Wednesday morning, Allison Park and Adam Ward, two innocent people, were killed by an assailant who claimed he wanted to start a race war. In addition, the gunman was a former reporter at the same television station as the two victims. The Franklin County Sheriff stated that the gunman’s past employment, manifesto he faxed to an ABC station, and social media posts (including a video of the shooting) would be part of the investigation.
Clearly, the investigation is far from over. Even though the investigation is in its infancy, President Obama stated, “What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.” More information about Obama’s comments can be found in this USA Today article:
This is not an untrue statement; however, it is also true that more people were killed by heart disease, accidents, diabetes, and alzheimer’s disease. There are two problems with using broad-based assertions to address a specific incident like this one. First, it detracts from the fact that two people, with families and their whole lives ahead of them, were tragically killed by a deranged person. Second, it shifts the focus from the real issue of what drives someone like this to kill. It’s not the tool used, but the underlying reasons a person chooses to kill that should be the focus so that a true solution might be found rather than haphazardly traveling down the wrong rabbit hole.
In politics, agenda-setting is how things change. In the 1950s, building the interstate system was on the agenda and significant headway was made. The difference is, that agenda could be solved by legislative action. The agenda set by painting with a broad brush so that gun-control can be pushed is problematic because gun-control advocates are trying to legislate a fix to a behavioral problem, not a legal problem.
Mismatches such as these detract from developing solutions to the real problems. Agendas are moved forward when opportunities present themselves. The danger is that pushing an agenda for the wrong reasons prevents true problem solving.
Gun control laws fall victim to the same issues as any other law. The law abiding citizens follow the law, but the criminal, by definition, does not. In a 2013 special study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, prison inmates were surveyed concerning how they obtained a firearm. Only 11.3% were obtained from a place of business such as a gun store or pawn shop. The remainder were obtained from friends, family, or illegal means. Therefore, it seems as if gun control laws may not significantly impact those that are using firearms illegally, but will more likely have a greater impact on those that are not, statistically, the source of gun violence. The BJS study can be viewed here: