Based on CDC data and published in chart form in the The Ann Arbor Chronicle.
I realize it is impossible to imagine a civil conversation about this topic that includes advocates from both sides. But this type of a chart always reminds me advocates are caught up in winning, not preventable deaths. Gun rights or gun control groups both have made the decision not to seek a consensus path forward.
Advocates spend most of their time debating the effects of gun control or gun rights on the ability of criminals or the mentally ill to harm others. That is the red part of the pie chart, which is roughly a third of gun violence deaths. And this argument most often leads to mud slinging and little policy progress.
We should focus on the blue and yellow parts of the chart – suicide and accidents, which make up approximately two-thirds of the deaths. As a country, without any winners or losers, we should commit to steadily but radically reducing those numbers.
Now, I am sure gun control advocates would argue that gun bans or other measures would greatly reduce suicides and accidents. Even assuming that is true, it is politically impossible. Do gun control advocates want to spend there time on impossibilities raising funds or do they want to reduce suicides and accidents?
Gun rights advocates are convinced that no gun control measure will ever satisfy gun control advocates. That as each new measure is passed, fails to meaningfully change the situation, gun control advocates will return with a new measure leading to registration and confiscation. Do gun rights advocates want to spend their time stonewalling in fear raising money or do they want to reduce suicides and accidents?
I believe an initiative on both suicides and accidents has to start with more training. Even as gun ownership has soared in the United States, it is increasingly difficult for the general public to find safe staffed shooting ranges with instruction. As public ranges are closed the only real replacement are public lands or private ranges where pricing is a barrier to many. Gun control advocates that resist safely run gun ranges believing they are going to reduce gun ownership are only driving more untrained gun owners.
In my experience the NRA sponsors most training at public and private ranges. In the courses I have taken, the NRA delivers its message in a surprisingly nuanced way. It may comfort gun control advocates to believe an NRA sales pitch is “Join or I’ll shoot you.” But in reality it is more, “We are going to show how you to be a safe gun owner who can ethically hunt and protect your family.”
The gun control advocates now rebranding themselves as gun safety advocates are completely absent from instruction along with their message. It is a strategic mistake for both the government and gun control advocates to abandon to the NRA gun ranges and instruction. Why abandon the debate?
At a gun range you can in a structured environment not only teach shooting, but safe shooting, safe storage, safe transport, children and guns. You can empower adults and children on what to do if they encounter a gun in a home or business. You can empower them that it is okay and how to intervene with a mentally ill family member or friend who has access to guns.
The military spends a lot of training time before any recruit gets near a gun. Imagine a basic county and state funded facility staffed with range officers from both the NRA and gun control advocates able to provide training and their own take on gun ownership. Why would we not want to make available to tens of millions of gun owners training on storage, use, and intervention?
And both sides could continue pounding each other on gun control versus gun rights, the red pie slice, and homicides. But, if we could make progress via training on reducing suicides and accidents due to a truly broad based initiative larger discussions might happen. Because to work together both sides would have to actually listen.