A Politically Divided Country
America has become polarized by tribal politics. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is one of the debates that is fracturing our society and dividing us along political lines. There is no common ground legislative compromise on gun control when our society is divided on such a critical issue that has national security implications. There are no shortages of personal opinions concerning the Second Amendment and gun ownership in the United States. While some people are adamant about buying and keeping AR-10 rifles for protection, others see this as a threat. Dr. DaShanne Stokes, sociologist researcher, stated, “When a country with less than five percent of the world’s population has nearly half of the world’s privately owned guns and makes up nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings, it’s time to stop saying guns make us safer.” Even President Ronald Regan once said, “Self-defense is not only our right, it is our duty.” There seems to be no middle ground upon which opposing viewpoints can be debated and possible solutions in the current tribal political atmosphere. A comprehensive integrated approach to gun violence is needed to help provide possible solutions that can limit the amount of mass shootings occurring; however, both sides of the issue use a tragedy to push their pro-gun or anti-gun agenda instead of starting a respectful national debate and dialog. The divided tribal politics means nothing is being done, and the clock is ticking on the next mass shooting occurring.
Gun Ownership in the United States
The United States leads in private firearm ownership and possession among developed and developing countries (Bungalore & Messerli, 2013). Azrael, Cook, and Miller (2004) claimed that 40% of all households in America posses at least one firearm. Banks (2016) noted that 31% of gun owners were White, 15% African American, and 11% Hispanic. Lewis et al. (2016) surveyed college students in the Midwest United States and discovered that 54% believed that military style assault weapons (AR-15 and AK-47) should be banned from private ownership and possession. On another note, Lewis et al. discovered that 53% of the college students believed that their professors should be allowed to legally carry a firearm on campus. The research indicates that Americans wants the right to own and possess firearms but also want common sense gun legislation.
Mass shootings have become common place in the United States. From 2014-2017, there was 1,333 reported mass shootings (McCarthy, 2018). Banks (2016) defined mass shootings as incidents in which at least four or more people are injured or killed. Hemenway and Miller (2013) discovered that on average, firearms kill 85 people per day in America. There seems to be no safe place from a mass shooting. They have occurred in the workplace, schools, places of worship, and planned community festivals. No community has been isolated or affected from gun violence in the United States.
According to McCarthy (2018), there have been 56,755 people killed by firearms in the United States from 2014-2017. Just in 2017 alone 15, 590 people have been killed with firearms (McCarthy, 2018). The National Safety Council (NSC) reported that males account for 85% of all gun death categories in the United States (NSC, 2018). Suicide deaths by firearm are the most common category of gun deaths in the United States (NSC, 2018). For example, in 2016, there was 22,938 suicides in the United States by firearms (NSC, 2018).
Culture Change Through Research
Academic research is produced by scholars following established scientific protocols and then having their work peer-reviewed by subject matter experts and unaffiliated scholars to ensure the quality was maintained throughout the study before it is published and released for use. Academia can help remove the emotions from the political charged debate so that facts are presented in an unbiased format to all parties. Policymakers need to have current information to make good choices. Schell and Morral (2016) argued that if stricter firearm policies became law, US firearms deaths could be significantly reduced. To eliminate most of the gun violence in America would require a culture change to the fabric of our government and who we are as a people (Malina, Morrissey, Campion, Hamel, & Drazen, 2016). California is approaching the problem of gun violence by helping provide political decision makers with current and valid scientific research that is published in the scholarly literature (Tarran, 2016). Dubisar (2018) noted that when mothers of shootings victims petition political leaders they can influence local laws on common sense gun control. These recent studies findings allow the national debate to be grounded in logic and not consumed by emotions. At least it is a starting point on trying to help reduce gun violence and mass shootings in the United States.
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Lewis, R. K., Locurto, J., Brown, K., Stowell, D., Maryman, J., Dean, A., . . . Siwierka, J. (2016). College students opinions on gun violence. Journal of Community Health, 41(3), 482-487. doi:10.1007/s10900-015-0118-x
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McCarthy, N. (2018). The numbers behind recent U.S. gun massacres. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/chart/13012/the-numbers-behind-recent-us-gun-massacres/
National Safety Council (NSC). (2018). Guns: Firearm related deaths. Retrieved from https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/home-and-community/safety-topics/firearms/data details/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6qaMsuyD3QIVjMhkCh0urgB7EAAYAiAAEgIDpPD_BwE
Schell, T. L., & Morral, A. R. (2016). Gun violence prevention. The Lancet, 388(10041), 233-234. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31037-6
Tarran, B. (2016). California commits $5m for gun violence research. Significance, 13(4), 6-7. doi:10.1111/j.1740-9713.2016.00929.x
About the Author
Dr. Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 32 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state, and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. Mark has a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.