The Science of How to Stop Mass Shootings

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On Tuesday, May 24 2022, an 18-year old South Texas man shot his grandmother, drove to an elementary school, barricaded himself in a classroom, and murdered 19 small children and 2 adults before he was eventually shot and killed by authorities.

I’ll be honest, I don’t have what I think of as a unique take on all this, but I also think it’s important that everyone with any kind of platform needs to agitate for change in whatever way they can. So I’m making this video, which I can really only bear to be a list of facts. Here they are:

In 2021 Texas legislators passed a law lowering the age that a person can buy a gun from 21 to 18. The killer bought two AR-15 rifles the day or the day after he turned 18. The fact that he waited to be able to legally purchase his guns suggests that had Texas not loosened that law, this tragedy probably would not have happened–at least not for another three years.

97% of mass shootings in the US are committed by men. This killer was a man.

“In 68.2% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of DV.” This killer shot his grandmother before going to the school. Her condition is unknown as of this recording.

Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in the United States.

25% of mass shooting victims are children and teens.

Only 16% of mass shootings involve an assault rifle, but those shootings make up 25% of all mass shooting deaths and 76% of all injuries. There are six times as many people shot when an assault rifle is involved compared to a handgun.

In 1996, an Australian man went on a shooting rampage that killed 35 people. The Australian government immediately moved to enact strict gun control laws. They had broad popular support but ran into sudden opposition from a group called the League of Rights, which had grown quickly despite no obvious means of support. It turns out that America’s National Rifle Association and Christian Coalition were secretly funding them, so the politicians leaked this info to the press and had the group rightfully branded as extremists bent on facilitating the continued senseless murder of innocent people. It worked: they drove the NRA out of Australia and passed legislation restricting the private ownership of semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns, instituting mandatory background checks for any firearm, and outlining how weapons should be stored and used.

That was the last mass shooting Australia experienced for the next 20 years. There has only been one in 30 years: a shooting in Darwin by a man who had stolen a pump-action shotgun from as far back as 1997.

Australia isn’t America, though it’s one of the few countries that is very similar in terms of language, culture, size, and political system. They all but stopped mass shootings, and we can, too. 

The organization Everytown for Gun Safety offers dozens of science-based solutions to gun violence. They include:

Passing a federal concealed carry law that would stop states like Texas from allowing anyone to carry a gun in most public places without a license.

Prohibit assault weapons

Prohibit high-capacity magazines

Mandatory gun safety training (currently only 39% of legal gun owners have any kind of safety training because states like Texas do not require it)

Institute threat assessment programs in schools to identify high risk students, since 100% of mass school shootings are committed by current or former students and in 77% of cases at least one peer knew what the shooter was going to do

These are all common sense laws that our representatives could pass, but they have not. The mass murder at Columbine occurred about twenty years ago, in 1999. Sandy Hook was in 2012, about 10 years ago. The Stoneman Douglas mass murder was 2018. All of these high profile mass murders of kids in schools occurred while many of our current Congressional leadership were in Congress: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 82 years old and has been in office since 1987. The 2nd most powerful Democrat in Congress is Steny Hoyer, also 82 years old, and was first elected in 1981, when I was one year old. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is 81 years old and has been in office since 1993. 

Only Steny Hoyer barely hits the top 10 for longest serving representatives: Don Young has been in congress for 48 years. Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley (who has accepted a quarter of a million dollars from the NRA) for 47 years. Ed Markey 45 years. Richard Shelby (who has also accepted a quarter of a million dollars from the NRA), 43 years. Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer and Hal Rogers and Chris Smith, 41 years.

The National Rifle Association spends millions of dollars lobbying our government every year. Nineteen current or recent Republican Congressional representatives have taken more than a million dollars from them. Mitt Romney, who says he is overwhelmed with grief at the latest shooting, has taken more than $13 million. The NRA’s goal is to do away with all gun control in the US just as they tried to do in Australia, meaning that more of these mass shootings will happen.

We have to do something. It’s not enough to “vote blue.” We need to vote for radical progressives who will institute term limits to get these fucking dinosaurs out of office because they’ve spent 40 years or more doing nothing. We need stricter controls on lobbying efforts by extremist organizations like the NRA. Terrorists should not be able to buy and sell our Congressional representatives. Democrats need to put up a vote for a bill and call it the anti-Murdered Children Bill. Make the Republicans go on the public record to say they would rather have NRA money than living schoolchildren. Get rid of the filibuster and pass strict gun control over their objections and the objections of the minority of Americans who choose guns over human lives. I don’t care if you like your AR-15. Find a new hobby. Learn to knit.

Oh, and if you think this is a mental health issue and not a gun issue? That’s fine. Let’s also pass universal basic healthcare with free mental health screenings, raise the minimum wage, and invest more in our parks and libraries and schools and community centers instead of buying new tanks for local police departments. I’m so glad we agree that those things are necessary.

It’s disgusting, I’m tired, that’s the end of the video.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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