Is it Gun Violence or School Shootings?

AK 1We should be able to agree on something:  This country will remain divided on the issue of gun control.  Emotional tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting only amplify this division.

Right now, our country is in the beginning phase of banning certain weapons and magazines, in response to the Sandy Hook shooting and others similar to it.  I submit to you that we are motivated by emotion and not facts.  Allow me to share some facts1 that are not otherwise likely to make their way into this argument:

All Murders – 2011

  • There were 12,664 murders in the U.S. in 2011. 
  • 8,583 or 68% of those murders were committed with firearms.
  • 1,694 or 13.4% of all murders were committed using a knife or cutting instrument.
  • 728 or 5.7% of all murders were committed using only personal weapons such as hands or feet.
  • 496 or 3.9% of all murders were committed using a blunt object. 
  • About 8% of the murders were committed with “other” weapons, presumably some of them unknown.  

Firearm Murders – 2011

  • 6,220 or 77.1% of firearm murders were committed using handguns.
  • 356 or 4.1% of all firearm murders involve the use of shotguns.
  • 323 or 3.8% of all firearm murders involve the use of rifles.
  • About 15% of all firearm murders are committed by “other” firearms or by firearms that are “not stated.”  Perhaps not specifically reported.

So if we conclude we have a murder problem that needs to be further addressed with laws and restrictions, which is the most logical cause to start with based on the knowledge we possess?  In rank order of death toll:

  1. Handguns
  2. Knives
  3. Blunt objects
  4. Shotguns
  5. Rifles (including assault rifles)

In what order will lawmakers likely attack this problem?  In rank order of emotional distress and voter pressure:

  1. Assault rifles
  2. Large capacity magazines for pistols and rifles

I am not sure what more I can add to the senseless argument that is taking place now and will continue throughout 2013, other than to state what I believe is obvious:

Some guns and ammunition should never be made available to the public.  The best examples of this are cheaply made assault weapons which can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.  There is no redeeming quality to these weapons in a civilian setting, no matter what anyone says – even the NRA.  The cost, availability, and destructive ammunition they use all contribute to their ridiculousness.  On the other hand, systematic and broad-brush restrictions on firearms are not the answer and should not be pursued by the government.     

The constitutional argument is becoming the default tactic for nationwide patriotic manipulation.  Americans get emotional about guns.  There will be someone reading this post that will allege treason and use the word “tyranny” in his comments.  The Supreme Court has heard many arguments regarding the second amendment and has upheld it.  Let’s keep the argument about the facts today and stop labeling people because they don’t agree with you.  I believe that in order to intelligently argue the issue of gun control and the second amendment, you must spend time on both sides of the fence.

No law ever suppressed the free will of man.  More laws will not solve the issue of gun violence.  It’s already against the law to kill people and has been since Moses received the 10 commandments.  The problem is already being solved mysteriously at the rate of 2% to 3% per year.  Murders continue to decrease from a peak in 1991 of 24,700 to a 44 year low of 12,664 in 2011.  That’s a 49% decrease in murder in 20 years!  Violent crime in general has been on a ten+ year downward trend.  It is time to examine what is working, rather than using our imagination and fears to project what is wrong.  Plus – only law abiding people abide by laws. 

Arming teachers will only present a greater threat to our students.  This extreme measure should be weighed by the parents of the students, not the National Rifle Association.

Do we believe schools in America are being targeted by mass murderers?  If so, why wouldn’t we address the physical and procedural security of our school buildings?   Why do all of the “experts” have to come from Washington D.C?  Why does the President have to become emotionally involved before he takes action?  I suspect the answer to our Nation’s problems are right here within our grasp, but unfortunately we have our attention focused elsewhere, and we are in the habit of concluding it’s someone else’s problem to solve.

I recommend we first identify the problem.  Is it gun violence or school shootings?  They are not the same problem, nor do they require the same treatment.  Once we know what the problem is, let’s have national collaboration, emphasizing local action.  Tap the National Sheriffs Association and International Association of Chiefs of Police to work with federal authorities to identify a number of options that will be appropriate and effective in combating the issue.  These two organizations should be among the first-string problem solvers; after all, this is a public safety issue, not a political one.  Lawmakers and the federal government do have a role however, and that is to find the needed funding to support the solutions.   

 1 Source: FBI Murder Data Tables

About chiefsview

Former police chief. Mildly opinionated.
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28 Responses to Is it Gun Violence or School Shootings?

  1. Pat says:

    “It is time to examine what is working, rather than using our imagination and fears to project what is wrong.” So simple, yet makes so much sense. Any parent or teacher can tell you that accentuating and rewarding good habits and behavior is much more effective than punishing the bad. Way to call it!

  2. Nice, I like your way of thinking and I am not agianst gun control nor am I for removing guns from the public There is middle ground for both sides if they will open there Eyes, And I see we have a good thing started here in are Rapid City schools for the protection of the Kids. Keep up the good work and God Bless you and all are Officers. Lets all go home safe every night.

  3. Larry Hall says:

    In China a man went into a school and stabbed 22 students.China will now ban knives i suppose.Flies dont cause garbage guns dont kill people.Anyone bent on killing will find a way.The problem is a moral one but nobody will talk about that.

  4. TL says:

    Chief, you are dead on — sorry about the use of that term — about assault rifles and multi-round clips. Who hunts with a 30-bullet clip? Who target shoots with them? They are only good for killing people.
    Years ago, removing “Saturday Night Specials,” the cheap handguns that kill thousands of Americans, was the hot topic in gun control discussions. It needs to be examined again.
    Demographic changes, the end of the crack cocaine battles in major cities, and better police work have reduced gun deaths. It’s a positive trend, but there is more work to be done with more than 10,000 Americans shot dead each year.
    We limit speech in this country with libel/slander laws and other controls on speech. We limit religion, not allowing Mormons to marry multiple wives, or other faiths to use drugs, violence or sex in their ceremonies.
    Why can we not limit guns in a reasonable manner?

    • Ty says:

      The terminology you use proves you have no understanding of the issue.

      An “assault rifle” has a specific definition. The main feature being that it is a select fire weapon (usually a full automatic – it continues to fire as long as the trigger is pulled back). Assault rifles are already heavily regulated under a law passed in 1934.

      An “assault weapon” is a meaningless term that applies to cosmetic features of a gun and not the functionality.

      The proper term is “magazine” not clip. They are two different things. You are correct that no one hunts deer with a 30 round magazine, but that is because it is against the law. It also doesn’t matter.

      Large capacity magazines are no more dangerous than a 10 round magazine. It takes all of 2 to 3 seconds to change out magazines.

      The time when they are most necessary is in cases of self defense.

      This happened yesterday. Man breaks in, finds a woman hiding with her kids in the attic and she shoots him 5 times, misses once. He’s still alive and she’s lucky he was alone. All she had was a 6 shot revolver. If she had missed more, or if he hadn’t been alone, the outcome would have been tragic.

      And now I assume you are going to say that no one uses “assault weapons” for self defense. Again, you would be wrong. Read this from a person that knows more about guns than most people, including The Chief.

      The Chief is completely wrong in this stance “Some guns and ammunition should never be made available to the public. The best examples of this are cheaply made assault weapons which can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. There is no redeeming quality to these weapons in a civilian setting, no matter what anyone says – even the NRA. ”

      Evidently he thinks that only well to do people should be able to buy a gun. The redeeming quality in these guns is that they enable those that are poor to still purchase a gun to defend themselves.

      • chiefsview says:

        Ty: The Chief is not wrong. He simply has an opinion, just like you. I wrote an entire article about the realities of violence in America and that gun control should not be an option used by the government – you just happened to focus on the one paragraph in which I had an opinion that was different than yours. I am not against assault weapons generally, but anything can be overdone.

      • TL says:

        Let me point out the vast forest while you stubbornly gaze at a single tree.
        The point is not exact gun terminology and technique. It’s about death.
        Why does the USA’s gun death rate — murders, suicides and accidental shooting — so far outstrip all other advanced nations? It’s obviously because of the glut of guns — 300 million! — in this blood-soaked land.
        Australia tightened its guns laws 25 years ago and has had NO mass killings since then. Its gun homicide rate is a tiny fraction of ours. Facts matter.
        Unless you believe Americans to be more violent, much crazier or just a lot of more likely to kill than any other country of our economic and educational level, it’s guns.
        Remove the twig from your view and take a long, full look at all the guns, and the havoc and death they are linked to in the USA.

  5. Scott Lewis says:

    I like what you imply about addressing the security in schools by making changes to the structures themselves. As a delivery driver, I wonder why is it I have to call in to get inside most apartment buildings in this town, but I can walk right into every school? Really, is an intercom, a video camera, and a heavy steel door to much to ask for when it comes to protecting children?

  6. Dave Davis says:

    As always your post is well thought out and well written. No matter which side of this issue a person resides, your points are valid and your recommendations far superior to the knee jerk reaction we are seeing from either side on both a local and a national level. Isn’t it interesting the public reaction following such a tragedy always involves gun control?
    Why don’t these tragedies spark discussion about expanded funding for education to avert these problems at their source, the mental instability of man? Would reduced class size so that teachers actually have the opportunity to interact with every student or highly qualified counselors in every school solve this problem? Would programs, to educate parents to help them identify mental issues with their own children and guide them towards professional eliminate just one such incident? I don’t know!
    Before we jump to conclusions and take a run at the constitution or arm every teacher, it sure seems like other options merit discussion.
    Thanks for your thought provoking post and all you do to make Rapid City a better place to live.

  7. Chief,
    As always your post is well thought out and well written. No matter which side of this issue a person resides, your points are valid and your recommendations far superior to the knee jerk reaction we are seeing from either side on both a local and a national level. Isn’t it interesting the public reaction following such a tragedy always involves gun control?
    Why don’t these tragedies spark discussion about expanded funding for education to avert these problems at their source, the mental instability of man? Would reduced class size so that teachers actually have the opportunity to interact with every student or highly qualified counselors in every school solve this problem? Would programs, to educate parents to help them identify mental issues with their own children and guide them towards professional help eliminate just one such incident? I don’t know…none of us do for sure!
    Before we jump to conclusions and take a run at the constitution or arm every teacher, it sure seems like other options merit discussion.
    Thanks for your thought provoking post and all you do to make Rapid City a better place to live.

  8. dangerwing says:

    I strongly disagree with your statements about “assault rifles” and high capacity magazines and “destructive ammunition”. First of all, a completely untrained shooter can change a magazine in less than 3 seconds. A well trained shooter can change a magazine in less than 1 second. A person wishing to do mass-damage can simply carry nine 10-round magazines instead of three 30-round magazines. There will be no practical difference in the overall firepower weilded by the shooter. Yes he may take a sum total of 20 seconds to reload (average of 2 sec per mag x 10 mags) instead of 6 seconds (average of 2 sec per mag x 3 mags) but the fact is, during a 5 – 7 minute shooting spree that will most likely end when the subject runs out of ammunition and takes his own life, a few extra seconds of reloading will make no difference. He will just commit suicide 14 seconds later.

    As for “assault rifles” I ask you this (bear with my analogy here) – Have you ever wanted to pound in a nail but didn’t have a hammer? What did you do? You pounded in the nail with the back end of a screw driver or the side of a wrench. As your statistics have shown, assault rifles are used for criminal purposes much less frequently that most other weapons. If you ban assault weapons, the criminal will ignore the law and use one anyway, and if he cannot access an assault weapon, he will use some other type of weapon.

    Lastly, “destructive ammunition”. This statement proves to me that you know very little about firearms. I do not mean this as an insult. I know very little about many topics. Nobody is well versed in all subjects. If you think assault weapons use ammunition that is more “destructive” than the ammunition fired by non-”assault rifles” this must be one of the subjects in which you are not well versed. The truth is that some states ban the use of common assault rifle calibers for large game hunting (ie deer) because they lack sufficient power to kill the animal unless the shot placement is nearly perfect. Furthermore, common hunting rifles are generally MUCH more powerful than assault rifles. Assault rifles are designed to use light ammunition so that a soldier can carry a large quantity of it as he marches through the jungle in Vietnam or up the side of a mountain in Afghanistan. Light ammunition equals smaller bullets and less gunpoweder thus less power over all. If the modern US Army soldier or US Marine has one complaint about our current standard issue assault rifle it is that the weapons are under powered. Current US squads regularly carry a shotgun during squad operations for “breeching” purposes. In layman’s terms, an assault rifle doesn’t even have enough power to shoot the lock off of a door, so a shotgun is carried specifically for that purpose. There are many theories as to why the US Military changed from a high power rifle round (7.62 x 51mm) to a lighter, weaker round (5.56 x 45mm) in the 1960′s, but one of the more common speculations is that wounding the enemy is better than killing him. By using a lighter round and only wounding an enemy soldier, the enemy must then commit several other soldiers to carrying him off the battle field. Resources must be committed to medical supplies and facilities. There is the belief that the cries and moans of a wounded soldier will be more demoralizing than the death of a soldier. I could ramble on and on, but in summary of this section, I will simply reiterate the fact that most “assault rifles” are NOT highly powered weapons that can blast through barriers and cause instant death. The belief that they are is a manifestation of ignorance and media hype.

    • chiefsview says:

      Dangerwing: I have the opinion that “some” weapons should not be allowed on the market. Not all assault weapons. But $100 weapons that are built to mimick the AK-47 (for example), use ammunition designed for maximum penetration, and are manufactured overseas then shipped to the U.S. to be assembled (to escape current import laws) are more bad than good. That – is my opinion… one that I formed over three decades in the law enforcement business and one I did not get by listening to the media. But it is just that – an opinion.

      • Ty says:

        What gun is $100 that is a semi-automatic .223 with a detachable magazine? A Mosin Nagant is the only rifle I know of that costs that little.

        If they were actually a problem, rifles would have been responsible for more than the 323 deaths they were in 2011.

      • chiefsview says:

        Ty: I haven’t personally seen one in some time, but a year or two ago, a local shop was still selling SKS rifles for $100 and change. A couple months ago, one of the stores was advertising a pistol-grip version of something similar in appearance (I didn’t pay attention to the model) for just over $100. Today, after the Sandy Hook shooting and all the new talk of a gun ban, they are now $700-$800. Don’t misunderstand my point here – I am not advocating gun control. What I am doing is saying, cheap import guns – especially the 7.62X39 variety are not good for society. I have gone out of my way to illustrate that rifles are not the problem. They are also not the solution – they are rarely used for self protection. It’s not scientific research, it’s an opinion…

      • Ty says:

        An SKS is not an AK style weapon. Most of the ones you saw for the $100 mark are not detachable magazine weapons. Ironically, they are the ones that use “clips”

        While you say you aren’t advocating gun control, you focus on specific guns the way people calling for a new AWB do. You are focusing on a weapon that is used in such a small percentage of crimes as to be insignificant.

        As for it not being useful for self defense. The Korean store owners during the L.A Rodney King riots would probably have a few words to say about that.

        You say it’s just an opinion, but it’s an opinion based on feelings and not fact. Policy based on feelings is what gave us the original AWB.

      • chiefsview says:

        Ty – You are twisting words (are you a lawyer?) You must not have read the article I wrote. I did not “focus” on one weapon. I focused on the facts that violence and murder rates are declining in America. I opined that we don’t need a weapons ban, and that lawmakers will likely do the wrong thing when it comes to finding a solution to whatever the problem is. Let me have my opinion about which guns are good and which are bad, and I’ll let you have your opinions about things. By the way – my opinion is that “The Piano” is the worst movie ever made. When I watched it, I felt it was poorly made, the actors dishonored themselves and I felt overall that it was stupid. My opinion about The Piano is based on personal feelings, not facts…and it’s just as valid as anyone else’s. My opinions do not become policy- especially on an issue of national debate. Thanks for reading and commenting, but I can’t argue anymore. Have a good weekend.

  9. KC says:

    I’m certain you don’t have to worry about it. The NRA and the GOP will make certain of it. Bank on it.

  10. ME says:

    I won’t pontificate on all the differences and reasons why certain ammunition, etc should or should not be available or resort to name-calling or over generalizations and hyperboles.

    We have a huge issue that we are essentially devolving into a relative moralistic culture. We have lost our lead in the world for many reasons…not just because we don’t have the math scores, etc that other country’s students have, but we have stopped thinking about things critically and logically. We want the quick fix so we can get back to our movie or our golf game or whatever.

    When was the last time each of us has inconvenienced ourselves to help someone else? When was the last time we avoided making a decision in the heat of the moment and found we made a better decision (considering the test of time) because we waited to make that decision until all the facts were in AND our emotional level was held in check. To illustrate that point, when was the last time you deleted an email when you were passionate about something and instead returned after allowing your passionate emotions to abate to where you could think clearly.

    To me it is clear that when we are emotionally charged, we should recognize we only can do two things well…Fight or Flee. Neither one involves thinking…only reacting. So knowing this about our human nature, why not change our process in order to allow ourselves to think about things with rational and coherent thought.

    I firmly believe that if we have more of our rights taken away, we won’t be solving anything but creating more opportunity for those who are not law abiding to take advantage of the rest. I also know many teachers, and they are somewhat concerned. Think back, we had discussions about this when vets were going postal in the postal service offices. what did we do there? we sought out how to get them help. How to create people who could help them get help at the VA who already had some programs ready to help with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. We are even better at diagnosing it and getting our vets help.

    In the meantime, let begin looking at processes and procedures to making these precious children more safe. I bet if we get our heads together and really look at the evidence, we’ll come up with more innovative solutions that don’t take away rights, don’t cost billions and get the job done fast.

    Let’s think this way. Let’s think about getting people who show signs of having issues help…Spiritual, Physical, Mental, etc.

    Thanks Chief for elevating this!

  11. TL says:

    Worth a read and a thought, especially for those obsessed with guarding their homes against all invaders while polishing the metal of their precious weapon. As Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

  12. Kevin Armbrust says:

    what if the person responsible for the shootings instead drove his suv or car into a school or bus loaded with children there would be no talk about banning the car or suv would there?

    • chiefsview says:

      No sir. A weapons ban will not stop murder. Drunk drivers kill more Americans than war. We have banned drunk driving and the killing continues. Very frustrating because we are wasting time with a “solution” that has no chance of working. Thanks for reading.

  13. Janet Holmes says:

    Thank you very much for your measured input on this emotional issue and for pointing out that homicides by guns are down 49% across the country. We all need to look at the medication these shooters were on, lower the volume on both “sides” of the gun control argument and do our own homework. Iatrogenesis and suicide now surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death in the US, far above homicide by guns:

    “In 2009, for example, almost 11,500 Americans were killed by someone else with a gun, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but more than 18,000 killed themselves with a firearm.

    “Some may shrug and say that suicidal individuals without guns would simply turn to another method. This is wrong. Not only do numerous studies link the presence of guns to elevated suicide rates, but suicide by gun is far more lethal than other methods. The “success rate” of gun suicide is about 90 percent, compared with less than 30 percent for poisoning, for example. Firearms also require the least amount of persistence and effort; the ease of pulling a trigger makes a gun more appealing to those who act on impulse. And studies of suicide survivors find that only about one in 10 makes a second attempt.”

    Again, when the psychotropic drugs that these shooters were on also cause suicidal ideation, why aren’t people focusing on this?

    I found this question and Best Answer on Yahoo! (wish they had more current stats, but still eye opening):

    What percentage of gun deaths are NOT gang related or suicide by a gun?

    Best Answer – Chosen by Asker
    “Of the almost 31,000 firearm deaths in the United States during 2005, 55 percent were suicides, according to stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

    There were 8,583 gun related murders in 2011. So, about 4,720 were suicides. Note that that is roughly half the overall homicides in the US according to the CDC.

    The 14 cities with the most gang violence are responsible for 3,410 homicides (Atlanta, Louisville, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Memphis, Detroit, Philly, New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles, St Louis, Birmingham, Baltimore). Given that firearm deaths are about half of homicides in the US, this would put a seemingly conservative estimate of firearm violence in these cities at about 1,700.

    We don’t know how many of the homicides in those cities are gang related so I will leave the rest of the guess work to you. If they were all estimated to be gang-related then US firearm gang homicide would seem to be around 25%, suicides at 55%, and other being 20%.

    Interesting to note that overall, homicides are down: During 2006, a total of 17,030 homicides occurred among U.S. residents. Homicides in 2011 were roughly 72% what they were in 2006.


    Edited 5 days ago

  14. Ken Simmons says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Steve. It’s a shame that we only think about these issues subsequent to a tragedy when it is very difficult not to be emotional. Especially for those who rarely think about public safety in their work.

    I was interested in your observation about the historical decline in violence. People I speak with disagree with me when I point out the facts of the studies you cite. The noted Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker has recently written “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined” which takes a long view of history to show that as a species, we have indeed become less violent towards each other. The facts are very plain but it doesn’t explain tragedies like Sandy Hook except that there are some situations for which you can’t prepare nor should you.

    The title of the book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” is taken from Lincoln’s first inaugural address made before the Civil War began. I am making this more than an appeal to my better angels; it’s a requirement.

  15. Benjamin Dexler says:

    I can’t agree with you that some guns are too dangerous to be legal to purchase. Yes, they are for killing people. You should have a rifle to kill people when they are far away and a handgun to kill people when they are close by. Because when someone kills in self-defense, it is not as bad as when someone kills malignantly. If you don’t think that assault rifles should be cheaply available to the general public, then look into ways to stop anyone from getting them, not ways to leave them only in the hands of criminals.

    But for your article more generally, it is actually neither: it’s just gun control. If it were school shootings, then people would be more concerned about the causes than the means. If it were about gun violence, then people would be concerned about the murders in Chicago. Twenty-six people killed in Sandy Hook? That’s a week-end in Chicago.

    But frankly, a dozen separate murders every Saturday in Chicago isn’t as motivating to people as they would be if they happened all at once. And so the gun-control advocates stand upon the coffins of those Newtown children and preach about how this wouldn’t have happened if only we had listened to them. This will happen again when the next shooting happens and these tragedies will continue to be political events until we start also paying attention to the times that armed bystanders were able to stop a massacre, rather than just the times that no bystanders were armed.

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