The battle for gun control is fraught with misconceptions, false extremes, and emotional statements (mostly based in fear). On one side, you have law-abiding gun owners who are afraid that the government is going to ban/take their guns, leaving them without their preferred method of home- and self-defense. On the other side, you have (arguably well-intentioned) advocates who believe that the best way to save lives is to reduce the amount of guns in the country and who might have access to them.
This puts elected officials in a bit of a tricky situation. They receive calls to action from the constituents to “do something” about gun violence while simultaneously fielding pleas to protect constituents’ Second Amendment rights. Thus, they dream up legislation that sounds good but is unclear if it actually works, such as “the Assault Weapons” ban, which while it sounds good does very little to stop the larger problem of gun violence.
Technically, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” but the misnomer has become synonymous with semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 (M-16/M-4 in military parlance) or the Kalishnakov rifles.
According to a press release, a new study has discovered that “assault weapons” are used in just under a quarter of mass-shootings in the country, with handguns being used most often (nearly 50 percent).
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The study comes as a result of recent media campaigns that have insisted mass-shootings, perpetrated by a lone individual that selects a target at random, are on the rise. The study found that the national annual average of mass shootings has remained at about 20 per year. Also, it discovered that mass shootings that dominate news coverage are not random, but often have very clear motives like revenge or terrorism. Although, a study cited by NPR said that mass shootings have been on the rise since 2008, this study's authors suggest the data set used was too narrow.
What may lead to the impression that these mass shootings are on the rise has been the way in which the media chooses to cover these events. They have extended live coverage, with news reporters often speculating wildly about events on the ground. Afterwards follows extremely detailed reports about the shooter’s motivations and his life, something that experts agree can inspire more shooters.
Recently Rolling Stone caught some flak for a photo of the surviving Boston bomber on their cover, accompanying an in-depth, well-reported piece about him. Despite the fact that the same photo was on the cover of The New York Times months earlier, critics jumped on the magazine suggesting they were glamorizing the young terrorist. Yet never is the media taken to task for capitalizing on these events or the role that may play in inspiring further violence.
The study makes a number of claims debunking current gun control ideas, such as the idea of expanded background checks or the idea of armed security in schools. The purpose of the study is not so that pro-gun people can point and laugh at anti-gun people, but instead tries to wrest the discourse away from false arguments and faulty solutions. Although if the hope is to start a reasonable discourse about gun control, one wonders if the study’s authors haven’t engaged in a little wishful thinking of their own.