Increased Guns, Less Violence

By: Mona Zaini

Graph from

This Mother Jones article attempts to correlate the increasing amount of guns in the United States with an increasing number of mass-shooting victims annually.  The trend in the chart is immediately noticeable but also obvious is the bold inclusion of famous mass shootings that have happened within the past 8 years(Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Virginia Tech) and one from 15 years ago (Columbine). Conspicuous reminders of notable mass shootings from 1982 to 1998, an additional 16 years, are intentionally left off the chart.  In 1991, 23 people were shot and killed in a cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. In 1984, 21 people(including five children) in a California Mcdonalds. Several other shootings are never mentioned, despite having more victims than Columbine.

Another problem with the article is that it fails to account for differences in population. In 1982, when the graph begins, the population of the US was roughly 230,000,000; in 2012, it was around 313,000,000. Of course more people would equate to more shooters and naturally, more victims. But even those conclusions are not cohesive—in 1984, there were around 28 mass murder victims, this is even more than the 18 victims seen in 2011 despite a substantial increase in population. 2012 is an outlier with nearly 80 fatalities and skews the appearance of the trend in the graph. I’m not denying that a slight increase can be seen regardless of that end-year, however when considering the total population increase, the inconsistent data (1999 had over 40 victims, yet the subsequent five years have astonishingly low victim counts), the use of numerical victims instead of rates, and the unusual addition of injuries to obscure results, the articles argument comes off as a bit far-fetched. The questionable nature of the trend is even further reinforced when considering homicide rates over the years. In 1982, the homicide rate was 9.1; in 2012, it was 4.7. With these statistics, a legitimate trend contradicts the dubious trend in the Mother Jones article—the rate of homicides is steadily dropping each decade, despite an increasing number of guns.

The biased article makes outlandish claims that there will soon be significantly more guns in the US than people. The article tries blame “Republican-controlled statehouses” for allowing people to carry concealed weapons, suggesting that this somehow could be responsible for mass shootings. People aren’t “allowed” to murder, yet they do it anyway. Someone who has the intent to murder innocent people is not worried about the legality of carrying a concealed weapon. Again, there is little correlation. Republican states with relaxed gun laws do not necessarily have the most mass murders. California, a Democratic state, has had an overwhelming amount of mass shootings. Similarly, the New England states from New York to Maine have had a substantial amount of mass shootings, despite being largely Democratic. Republican states such as Louisiana and Alabama have never had a mass shooting.

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This article has some decent points yet falls short at proving the supposed trends beyond coincidence. Perhaps more guns could mean more murders, however it is likely that if a shooter wanted to acquire a gun, they will do so(and have done so) irrespective of the abundance of guns. The fact remains that majority of the guns in the country do not get used for mass shootings or even murders and that mass shootings have been committed regardless of firearm abundance and laws.

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