Kelly Thorell ‘21, Opinion Editor
In 15 minutes from now another person in the United States will be shot dead. This dead American will not be highly remembered, instead they will become a gun violence statistic: one of the daily 316 shooting victims, possibly one of the 106 who will die, or maybe they will join the 65 people who will use a gun to commit suicide. The victim’s family will then be a part of the 58 percent of Americans who have known someone who was a victim of gun violence.
When learning of the outrageously high gun violence in the United States, we often only think of the vile mass shooters opening fire in public places or institutions, such as grocery stores like happened in Boulder last month, or the disturbed gun-wielding school shooters like in Parkland where14 students and three adults were killed in a mass school shooting. Our minds tend to focus on the outlying, yet of course more common than they ever should be, mass shootings in urban centers.
Gun violence statistics can offer good insight of the frequency of gun violence, though they can also be very misleading and do not tell the full story. It would be ignorant to dismiss these notorious mass shootings, though the vast majority of gun violence does not happen this way.
Understanding how, where, and who typically falls victim to gun violence may help us understand why. This is important to discover because understanding the reality of gun violence may help us find a cure for this epidemic that plagues the States.
When speaking on gun violence, we often only think of murder and homicide. However, only 37 percent of gun deaths are from murder, while sucide deaths make up 60 percent of the gun-death statistics (Pew Research). Sadly, about two-thirds of all suicide attempts are made by using a firearm. Guns are particularly deadly with suicides, as nine in ten suicide attempts with firearms are fatal. This leads to a total of 23,000 Americans dying from firearm-suicides each year.
In the popular gun-death statistics, suicides are often included in the figures, though not many realize that suicide deaths compose the majority of gun deaths. Thus, this causes people to develop a misconstrued number of the people who are being murdered than what is actually happening. Of course, suicide and homocide are both extremely disheartening, but they should be separated as they both are two very different and conflating the two can be misleading in the statistics.
On July 4, 2020 on Chicago’s West Side, seven-year-old Natalie Wallace was playing outside of her grandmother’s house. A car pulled up and the men who got out open fired in the direction of the Wallace’s holiday party. Natalie was shot in the head and was pronounced dead at the hospital. One of the first responders to the shooting was Pastor Donovan Price, who said that he had already attended the scenes of 53 shootings just that holiday weekend.
The majority of gun deaths are not evenly distributed among the nation, but instead most occur in inner-city communities. According to CrimeResearch.org, 50 percent of all homicides occur in only two percent of the nation’s counties, the majority of them occurring in specific, disadvantaged neighborhoods. This means that gun homicides tend to be very focused in certain areas, whereas other areas are not as affected. On the flip side, 54 percent of U.S. counties had zero homicides in 2014, showing the drastic changes in gun violence depending on location in the U.S..
The likelihood of dying from a gun-related homicide is further narrowed to a specific group who are those involved in gangs and the drug trade: 15-33 percent of gun homicides revolve around gang or drug disputes.
Gun Violence is not equally distributed among Americans
Gun violence typically occurs in high-poverty and racially-segregated neighborhoods. This unfortunately causes minority communities to be most vulnerable to gun-related homicides, meaning black Americans are 10 times more likely to die by gun homicides than other Americans. Within the black community, young men between the ages of 15-34 tend to suffer the most from gun violence, with black men making up two thirds of all gun-homicide victims. More devastatingly, the leading cause for death of black children and teens is gun violence, as reported by Every Town Research.
Every single month, 51 women are shot to death by their partners in America: more than a woman a day is taken from this Earth because of abusive relationships. This does not even include the number of survivors of attempted shootings. Women are 21 times more likely to be shot by their partner in America than in other high-income countries. These outrageous numbers are all the more disheartening and goes to show that a large percentage of murders where a gun was utilized are actually committed by people one may know or love.
There is light
To have tens of thousands of American die annually from gun violence is not—and should never be—acceptable. The numbers, however, are improving. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime has been decreasing since the 1990s. This makes it so that in 2011, the homicide rate was almost half than what it was in 1991. However, statistics have shown that mass shootings, shootings where four or more people are shot, have increased: there has been more mass shootings since 2004 than in all of our prior history. As Americans, we should continue to strive toward becoming a country where gun violence is not within our culture, and we should not have to fear for our livelihood at any place and at any time. All Americans, no matter where they live or who they are, should have the right that they will not become another statistic of gun violence in the United States.
This is painful. We are all victims.