It’s with very cautious optimism that I think (okay, hope) that this nation has turned a corner in its response to school shootings. I know, usually we stick to the script of crying, offering useless “thoughts and prayers” and then forgetting about it, until the next mass shooting. Some people may note that many mass shooters are young men with histories of domestic violence, but nothing is ever done about that.
But the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida–which claimed 17 lives–seems different. Students there who survived the massacre aren’t sticking to the script. They’re speaking out against the availability of guns like the AR-15 rifle, which was used in the shooting. They’re denouncing the National Rifle Association (NRA) which loudly opposes all gun control efforts. And they’re putting intense social media pressure on the Republicans who do the NRA’s bidding in Congress.
In fact, the Parkland shooting was five days ago as I write these words, and the national media is still talking about it. And there’s every likelihood we’ll still be talking about it next month, because the Parkland students have announced a nationwide walkout on March 24–at 10am in every timezone, students and teachers are saying they’ll march out of class for 17 minutes–one minute for every death at Parkland.
Here in Hawaii, the Legislature is debating a few gun control bills, though none deal specifically with the AR-15. Senate Bill 2046 and House Bill 1908 ban “bump stocks” (they help a shooter increase a rifle’s rate of fire, and one was those reportedly used in the Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas). SB 2436 and HB 2228 shortens the time period for people to surrender firearms after being disqualified to own one, to 24 and 48 hours, respectively. Of course, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action–the NRA’s lobbying arm–opposes all these bills.
In truth, there’s no easy answer as to how to lower gun violence in the U.S., because guns play such a huge factor here, both in terms of American, heroic folklore and the rise of mass shootings in places like schools. But guns aren’t equitably distributed throughout the U.S., and neither is gun violence. In fact, when you look at current gun violence statistics, there are very sharp, very recognizable lines.
For instance, let’s look at firearm mortality rates in 2016, the most recent such data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control. Hawaii placed quite low in the list, with a rate of just 4.5 (that’s 4.5 deaths per 100,000 people). As an experiment, I took the 10 states with the lowest firearm mortality rates (3.4-9.0 deaths per 100,000 people) and matched them up to the 2016 Presidential Election electoral college results. Guess what? Democrat Hillary Clinton won all 10 states.
Then I went through the CDC stats and compiled a list of the 10 states with the highest firearm mortality rates (17.7-23.3 deaths per 100,000 people), and matched them against the 2016 Presidential Election results. This time, nine of the 10 states all went to Republican Donald Trump (New Mexico, with a firearm death rate of 18.1, was the outlier).
This a chilling picture of a violently divided nation. Half believes that civilians shouldn’t be able to own weapons like the AR-15, which were originally designed for the military, while the other half believes that the way to fix mass shootings is by arming teachers and hardening schools into fortresses.um
None of us will be able to live here if all this is allowed to continue.