Shooting inspires new perspective on gun control debates

On Jan. 30, gunshots rang out in a building on 16th Street just north of Glendale Avenue in Phoenix.

My father works in the neighboring building. It turned out that this crime was clearly intentional and that my father and his coworkers weren’t threatened by the shooting — save for their proximity to the crime scene.

It was still enough for me to break my silence on gun control.

Coming from a fairly liberal family, I never grew up around guns. In fact, they kind of scare me.

While I don’t ever intend on keeping guns in my home, I can understand why millions of Americans fight for the individual right to bear arms, as this right is a part of their culture.

I took it upon myself to look closely at the issue of gun violence in the U.S. and what we can do to reduce its rate.

Gun bans may not be the way to go. If the U.S. government was to uproot a constitutional amendment — and take away something that millions of Americans use safely and ethically — they’d better have a damn good reason, and they simply don’t.

Many cite the Australian ban on assault weapons as a reason to institute a ban in the U.S., along with the fact that stricter gun control laws in the U.S. are correlated with less gun crime.

However, Australian statisticians found no statistically significant evidence to show that the gun ban and “buyback” system had any effect on the reduction in gun violence.

The fact that their already low homicide rates were already declining could not provide enough evidence that this idea is worth investment in the U.S. — and that’s even if we need to reduce the gunstock to reduce crime. It’s entirely possible that the way we enforce gun punishment may be the problem, not gun ownership.

Some have attributed gun violence to violent video games and mental illness. While I didn’t grow up on guns, I did grow up on around violent video games and mental illness. It seems that it is competition and not violent content that triggers aggression (as opposed to violence) and that mental illness is not even correlated with gun crime.

These stigmatizing associations hurt the discussion much more than they help, as violence and the capacity for violence are two entirely different things.

What makes America different from all of these other countries that have significantly lower homicide rates by firearms? If we don’t have different video games than other countries, if we don’t have a disproportionate amount of mental illness and if our gun ownership doesn’t causally explain our rate of gun violence: What is it?

We all want answers now. We call for gun control and a revision of the mental health system now, but behavioral economics wait for no one.

I want to feel safe as much as anyone else. But before you use rhetoric that shames gun owners and compares the right to individually bear arms to the pain the parents of the children that died in the Sandy Hook shooting must feel, consider this: Your child is 100 times more likely to drown in a swimming pool at home than die by a gun.

It’s not that Americans deserve their guns more than parents deserve their children’s safety. It’s that the comparison is simply unfair.

We’re all on the same side of wanting to keep our children safe, yet we all know plenty of happy homes with swimming pools. These “right answers” take time.

Take solace in the fact that we’re in the right direction. Crime rates are dropping each year.

We’re part of the stop-motion film with each month and year being a plotted point on a graph with lines relating and permeating downward. The graph is representative of each cog and wheel you push toward being a safer country. We make it safer for our children by simply having discourse that seeks the truth.

Reach the columnist at ameschko@asu,edu or follow her at @alishameschkow

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