We’re disgusted, and that doesn’t happen often. But this debate over the best ways to protect our children from mass shootings in schools can’t pit solutions against one another. There are many ways to make schools safer.
We went into writing this editorial unsure how effective a national assault rifle ban would be at curbing gun violence. After all, there are plenty of loud voices out there telling us that criminals will find a way to get a gun, even if it is banned, or that they will find a way to kill massive numbers of people, even if they can’t find a semi-automatic weapon.
But the truth, we found, is that we already have ample evidence that mass shootings have gotten far more deadly in the 14 years since a federal assault weapon ban was lifted in 2004. The statistics in the graph above are among the most compelling we’ve witnessed.
We compiled this graph from data collected by Mother Jones magazine on so-called “spree shootings,” defined by the FBI through 2012 as “a single attack in a public place in which four or more victims were killed.” In years subsequent to 2012, the FBI changed their criteria to three or more victims, and this chart reflects that change.
These statistics couldn’t be more clear. From 1994 to 2004, when the assault weapon ban was in place, an average of 9.6 people were killed in mass shootings each year. In the period from 2005 to today (including 2018, which is only just beginning), we’ve averaged 38.4 mass shooting deaths in this country each year — a fourfold increase.
Should we beef up background checks and make it harder for mentally ill people to get their hands on weapons? Absolutely. Should we arm teachers? That idea seems on the face of it to be as absurd as a recent comic we saw here in which lifeguards were being equipped with sharks to stop shark attacks.
Since the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland, Fla., a record high 67 percent of Americans said they supported reinstating a nationwide assault weapon ban (Feb. 20, Quinnipiac University Poll).
We are lucky that New York has an assault weapon ban in place, but our representatives in Washington appear to not want to provide that safety for the rest of this nation. We’ve had enough. We’re writing this on the last day of February, and we’ve already lost 21 Americans to this random violence this year, more than half of our ‘new normal’ quota for the year. This has to stop. Now.