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Is violence just a statistic?

Is violence just a statistic?

Late Sunday night, a gun opened fire from a room in the Mandalay Hotel, killing at least 58 people attending a country music concert of around 22,000 on the Las Vegas Strip. More than 500 people were wounded.

When police got to his room, suspect Stephen Paddock had killed himself.

According to police reports mentioned in the New York Times, he had at least 10 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his hotel room. They apparently include AR-15-style assault rifles. At his home the authorities found a lot more.

By the time Paddock stopped firing, the incident had become the largest mass shooting in recent American history.

That’s a staggering amount of weapons and ammunition for one man to possess, whether legally or not.

Or is it?

The idea of mass shootings has the power to shock us.

Or does it?

A closer look at some statistics on gun violence, and American gun ownership itself, suggests that perhaps we ought not to be that surprised at divergent reactions this massacre is receiving—from calls for stricter gun laws to those who declare that it’s not the time to talk about regulating weapons and besides, it wouldn’t have helped (the NRA, however, went silent on Monday).

According to statistics assembled by the Gun Violence Archive, America has experienced 273 mass shooting incidents this year (that number may have gone up since this post was written): that’s the killing of three or more people in a public place.  A “mass murderer,” however, is someone who has killed four or more people.

In the latest numbers from Gallup, 55% of people said they wanted stricter guns laws, while one in three preferred the laws stay as it us.  But in the 1990’s seven in ten people favored more curbs on guns.

What are the gun laws in Nevada?

Nevada, according to LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, has moved over the years to loosen its gun laws, in the process becoming a test case for what happens when that occurs.  In Nevada, there’s no ban on assault weapons, according to Nevadacarry.org, a pro-gun-rights group.  You can open carry without a permit.  Nevada doesn’t ban assault weapons, and you don’t need to register your guns or having a waiting period or owner licensing. Local gun laws are banned.

Who are American gun owners?

According to statistics from the Pew Research Center and quoted by CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza, about three quarters of gun owners say owning one is essential to the sense of freedom.  By contrast, one-in-three of those who don’t own guns feel the same.

Despite the “hunter” gun-owning defense, most gun-owners say they have one for protection.  Three-quarters say they believe gun-ownership is an essential freedom.  Republicans don’t believe it ups the likelihood of mass shootings.  A poll this past August by NBC-Wall Street Journal found that half of Americans said they feared the government would go too far to restrict a citizen’s rights to own firearms. And just roughly a third of Republicans see gun violence as a “very big” problem, while two-thirds of Democrats disagree.

Do we agree about anything?

Well, yeah. A large majority (88% of Democrats, and 79% of Republicans) support mandatory gun-show and private-sale background checks, as well as closing the “gun show loophole”.  Eight in 10 Republicans and Democrats support curbs on sales to the mentally ill (though I can imagine disagreement on how to define that term).

A New York Magazine story from last year documented an experiment in “radical empathy” through narrative storytelling.  Gun owners and those who don’t own them or have been affected by gun violence would meet and engage in conversations that would involve telling the other person’s story.  Results were mixed.

Do you see any possibility for compromise? And if so, where would you begin?

Any opinions in this post are those of the author, and the post is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and mother of two young adults. Her work has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Religion News Service, LNP Media Inc., the National Catholic Reporter/Global Sisters Report and many other media outlets.

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