Tuesday, June 8, 2021

On mass shootings

I still use Mother Jones' relatively cautious count of mass shootings, as I noted a few years ago. It's relatively cautious in terms of how it operationally defines mass shootings. This year, so far, appears to be a return to the immediate pre-pandemic years of 2017-2019. One of the few positives that came from the various lockdowns and curfews that came to define 2020 was that there were fewer opportunities for those with the means to commit mass shootings to do so. Other facets of daily life in the US are going back to some semblance of normality. Regrettably, so too are mass shootings. As I also noted earlier, defining mass shootings has proven to be quite difficult and politically charged. While I think the risk in a number of circles regarding being victimized by a mass shooter incident can get overstated, it's pretty clear from the pattern of data I see from Mother Jones' database that the trend over the decades is one of increased risk. We would do well to commit ourselves to a sober analysis of the root causes of this increase in mass shootings, as well as viable solutions. I seriously doubt that the political will exists at either the legislative or judicial levels to limit access to military grade firearms, even if doing so is an obvious step in the right direction. If some of the root causes are economic, perhaps the best available solutions are economic, and thankfully are ones that a functional legislative branch could begin to address. We've seen some beginnings of addressing some potential economic causes in the American Relief Act that was passed and signed into law earlier this year. Whether or not remaining economic legislation happens is a bit up in the air at the moment. If nothing else, we might be able, after a few years, to see if we begin to see a trend of decreased mass shootings that might be attributable to tangible efforts to address economic inequality and misery. That might not decrease the number of firearms in circulation, but if it decreases their use in mass shooting incidents, we might be willing to accept that is as good as it gets. We might also keep an eye on how the Department of Homeland Security responds in the next few years. Thus far, domestic terrorists have not been treated as enemies of the state. If that changes, we may potentially see a dampening effect on mass shootings, to the extent that they had some ideological or ethnic origin. We shall see.

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