“Something must be done!” we are told. “Ban assault rifles!” the crowd cries.
“Do you know how many people are murdered with guns each year in America?” I am asked.
Actually I do and while this may be cold comfort to those reeling from the loss of family members in the Parkland shooting, banning the AR-15 and every other rifle in America would not do much to bring down the total gun deaths in America. Nor, as the Virginia Tech shooting proves, would it stop school shootings. The Virginia Tech shooting in April of 2007 was carried out with a pair of pistols and killed 32 people, not counting the coward that carried out the massacre.
Most murders in America are also carried out with handguns.
Not “assault weapons” just regular old handguns.
In 2016, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report , their breakdown of murder by weapon type tallied 15,070 murders* where there was a weapon used. Of that total where a weapon was used, 11,004 were committed with some type of firearm and 7,105 were committed by handgun.
Think about that, a staggering 47% of all murders tallied by the FBI and 64% of all murders with firearms were committed with a handgun.
Now let me be upfront with a problem in the FBI report, when reporting murder by weapon type it does not include the State of Florida because officials there do not, and have not for some time, submitted that date according to FBI standards. Yet we can extrapolate that like every other state rifle murders are far lower than handgun murders.
So how and why does this matter in relation to the Parkland school shooting?
Well, even when counting for mass shootings, rifles are a minute proportion of the total murders and 2016 is not an unusual year.
In 2016 there were just 374 murders with rifles reported by the FBI and another 262 with shotguns. There were another 3,263 murders with firearms where the type of firearm was not known. Any basic knowledge of statistics would say that the vast majority of the unknown firearms type would have to be apportioned to handguns and anyone with a basic knowledge of firearms would know that if you can’t tell it was a shotgun then it was a rifle or handgun. Likely a handgun.
So if handguns are the problem, why do politicians keep pointing to so-called “assault weapons?”
Well because they can sell an “assault weapons ban” but not a handgun ban. Let’s set aside that the 1994 “assault weapons ban” was based on cosmetic features of the firearm and thus my use of quotes around this political but ill-defined term. Accept that there is something called an “assault weapon” and accept that is a black rifle with a pistol grip.
Polling shows that people would support that but not a handgun ban.
A Quinnipiac poll taken just after the Parkland shooting shows 67% saying they would back an assault weapons ban.
A more reliable Gallup poll not taken just after mass shooting still shows a majority of Americans would support a ban on “assault weapons” but 71% say they would oppose a handgun ban.
Gallup has been asking the same question for more than a decade in the fall of each year. It’s quite simple and the results are pretty consistent.
Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?
In the last 10 polls the opposition to a handgun ban has only dipped below 70% twice and not by much.
So politicians on both sides of the aisle leave handguns alone, they don’t push for banning what many Americans view as a basic self-defence tool.
School shootings, mass shootings, get the attention because they are shocking and horrific. They touch on the worst nightmare of any parent.
But if America wants to deal with their overall gun crime problem, banning the AR-15 won’t help. It’s a harsh fact in the wake of Parkland but it is a fact none the less.