August 9, 2019
In the wake of America’s horrific weekend of mass shootings, President Donald Trump blamed video games and mental illness for this uniquely American tragedy. As everyone knows, the president is always quick with some well vetted research or scientific basis for his opinions, usually limited to 280 characters.
So the president got me thinking, is America the only country with video games and mental illness? Of course not. Video games are no more the cause of mass shootings than John Wayne is the cause of shootouts. Mental illness plays a role in some mass shootings, but consider the death toll if a mentally ill man attacked a crowd with a hammer or ball bat or even a knife instead of an assault rifle?
Canada has mental illness and violent video games and its rate of gun violence is far lower than the United States.
What’s the difference? According to Darryl McManus of the Los Angeles Times, “Like every other developed country, Canada has stricter gun regulation and fewer guns per person than we (the United States) do.”
Sure, mass shootings get our attention, but not nearly as much as they did in the 20 years since Columbine. One might ask how many more mass shootings will it take for Congress or the president to stand up and say “enough is enough?”
Unfortunately, mass shootings are only the tip of the iceberg. More people died from firearm injuries in the United States in 2017 (the most recent statistics) than in any other year since at least 1968, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the New York Times, there were 39,773 gun deaths in 2017, up by more than 1,000 from the year before. Nearly two-thirds were suicide, and suicide in the United States is on the rise - increasing by about 30% since 2000. The number of firearm deaths was the largest yearly total on record and reflects the carnage on the streets and in the homes across this country.
How can lawmakers continue to ignore the impact of guns? While the president talks about mental illness and video games, the United States is the world’s leader in firearms ownership. It is not a narrow margin. For instance, the U.S. has 121 firearms per 100 people. Canada has about 35 per 100.
The government’s unwillingness to act appears to be contrary to public opinion on the issue of guns. President Trump claimed, after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that there’s “no political appetite” for gun restrictions. A Morning Consult Poll this week found that nearly 70% of all voters would back some restrictions. Support for an assault-weapons ban was higher, at 86%, among Democrats, and 55% of Republicans.
The demand for action is not just the result of the most recent massacres. In a March 2019 Quinnipiac University Poll, 86% of U.S. voters - including 80% of Republicans and 76% of gun owners - said they support a House-approved bill requiring background checks for all gun purchases including gun shows and online.
In fact, polling conducted in 2016, when Trump campaigned on his strong support for the Second Amendment, 55% of GOP voters were comfortable with banning assault-weapons. The carnage over the last three years is horrifying: 58 dead at a Las Vegas concert; 49 dead in an Orlando nightclub; 26 dead in a Texas church; and now 31 dead in El Paso and Dayton.
Yet, as the online magazine Politico pointed out, the National Rifle Association spent $30 million dollars helping Trump get elected and action on common sense gun regulation has slowed to a halt.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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