribute this to gun culture, and what citizens believe about guns. Some believe that having many guns in the hands of normal people is a good thing. Pew Research Center says, “A national survey finds that nearly half of gun owners (48%) volunteer that the main reason they own a gun is for protection.” Protection seems to be the main reason as to why citizens own guns. Another possible explanation to so many people owning firearms is that it is technically in our constitution,” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” And there are laws that go along with this. The Constitutional Carry Law which generally permits those without a license who can legally carry a gun, to carry a gun in public. This could cause issues if the weapon is in the wrong hands. Is it such a good thing that guns are ingrained in our society?
One of the biggest misconceptions about gun violence is that it is mostly perpetrated by people with mental illness. According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, “Violence has many contributing risk factors and mental illness alone is very rarely the cause. Only 4% of interpersonal violence in the United States is solely attributable to mental illness.”
The National Alliance for Mental Illness also says that the main risk factors for someone commiting a crime using a gun are violence or domestic violence, substance issues with alcohol or drugs, gender, age, and/or traumatic events in the perpetrator.
In reference to domestic violence, the Gifford Law Center notes that “victims of domestic violence are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser has access to a gun.” This is supported by the fact that almost half of all women who are murdered in the U.S. were in a romantic relationship with their murderer or formerly in a relationship with their murderer. The Sandy Hook Promise, a group started after the Sandy Hook School mass shooting, that creates resources and awareness to prevent gun violence also says that 90% of teenagers killed in dating violence were girls.
One final fact that muddies the water when discussing the issue is that peoples’ views on gun violence vary greatly based on their location, wealth, political ideology, and whether the person lives in an urban/suburban versus a rural area.
Overall, there are many factors that play into ideas and stances citizens may take on gun violence. Even families may have opposing opinions within them. In fact, the only thing that a majority of people seem to agree on is that gun violence is a problem in today’s society, with only 6% of people in a Pew Research Center study saying that gun violence is not a problem.