Contrary to comments by President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell after the recent church massacre in Texas, it isn’t too early to begin the national conversation about gun safety.
In fact, we’ve waited until it’s too late for the 26 victims who died in the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, for the 59 victims who died in the Las Vegas shooting rampage and for the 50 Orlando nightclub homicide victims.
Most of us are tired of waiting while Americans continue dying and the National Rifle Association continues to set the agenda for many of our political leaders.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA spent over $30 million to get Trump elected, $27 million to fight background checks for firearm purchases and a whopping $37 million to support 54 U.S. senators who opposed an amendment (which failed) to prevent people on government watch lists from purchasing firearms.
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That appears to be enough to buy the silence of many of our leaders.
Across America thoughtful discussions about guns and how to keep them out of the hands of people who are malicious or unstable have been going on for some time, with or without elected officials.
Ironically, one of the primary sources of annual data that inform these discussions and our knowledge of crime in our nation, the 2016 FBI Uniform Crime Report, was released in September 2017 with considerable data missing.
The FBI report has been a critical statistical resource for researchers, journalists, policymakers and others who are interested in crime trends, prevention and policing in America since it was first released in the 1960s.
The absence of data in the most recent FBI report when compared to reports from previous years is consistent with the disturbing pattern of withholding information that is inconvenient to the current administration.
Some of the glaring data omissions in the report include: the relationships between crime victims and perpetrators, the number of women murdered by their partners, and weapons used in different types of crime.
That information is important because the connection between domestic violence and mass shooters is well established and it can help guide our efforts to formulate solutions.
Fifty-four percent of all mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 (156 incidents in which four or more people were killed by guns) were related to domestic violence.
A total of 442 people were killed in domestic violence related mass shootings during those years and more than 40 percent of those killed were children.
Of course, those numbers do not include 2017’s mass shootings, including the murders in Texas Nov. 5 that also appear to have been rooted in domestic violence. In that case, it is likely that some of the shooter’s gun purchases might have been prevented if a previous domestic violence conviction had been reported.
The strong relationship between mass murders and domestic violence suggests that some of the criminal and civil remedies (including protective orders), tools and resources that we have created to address domestic violence might also be helpful in preventing mass shootings.
Effective public policy must be informed by accurate and comprehensive data, and it must be enforced.
I am not naïve enough to believe that there are singular or easy answers to ending all mass murders or domestic violence, but there are reasonable steps that we can take to deter would-be shooters. I believe most Americans, including many gun owners such as my husband and I, are beyond frustrated with political stonewalling on these crucial issues that are destroying families and communities.
Americans already own more guns per capita by far than any country in the world and we have the highest murder rate of all developed countries. The time for informed public discourse on guns culminating in political action by national leaders is long overdue.
Teri Faragher of Versailles is a consultant and trainer on domestic-violence prevention.