OPINION | Pandemic did not end gun violence

Anna Dixon, Staff Writer

 As the United States returns to a new state of normalcy, with the allowance of outdoor gatherings and more businesses being able to reopen, mass shootings have surged. It reflects a grim reality for our country: a return to normal includes a return to frequent headlines of mass shootings. This reemergence of mass shootings illustrates the pandemic has had little impact on the values of our society. Quarantine could have served as a time to reflect and better our world, but it clearly failed to do so, as we still have the same problems as before and the same insufficient response.

Maggie Pasterz

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 147 mass shootings in the U.S. Over 12,000 Americans have died in the past 4 1/2 months from gun-related incidents, but most of these people were not the victim of a mass shooting.

Mass shootings generate media attention, but this distracts from the fact that most gun deaths occur from everyday violence. 2020, a year which mainly consisted of a lockdown, still had the highest number of deaths from guns. 20,000 people died from gun-related deaths in the United States, not including the 24,000 people that used a gun to commit suicide. Since these incidents mainly consisted of individual acts of violence with fewer casualties a piece, they did not receive media attention, especially when stories related to COVID-19 garnered the most viewers.

Half a million Americans have died from COVID-19, but, as is the case with gun-related deaths, individual stories are not paid attention to, simply because there is not enough time. Large statistics and the occasional emotional anecdote draw attention, not cases of common violence. Over 100 people die a day from guns in the U.S. This large number is the result of dozens of individual incidents, but we simply do not pay attention to them. When a dozen people die due to one gunman, we pay attention to that. Perhaps, in this country, it is easier to imagine one evil person hidden among us, rather than many at once. 

            This thought process takes the emphasis off lack of gun control being the issue and shifting focus to the gunman, the individual who committed the crime. Discussions of mental health issues stifle the need for greater gun control. However, when incidents of everyday violence are analyzed, there are too many variables at play that the common factor becomes evident: a gun. 

Discussions of gun violence in the U.S. would be incomplete without the acknowledgment that it disproportionately affects minority communities. This can largely be attributed as the reason that everyday violence is not discussed: for the most part, it does not affect white communities. Factoring in gun violence alone, the life expectancy of Black Americans decreases by four years. Black people in the United States are two times more likely than their white peers to die from gun violence and 14 times more likely to be injured by a gun. 

However, as is the case with most legislation in the United States, gun control historically targets Black people. It was not until the Black Panther Party walked to California’s state capitol with loaded rifles that Ronald Reagan, the governor of the state at the time, wanted to implement stronger gun laws. This policy of limiting guns for people of color and not other Americans carries into today. In 2018, more than 56% of federal firearms offenders were Black. Distrust of police forces and cases of racial injustice led Black Americans to arm themselves for their own protection; therefore, any successful implementation of gun control must include disarming of police as well. 

Overall, Louisiana currently ranks fourth in the country for gun-related deaths, averaging 990 a year. Despite this, the state still does not require a person to complete a background check before purchasing a firearm. However, in Louisiana, 42.91 out of 100,000 Black men die from a firearm homicide every year in comparison to only 4.06 out of 100,000 white men. 

The focus on mass shootings during gun control debates helps the argument for a ban on assault rifles and automatic weapons. However, increasing regulation of these guns alone is not adequate. Every gun can take a life. In 2017, handguns accounted for 64% of murders and manslaughters involving guns, while rifles were involved in only 4%. America does not have an assault rifle problem — we have a gun problem.