Coming to you directly from the Hart Senate Office building where the Senate Judiciary Committee is conducting the first hearing on gun regulation since the Newtown Mass Shooting, entitled, “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?”
As the hearing wraps up, with many of the senior committee members having long since departed for other more pressing matters such as lunch, it is interesting to note that two facts went unmentioned during the proceedings. The first is that long guns are involved in less than 3% of all violent gun incidents. The second is that mass shootings are exceedinly rare and mass shooting deaths have been flat in the last decade or so, including the last year in which incidents at Aurora and Newtown prompted a critical revisitation of our nation’s gun control policies and politics, and 2011 when Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head. If mass shootings constitute a crsis, it is not a recent one, and many other crises that meet the same standard.
The question of gun violence has no clear, easy answer. There are myriad opinions yet no formally established causal relationship between gun ownership and violent crime, at least in the United States. Politicians on both sides of a debate have little incentive to dismiss it when a consumed public demands answers and action. The gun regulation debate is set to continue, and will intensify as legislative proposals are made. Moving forward, it would behoove us to consider expert witness Dave Kopel’s assessment of the last assault weapons imbroglio: “It took public debate away from measures that might have been more effective and life-saving.” If he is right, one can only hope that tragedy does not repeat as farce.