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March 13, 2018

No Smoking Gun

The epidemic of gun violence is much more far-reaching than most people—even gun opponents—are ready to admit.

School shootings have been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. But does this hyper-focused coverage lead the public and the national media to misdirect their efforts to end gun violence? At Central Michigan University on March 2, a shooting in a campus dormitory caused a wave of national attention. Yet, after the unfortunate and sad truth surfaced that a student had shot his parents, there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief throughout the country that this was not another “school shooting” but a domestic incident, and the event seemed to lose its claim to the breaking-news cycle. 

Those outside of Michigan will most likely never hear the full details of this alleged double-murder. It will, by all appearances, be marked as a “regular crime,” as if the victims were not just as compelling as their school shooting counterparts, who are no more and no less important than the 764 total victims of gun violence in Chicago last year. The focus of gun reform should be on the “normal” gun violence that plagues our society. 

As a result of our obsessive coverage of school shootings, our idea of meaningful gun reform is distorted. For example, after a mass shooting, the push for banning military-style guns is common, yet they were only responsible for an estimated 332 murders in the United States in 2012. This policy recommendation would only address around 3 percent of all gun murders and do little to placate the thousands of deaths due to handguns each year. 

Banning military-style weapons has already been tried once: The sale of assault weapons was banned from 1994–2004, with murky results. With that being said, there are about 13,000 firearm homicides each year according to the CDC, with two-thirds of those victims being black. Along with this, there are twice as many suicides committed using guns as there are homicides. 

Instead of just focusing on school shootings or military-style weapons, we should ask ourselves what these statistics mean. Are suicides unavoidable? Are minorities perpetually going to bear the brunt of gun violence? With politicians on both sides of the aisle feuding over assault rifles, is anyone really meaningfully focused on reducing gun deaths overall? Gun reform, when it does come, should have real effects beyond providing fiery rhetoric for reelection campaigns. 

Many of those advocating for gun reform are fighting admirably, but the wrong battle is currently being fought. Although high-profile mass shootings are a societal issue, they are not the gun issue that reform efforts should revolve around.  

Aaron Katsimpalis is a first-year in the College.

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