Gun Violence

firearms_deaths_per_100k.pngGun violence in the United States is an incredible matter of statistics.  The United States has more mass shootings than anywhere else in the world; it has more school shootings than most other nations, although school shootings tend to have vastly-higher death tolls in Russia; and a much higher firearms death rate than any other developed nation.  The United States also has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.

Clearly, the United States must catch up to the rest of the world, and must take steps to lead the world in reduced suicide rate.  This requires a lot more than new regulatory legislation:  it requires accountability where there is an extreme lack thereof, as well as a strong focus on criminal justice reform to reduce the general rate of violent crime and suicide.

Administrative Problems in Background Checks

Devin Kelley, the Texas Church Shooter, legally-acquired his firearms despite a military court-martial conviction for domestic violence.  Somewhere in the process, the Air Force failed to report the conviction to Federal agencies for inclusion in background checks, allowing Kelley to come up clean on his firearms applications.

We should have no barrier to a bipartisan effort to improve our background checks.  By some measures, at least 25% of Felony convictions aren't available in the FBI's database, due to various State and Local agencies failing to properly forward information.  Even the NRA and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have complained and filed inquiries about the inadequacies in the FBI's background check database.

New firearms legislation will still draw from the same faulty data.  There may be some minor and significant adjustments necessary—such as for background checks between unlicensed sellers—and these, too, will require an accurate source of information.

Bullets, Magazines, and Rate of Fire

The size, shape, and powder load of cartridges affects their damage at various ranges.  The AR-15, for example, is manufactured in .223 and 5.57mm chambering, with the 5.57mm carrying a significantly-higher powder load.  Many .223 rounds can reliably kill a deer within 150 yards; others can't.  The shape of the bullet determines if it penetrates and continues on to hit another person in a crowd, or if it fragments and causes lethal damage on any impact.  The bullet doesn't make the weapon, but it significantly influences the damage done in a single or mass shooting.

Likewise, The AR-15 comes with 20- and 30-round magazines, whereas a revolver or a shotgun may carry six shots between reloads.  High-capacity magazines—especially in combination with anti-personnel bullets—change the nature of a firearm by allowing a shooter to fire again and again for long spans and carry fewer bulky magazines.

Finally, the rate of fire of rifles presents an enormous problem.  The AR-15 has a published firing rate of 45 rounds per minute, or one shot every one and one third seconds.  With a small piece of metal over the trigger, an untrained operator can make an AR-15 fire over 850 rounds per minute—nearly twenty times the published rate!  Standard hunting rifles without pistol grips have been known to fire at rates approaching 600 rounds per minute.

We must regulate cartridge ballistics, magazine capacity, and the physical limits on rate-of-fire for firearms purchased for private use.  Crucially, we need to not only regulate accessories which simulate automatic weapons, but also explore physical limits in the design of semi-automatic firearms so that achieving high rates of fire will require major modification of essential parts.

Criminal Justice Reform

Corrections goes far beyond prisons.  Modern corrections systems heavily-integrate behavioral health services (BHS) and divert problematic individuals from prisons to BHS programs.  Criminal justice reform starts with programs in prisons, and goes backwards into discretionary parole, juvenile justice, and pre- and post-incarceration corrections functions.  The lessons learned when developing our corrections system also fold back into schools, allowing us to identify and remediate behavioral problems more-effectively while also highlighting needs for which we fail to provide support.

Many cite mental health as a contributing factor to mass shootings, and the GOP leans heavily on mental illness in particular to avoid a discussion about gun regulation.  Behavioral health goes further than that:  not all behavioral problems stem from clinical illness.  Behavioral health services not only prevent violent crime, but also provide important and meaningful data to enhance background checks.  Those in need of behavioral health services may show wholly-temporary issues, or they may demonstrate a chronic mental health problem which increases the risk of suicide and thus impacts their legal ability to purchase a firearm.


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