Alternet: Their innocence underlies our horror. In any mass shooting, we speak of the innocent bystanders, but for children to be gunned down prior to the end of their first semester in school leaves us speechless. While the victims remained anonymous, President Obama demanded “meaningful action.” But what do we, as a nation, do to slow the loss of innocent lives?
Almost immediately as the words “gun control” began to be uttered, opponents defended the status quo with their beliefs: that no law could have prevented this because the gun used by the shooter was legally purchased and registered; that if teachers had been armed lives would have been saved; that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
I’m hearing an eerie echo of the partisan disavowal of data showing the immediate perils of climate change, of Darwin’s theory of evolution and, in the days leading up to the election, the data of the polling aggregators, who predicted an Obama victory.
Indeed, the Pew Research Center found that previous mass shootings have not altered people’s core values regarding gun control, so despite slaughtering 20 children, we can expect the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, to also have no such effect. This is a prediction based on the data, which as a scientist, I know to be the best basis available to both understand and address any issue.
And yet, we should hear the data as loud as we heard the gunshots (data which Ezra Klein conveniently compiled in his Washington Post blog on Friday). Mother Jones reported that 61 mass shootings have occurred in the US in the past 30 years, mostly with legally obtained guns. We witnessed 5 of the 11 most violent mass shootings since 2007, when most of the kindergarteners killed in Newtown were born. According to economist Richard Florida, writing in the Atlantic, states with the tightest gun control laws correlate to the states with the lowest gun related deaths.
As with climate change, we possess data that that documents a growing problem as well as a clear suggestion of actions that could ameliorate the problem. In the case of climate change, a recent report from the National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that the most ominous climate change algorithms best predicted what has occurred in the past decade. These algorithms forecast a global eight-degree temperature rise by 2100, a prediction that is incompatible with life as we know it.
The data also argue for tough gun control: when guns are not as easily available there are fewer gun deaths. [Continue reading…]