Mass Shootings in America

I’ve spent the weekend, and past day in particular, reflecting on the tragic shootings that have happened over the past week and a half in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. My heart goes out to the families and friends who lost loved ones in these horrific acts of violence. For those who are leaving us, robbed of their chance to live, laugh, and love, my heart breaks at the injustice of your situation.

It is so incredibly painful to see shootings like this happen again and again with no recourse or political action to curb the tide. Gun violence is not a universal problem - it is an American problem. Our culture, originating in revolution, marinated in years of militia and civil war, supplied by an increasingly efficient military-industrial complex, and amplified by television and social media, has allowed for the ownership and operation of firearms to take place at a scale never seen before in the world.

The product of these trends has been that when a given individual “snaps” and commits an act of terror, murder, or both, guns are much more likely to be involved in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Take a peek at this viral tweet below to see the scale of what we’re talking about:

Thoughts and Prayers

For decades, the Republican Party (GOP), with the aid of the National Rifle Association (NRA), has stood against any further regulation of handguns, rifles, shotguns, and assault weapons in the United States. Even as those very weapons, often designed to kill humans, are employed to do exactly that, the NRA and GOP have stuck to their narrative that the problem is not the guns - in fact, there should be more guns, good guys with guns, teachers with guns - but with “bad apples” that happen to use guns for the wrong reasons.

Rather than intervene for the good of the American people, the GOP, which due to their control of their Senate, have made sure that no major gun-control legislation can be passed, have instead gone with the “thoughts and prayers” approach to making gun violence go away. Let’s take a look at how well that’s working:

The Human Toll of Mass Shootings

I understand the Second Amendment. I like shooting guns myself, and have fond memories in the forest and on the range with my dad. I empathize with families looking to protect themselves. But this system is not working. It is unbelievable to me that our country continues to condone a government which makes guns easily accessible to those with evil intentions. As the chart above shows, over 10,000 Americans have been killed or injured in a mass shooting over the past six years - a number that could have been dramatically reduced if we had the guts to make hard decisions and take common-sense measures to restrict the availability and variety of guns, as other countries have.

As President Barack Obama said in 2015, “thoughts and prayers [do] not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America next week or a couple months from now”. With Congressional Democrats firmly on the side of gun control and reform, Republican intransigence is the only reason for why new legislation cannot be passed, and as such I choose to hold them personally accountable for all future mass shootings until the passage of a gun control bill.

Mapping Mass Shootings Across the United States

Each data point below represents a mass shooting where at least 5 Americans were injured or killed since the start of 2014. The points are sized to represent the scale of the incident (as humans killed or injured) and shaped to indicate how recent the incidents were. All data comes from the Gun Violence Archive, and has been geocoded down to the local level for mapping purposes.