Cosmopolitan magazine’s senior political writer Jill Filipovic says pundits and politicians who suggest that the solutions to campus shootings, like the one in Oregon earlier this month, are more guns are wrong.
The justification for guns on campuses — or in elementary schools or churches or wherever else gun-related mayhem has recently struck — is usually some variation on the famous line by the NRA’s LaPierre: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” If only the real world were as simple as an old-timey Western film, or a game of cops and robbers. In reality, good guys with guns accidentally kill people a lot of the time. The guns that belong to “good guys” accidentally or purposely kill people. The good guys lose their cool or get into a fight or get drunk or become overwhelmed by depression, and someone dies, or the good guy himself does. The reality of gun violence isn’t usually good guys versus bad guys. It’s a chaotic world in which people fight and disagree and forget and stumble and err, a world populated by fallible human beings and made infinitely bloodier by easy access to deadly weapons.
That is how most people are killed or injured by guns: not in mass shootings (although the randomness and scale of those events rightly strikes many of us as particularly terrifying), but because of stupid, quotidian crap. An argument. Festering resentment. A fight. An accident. A suicide. Since 1968, 1.5 million Americans have been felled by gun violence. Most of them have not been in mass shootings.
We know that young men are disproportionately likely to commit acts of violence, and that the human brain doesn’t fully mature until we’re 25 or so. According to FBI crime statistics, men are 90 percent of murderers and 77 percent of victims. Two-thirds of homicides involve a gun — usually a handgun, the weapon college students would likely be toting. About 40 percent of homicides were the result of an argument (and maybe more — the cause remains unknown for 35 percent of homicides).
We also know that colleges are full of women and men between under the age of 25, along with alcohol, drugs, first-time independence, elaborate social rules, and the resulting bad decisions. One study from 2002 found that 1,400 college students die every year from alcohol-related causes; there are another 600,000 assaults and 70,000 sexual assaults. Fraternities are nationally notorious for the deaths and injuries that occur at their houses, so much so that they rely on intricate networks of alumni and attorneys to protect their institutions. By virtue of putting a lot of young people together in an enclosed space, and giving them access to lots of alcohol in addition to normal hormones and their underdeveloped brains, there are a whole lot of fights and fallings-out and seething hatreds and jealousies and peer pressures and idiotic choices. Sometimes, the idiotic choices are fun. Sometimes they’re deadly or at least painful.
That’s the mix into which so many talking heads suggest we should flood with guns. What could go wrong?
The article was published on Oct. 12 and has been shared more than 9,000 times.
[ Cosmopolitan ]