Here’s One Weird Trick for Curbing Gun Violence

You don't need to arm teachers or reduce the number of doors in this country or start a podcast. There's an easier, more obvious first step.

Here’s One Weird Trick for Curbing Gun Violence
Illustration:Getty (Getty Images)

These days mass shootings in spaces otherwise thought of as safe and nurturing, like elementary schools, churches, and grocery stores, are as common as dirt. Dang! So far, in 2022, there have already been 214 mass shootings, 27 of which have been in schools. The leading cause of death amongst children and teens is America guns.

But do not fear (well, actually do fear, because of the mass shootings). There’s a way to significantly curtail these massacres, which occur in the United States at a rate at least 12 times higher than every other country in the world: Ban assault rifles!

I know what you’re thinking: That’s way too simple; the real solution is to rebuild each and every one of the 87,498 public and private elementary schools in America so that there is only one door for people to enter and exit from. And while I totally understand that that feels like the easier route, I did a little research and ran into a lot of issues like supply-chain backups, something called the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and the fact that a lot of schools have outdoor temporary classrooms and exterior walkways.

Here’s how I know my idea is better: In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles into law. The law “prohibit[ed] the manufacture, transfer, or possession of a semiautomatic assault weapon.” A 2021 study on the effectiveness of the Fire Arm Assault Weapons Ban (FAWB) found that “public mass shootings, number of gun deaths, and number of gun injuries” all decreased significantly in the 10 years the law was in effect.

Large capacity magazines and ammunition feeding devices allow assault weapons, like the one used in the Uvalde shooting, to increase the potential rounds per minute of firearms, making mass shootings pretty easy for nearly anyone to execute. As Everytown concluded, “In mass shootings between 2009 and 2020, high-capacity magazines led to 5x as many people shot per mass shooting.”

As the New York Times has noted, there’s a pretty clear reason why the U.S. has way more mass shootings than other countries. It’s guns!

Other countries have figured this out: Japan, for instance, has a 13 step process for purchasing a gun, which includes joining a hunting club, interviewing with police officers on why you want a gun, and buying a gun safe. They rarely surpass 10 gun deaths per year. One month after the 2019 mass shooting in Christchurch that left 50 people dead, New Zealand issued a ban on semi-automatic weapons and hasn’t had a mass shooting since.

And I’m sure there would be even more data backing up these facts, had there not been a 25 year freeze on federal funding of studying gun violence, only very recently lifted.

Again, I know that this weird sneaky trick seems really outrageous and almost implausible. Proactive and protective measures, when we could simply close our eyes while sitting on the toilet and fart out the tweet “thoughts and prayers,” feels risky. And of course, one law alone isn’t going to solve all our many complicated problems. But I, for one, would love to take this one simple risk as a country rather than feel the bullet of an assault rifle rip through my skin or wonder whether my kid was one of their 19 confirmed dead at their elementary school on a random Tuesday.

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