On Oct. 27, a shooting near Greenville, Texas, left two dead and at least 14 injured. Maybe it’s just a stroke of callousness, but is anyone really surprised at this point? If anyone was going to be surprised about anything regarding this mass shooting, it would be a general surprise that more people didn’t fall victim. In October 2017, a shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas took the lives of 58 people and injured almost 500 others. In February 2018, 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff died at the hands of a deranged killer, marking one of the most traumatic times in modern American history. This year, on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, 22 people died and 24 were injured in a shooting in El Paso, Texas, and nine people died and 27 were injured in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. Also this year, in Odessa, Texas, on Sept. 1, seven people were killed and 22 were injured.  

How can anyone be surprised? It’s not that anybody doesn’t care for the lives lost. Quite the opposite. People have been caring, but nothing has been done to address the clear epidemic of mass shootings in America. The issue of guns has been stuck in legislative gridlock. Democrats continue to beg for stronger, more stringent gun control. Republicans argue guns are an ingrained aspect of American history. Instead of defaulting to the ever-present straw manning that dominates the current political landscape, it’s time to take an honest look at both sides of the gun control debate, and in particular, the proposal of a gun buyback.

Some argue that if guns were removed from American society, criminals would use other means to endanger the innocent. That might be true on an individual scale, but not so true on a national one. After the shooting in El Paso, former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke spoke passionately about gun reform, proposing a national buyback program. Most people on both sides of the aisle point to the Australian buyback program of 1996. Progressives point to the fact that after the buyback, Australian homicide plummeted. However, conservatives look to the fact that the homicide rate actually spiked shortly after the buyback and then declined at a similar rate to before the buyback. 

At this point, a buyback program doesn’t look to significantly affect the number of homicides on a national scale. If there could be any association made with homicides, it wouldn’t be with guns, but rather with the eras in which these homicides were occuring. Homicides spiked in the US during the late 1990’s, but in the 2000s subsequently declined with no comparable national gun control reform to that of Australia. 

Additionally, some argue the overabundance of guns in America is a contributing factor to the current gun crisis. At first, it would seem that way. Admittedly, America has an obsession with guns. There are currently more guns than there are people in the United States. Think about that. When looking at that statistic, any sensible person would think the prevalence of guns would have an undeniable link to gun violence in America. But it doesn’t. In data published by the FBI listing the number of guns and events of gun violence per year in 2010, they found that the data establishing the connection between guns and gun-murder rate exhibits an R-squared value of 0.0031. This suggests the possibility of correlation between gun murder and gun possession is close to none. 

Obviously, the biggest issue with guns is their capacity to kill. In the Dayton shooting, the shooter was able to kill nine people just in 32 seconds before being neutralized by authorities. In 10 minutes, 58 were dead during the Las Vegas shooting. With the removal of guns from American society, surely threats to the public could be minimized. On the other hand, guns give the people the right to defend themselves against threats. Over time, gun purchases have skyrocketed, but certain types of gun-related crime has plummeted. Enshrined in the Constitution, arms are an afforded right, and the only way to remove guns as such would be through near impossible bipartisan support. Even more so, such a constitutional shakeup would continue to destabilize the current political space. The solution, as of now, is not clear, and it’s asinine to suggest that one broad buyback program would solve anything regarding the expansive crisis that involves guns, mental health and culture.

Joshua Kim can be reached at joshica@umich.edu.

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