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Let’s Commit to Lowering Gun Deaths by 50 Percent in Ten Years, Will The Parkland Students’ Proposals Help?  —  A Report Card

March 27, 2018 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

The “March for Our Lives” brought hundreds of thousands of
people to the National Mall to protest gun violence. It was an
understandably emotional and evocative event that hopefully can
spur a constructive discussion about what to do about the problem.
As someone who has studied gun violence for more than 10 years, a
productive discussion would be a welcome change from the yelling
and shouting that typically accompanies the gun debate. The kids
have spoken, and I applaud them for their passion and effective
activism. Now it’s time for the adults to talk about what to
do.

America is a great nation that, when it buckles down and stops
bickering, can do great things. In 1961, President Kennedy
committed the country to putting a man on the moon before the
decade was out. So let’s make a similar pledge: let’s commit
ourselves to lowering American gun deaths-meaning both homicides
and suicides-by 50 percent in the next ten years. Like the moon
landing, we will employ the best thinkers on this issue and
instruct them to doggedly pursue the task at hand.

Every thinker we put to this task will tell us the same thing:
don’t focus on mass shootings and “assault weapons,” focus on
inner-city violence and suicides of middle-aged men. Fifty percent
of gun deaths equates to roughly 17,000 per year. Because suicides
are two-thirds of gun deaths, any policy proposal that doesn’t
focus on those will not, by itself, get us to our goal. Even
eliminating all gun homicides would not get us there.

Here’s a further break down of the gun-death
numbers. Roughly 6,000-7,000 people are killed in homicides using
pistols, and two-thirds of those are young black men between the
ages of 15-34, often living in urban areas. “Assault weapons” are
difficult to define, but they are a type of rifle that is sometimes
used in high-profile mass shootings at schools and elsewhere. All
rifles, of which “assault weapons” are a subset, killed approximately 524
people in 2016, compared to 7,105 killed by pistols (there are some
holes in the FBI’s data). While we’re not sure because the data
don’t go deep enough, “assault weapons,” as a popular subset of
rifles, likely kill approximately 200-300 people per year. About
10 students per year
are killed by gunfire in schools, sometimes by “assault weapons.” A
“mass shooting” can be defined in a variety of ways (it’s a highly
contentious question),
but if we’re talking about public “spree killings,” where someone
goes to a public place to indiscriminately kill, they’re only …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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