EDITORIAL: To stop gun violence, learn more about its roots
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Hours after the horrific mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, President Donald Trump said, “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better.”
Trump’s been saying stuff like that for years and, sure, why not? Strap on your guns, America, before heading out to pray.
But let’s not stop there.
On Monday morning in Chicago, the inbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway were closed for three hours after a shooting that injured three people. We should all be armed and ready, presumably, before driving up an expressway ramp.
Last week, the owner of a popular suburban restaurant was shot and killed while riding in a car on the Northwest Side. We had better start packing heat on side streets, too.
On Saturday afternoon, there was a shooting on a crowded Loop sidewalk near Adams and Wabash. It’s probably wise to carry a gun when going for a walk.
And last Wednesday, two people were shot dead at a Kentucky grocery store. Simple common sense says we should all arm up like Rambo before venturing out for a quart of milk.
Or before going to a movie or a baseball game or a museum or a day care center or school.
Heck, if you’re sitting at home right now without a Glock at the ready, you might be in grave danger.
If we were to listen to Trump and those who think as he does, we all would be armed all the time, preferably with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the weapon of choice among mass murderers. The accused killer of 11 men and women at the synagogue in Pittsburgh was armed with an AR-15.
But people in other nations don’t live that way, and neither should we. It is antithetical to the values of a civilized society, as opposed to an armed camp. And the lion’s share of academic research — though stymied by a Congress in the pocket of the National Rifle Association — shows that those who call for more guns are missing the target.
A 2015 study by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University found that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns.
An analysis of 15 other studies, also in 2015, indicated that people with guns at home were almost twice as likely to be murdered.
A study published in 1993 in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that guns in the home made it almost three times as likely someone in that home would be shot by a family member or acquaintance.
Overall, research appears to show that lax gun laws invite more gun deaths, while stricter laws make us safer. Many of these commonsense laws were outlined recently in the Chicago Sun-Times’ 31 bullets series.
Last spring, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation, after analyzing the research, concluded that more rigorous study is needed to find the best solutions to gun violence. But federal funding for just this sort of research was blocked for decades by the so-called 1986 Dickey Amendment. The law prohibited the federal Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence.
In March, Congress re-interpreted the Dickey Amendment to say the CDC finally can conduct gun studies, but it has provided no funding.
Our point is not that synagogues, churches, mosques and other so-called “soft targets” should not employ armed security. That would be their call, and we have no doubt it is sometimes necessary. But the solution to America’s problem of gun violence cannot be to pursue some Wild West or Road Warrior fantasy. The happy endings work out better in the movies.
In August, polling released by a group called Guns Down and the Center for American Progress indicated that voters significantly prefer candidates who favor bold measures to reduce gun violence. Two-thirds of the voters surveyed said they want stronger gun laws — not more guns.
To help stop gun violence, Congress should fund top-quality research to learn what works best.
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