Amazingly From Wapo — I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.

From Wapo
By Leah Libresco Octo­ber 3 at 3:02 PM
Leah Libresco is a sta­tis­ti­cian and for­mer newswriter at FiveThir­tyEight, a data jour­nal­ism site. She is the author of “Arriv­ing at Amen.”
Before I start­ed research­ing gun deaths, gun-con­trol pol­i­cy used to frus­trate me. I wished the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion would stop block­ing com­mon-sense gun-con­trol reforms such as ban­ning assault weapons, restrict­ing silencers, shrink­ing mag­a­zine sizes and all the oth­er mea­sures that could make guns less dead­ly.
Then, my col­leagues and I at FiveThir­tyEight spent three months ana­lyz­ing all 33,000 lives end­ed by guns each year in the Unit­ed States, and I wound up frus­trat­ed in a whole new way. We looked at what inter­ven­tions might have saved those peo­ple, and the case for the poli­cies I’d lob­bied for crum­bled when I exam­ined the evi­dence. The best ideas left stand­ing were nar­row­ly tai­lored inter­ven­tions to pro­tect sub­types of poten­tial vic­tims, not broad attempts to lim­it the lethal­i­ty of guns.
After a shoot­ing in Las Vegas left at least 59 peo­ple dead and injured hun­dreds, Sen. Chris Mur­phy (D-Conn.) on Oct. 2 said Congress’s fail­ure to pass gun-con­trol leg­is­la­tion amounts to an “unin­ten­tion­al endorse­ment” of mass shoot­ings. (U.S. Sen­ate
researched the strict­ly tight­ened gun laws in Britain and Aus­tralia and con­clud­ed that they didn’t prove much about what America’s pol­i­cy should be. Nei­ther nation expe­ri­enced drops in mass shoot­ings or oth­er gun relat­ed-crime that could be attrib­uted to their buy­backs and bans. Mass shoot­ings were too rare in Aus­tralia for their absence after the buy­back pro­gram to be clear evi­dence of progress. And in both Aus­tralia and Britain, the gun restric­tions had an ambigu­ous effect on oth­er gun-relat­ed crimes or deaths.
The sto­ry must be told.
When I looked at the oth­er oft-praised poli­cies, I found out that no gun own­er walks into the store to buy an “assault weapon.” It’s an invent­ed clas­si­fi­ca­tion that includes any semi-auto­mat­ic that has two or more fea­tures, such as a bay­o­net mount, a rock­et-pro­pelled grenade-launch­er mount, a fold­ing stock or a pis­tol grip. But guns are mod­u­lar, and any hob­by­ist can eas­i­ly add these fea­tures at home, just as if they were snap­ping togeth­er Legos.
As for silencers — they deserve that name only in movies, where they reduce gun­fire to a soft puick puick. In real life, silencers lim­it hear­ing dam­age for shoot­ers but don’t make gun­fire dan­ger­ous­ly qui­et. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jack­ham­mer. Mag­a­zine lim­its were a lit­tle more promis­ing, but a prac­ticed shoot­er could still change mag­a­zines so fast as to make the lim­it mean­ing­less.
As my co-work­ers and I kept look­ing at the data, it seemed less and less clear that one broad gun-con­trol restric­tion could make a big dif­fer­ence. Two-thirds of gun deaths in the Unit­ed States every year are sui­cides. Almost no pro­posed restric­tion would make it mean­ing­ful­ly hard­er for peo­ple with guns on hand to use them. I couldn’t even answer my most des­per­ate ques­tion: If I had a friend who had guns in his home and a his­to­ry of sui­cide attempts, was there any­thing I could do that would help?
How­ev­er, the next-largest set of gun deaths — 1 in 5 — were young men aged 15 to 34, killed in homi­cides. These men were most like­ly to die at the hands of oth­er young men, often relat­ed to gang loy­al­ties or oth­er street vio­lence. And the last notable group of sim­i­lar deaths was the 1,700 women mur­dered per year, usu­al­ly as the result of domes­tic vio­lence. Far more peo­ple were killed in these ways than in mass-shoot­ing inci­dents, but few of the pop­u­lar­ly float­ed poli­cies were tai­lored to serve them.
By the time we pub­lished our project, I didn’t believe in many of the inter­ven­tions I’d heard politi­cians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun own­ers, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk out­weighs the ben­e­fits. But I can’t endorse poli­cies whose only sell­ing point is that gun own­ers hate them. Poli­cies that often seem as if they were draft­ed by peo­ple who have encoun­tered guns only as a fig­ure in a brief­ing book or an image on the news.
Instead, I found the most hope in more nar­row­ly tai­lored inter­ven­tions. Poten­tial sui­cide vic­tims, women men­aced by their abu­sive part­ners and kids swept up in street vendet­tas are all in dan­ger from guns, but they each require dif­fer­ent pro­tec­tions.
While the attack on the Las Vegas strip is the dead­liest in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­to­ry, attacks in the 19th and 20th cen­turies had high­er death tolls. Here are two dead­ly events in Amer­i­can his­to­ry that you may not have heard about.
Old­er men, who make up the largest share of gun sui­cides, need bet­ter access to peo­ple who could care for them and get them help. Women endan­gered by spe­cif­ic men need to be pri­or­i­tized by police, who can enforce restrain­ing orders pro­hibit­ing these men from buy­ing and own­ing guns. Younger men at risk of vio­lence need to be iden­ti­fied before they take a life or lose theirs and to be con­nect­ed to men­tors who can help them de-esca­late con­flicts.
Even the most data-dri­ven prac­tices, such as New Orleans’ plan to iden­ti­fy gang mem­bers for inter­ven­tion based on pre­vi­ous arrests and weapons seizures, wind up more per­son­al than most poli­cies float­ed. The young men at risk can be iden­ti­fied by an algo­rithm, but they have to be dis­armed one by one, per­son­al­ly — not en masse as though they were all inter­change­able. A reduc­tion in gun deaths is most like­ly to come from find­ing small­er chances for vic­to­ries and expand­ing those solu­tions as much as pos­si­ble. We save lives by focus­ing on a range of tac­tics to pro­tect the dif­fer­ent kinds of poten­tial vic­tims and reform­ing poten­tial killers, not from sweep­ing bans focused on the guns them­selves.

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