REARDON: Bring Facts Not Emotion To Gun Debate

Mark Reardon
October 05, 2017 - 12:06 pm

I’m a cyclist, so let me try to use bikes for an analogy. Let’s say bikes, in general, accounted for roughly 33,000 deaths in this country every year. A little more than half of those deaths were people riding bikes who intentionally crashed them to kill themselves. But the rest of those people killed were people using their bikes to kill other people.

Now, let’s say my bike (I ride a Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod, for those curious) killed around 350 people each year, but those deaths were particularly tragic because with my type and style of bike, people were able to take out large groups of people at a time. There’s obvious and justified outrage and the focus of the nation becomes doing whatever it takes to prevent deaths from my particular style of bike. A ban is proposed, late night talk show hosts pontificate about the dangers of that bike and they even say that cyclists who ride other types of bikes have blood on their hands if they oppose a ban on the bike in question.

But wait a second, you might be saying, why is all the attention being focused on that particular style of bike when it’s only responsible for approximately 4% of all bike murders? 33,000 people die from bikes—but we’re going to only have a national discussion and debate “common sense” bike legislation for one type of bike, even though more than 32,000 people are killed by all the other types of bikes out there? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

Mass shootings, like the one this past week in Las Vegas, are horrifying, and every time the nation has to go through a week like this, it is gut wrenching. Watching the stories of the victims and the survivors of the Mandalay Bay massacre is overwhelmingly sad, and I get sick to my stomach when I have to come on the radio to talk about what happened. I get frustrated when we all dig into our corners to once again debate the merits of gun control.

Can anything be done? I certainly would support the notion of banning bump stocks after learning this week that the sick, demented killer in Vegas used that device to modify his semi-automatic weapons into fully-automatic killing machines. But outside of that, I’ve yet to see any specific proposal or idea that would do anything to prevent a crazy person from taking dozens of lives.

It’s dishonest and misleading to insist on restrictions for one particular type of firearm without at least acknowledging that the real issue in this country, when it comes to gun-related deaths, is handguns, not assault rifles or any type of rifles for that matter. More than 33,000 people each year are killed by firearms. About half of those deaths are suicides. Only a small number—about 300-350 on any given year—come from long guns. Far more people in this country die from stabbings and fists. It’s actually not even close.

Critics are justified in pointing out that it’s no longer OK to throw up our arms and say there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m open to the idea that maybe there are some things we can do to try to prevent these mass shootings from occurring in the future. But it doesn’t make sense to make snap decisions without any consideration of the staggering number of handgun murders, particularly in urban area.

The solutions are complicated. There are no easy answers here. I understand people have their hearts in the right place and it’s easy to blame the NRA and Republicans. So let’s move forward and have that “discussion” that Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are demanding. But let’s do it with facts instead of emotion.