Las Vegas Sun

December 19, 2014

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EDITORIAL:

Raising the alarm on mass shootings

In the aftermath of any public shooting, such as the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, there’s a public debate about how to limit such violence. But for years, nothing has been done.

Why?

When it comes to guns, Americans talk past each other in a scripted, vitriolic debate. One side raises the frightening specter of mass shootings, the other side raises the fear that the Constitution and our freedom are under attack. No one seems willing to compromise; as a result, nothing changes.

To cut through that noise, The Sunday asks three questions:

Are mass shootings a serious problem?

Yes: Mother Jones magazine in 2012 looked at “senseless” mass shootings — those that happened in a public place and weren’t related to a gang or armed robbery. It listed 63 incidents from 1982 to 2012.

Although that’s about two a year, the magazine found a significant increase: Nearly half of the incidents came after 2002.

Maybe: However, in a 2013 paper, criminologists James Alan Fox and Monica J. DeLateur dispute the magazine’s findings. That paper has gained notice recently because Fox is a recognized authority on mass shootings.

Fox and DeLateur say when other mass shootings — such as those involving gangs, robbery and families — are included, there are about 20 a year. Although acknowledging a “recent spike,” they say there has been no significant change in the number of mass shootings for decades.

No: Gun-rights advocates blame the media for allegedly blowing this all out of proportion. They argue that however you look at the numbers, there aren’t many mass shootings.

Who’s right?

Whether there are two or 20 mass shootings a year, it’s cause for concern, particularly the public shootings noted by Mother Jones.

The randomness and terror associated with these mass shootings should raise an alarm.

What can the nation do to limit these incidents?

Gun-control groups want to renew the federal ban on assault weapons and call for extended background checks and other restrictions, such as gun-free zones.

Gun-rights advocates argue for more people carrying guns and fewer restrictions on where people can carry them. They see that as a deterrent. Other people demand more mental health care and adding guards to schools.

Who’s right?

According to Fox and DeLateur’s paper: nobody, really. Based on years of research, they say none of the major proposals would do much, if anything, to limit mass shootings.

So how should the nation respond?

We’re not suggesting abolishing guns or changing the Second Amendment, but we do want to see a rational discussion about mass shootings and gun violence.

Fox and DeLateur note that although many proposals, including expanding mental health care, shouldn’t be expected to curb mass shootings, they likely would cut down violent crime. That would be a plus, wouldn’t it?

But without the political will and leadership to discuss the big issues, nothing will be done. That’s frightening.

Consider this sobering statement that ends Fox and DeLateur’s paper:

“Mass murder just may be a price we must pay for living in a society where personal freedom is so highly valued.”

Is that a price we’re willing to pay?

When we think of the victims of the Las Vegas tragedy — Metro Police Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo and citizen Joseph Wilcox — we don’t think so.

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