The shooting in a mall just outside of Portland Oregon was followed by the deadly accuracy of another young man with guns killing 20 children and six adults in Newton Connecticut. President Obama captured the emotion of the nation–we are heartbroken and our prayers are with the families, survivors and their community.
And from this heartbreak comes a sense of fear–where will this happen next time? And from that fear comes anger and a call to government to do something to prevent these tragedies. And that brings us to the controversial issue of gun control versus gun rights. In my view, it is time to take another look at what has been happening in this country around guns–the changing laws, opinions, and the consequences. Like many policy issues, when it gets reduced to a simple pro or con, either/or discussion, we get a lot of shouting but not much clarity. And we need clarity.
There are several good articles that have been published providing some data about these tragedies and public opinion. It is worth checking out this issue from a research perspective.
One is a spectacular post by Ezra Klein who pulls together available research from a variety of sources:
Twelve Facts About Guns and Mass Shootings
Another is posted on The Atlantic by Derek Thompson: Do Americans Want More or Less Gun Control?
Some of the data was from PEW surveys–published in 2010 and you can find their post here: Polls: Gun Control Laws
Another is from Nate Silver, looking at the words used in this debate and how that has changed over time (a content analysis)Looking at the Words
Lastly, looking at deaths related to guns, the Bureau of Justice provides these statistics:
Homicide Trends in the US
This data offers will offer no comfort to those who have suffered from these tragedies. In the weeks and months ahead, I can only hope that some progress can be made in limiting access to guns–especially automatic weapons–so that lives will be saved.
From Mother Jones: A guide to mass shootings in America
Brady Campaign: Major School Shootings since 1997