There was a time in America when the most dangerous thing we worried about each day was the neighbor’s dog nipping us. Daily hazards are a bit more serious now. The United States is on track to witness the worst year of gun violence in over a decade. With mass shootings becoming a daily occurrence in busy cities and rural towns alike, living in America is becoming less and less safe by the day.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump visited Japan. In the wake of the latest incident of domestic terrorism, Trump used the opportunity while speaking in a country with practically zero gun violence to comment on the massacre in rural Texas. Victims from one to seventy-seven perished when a gunman opened fire with an assault rifle and other guns in a small community church. Trump downplayed the terrorist incident like a seasoned N.R.A. vampire gulping down blood money.
Not only did Trump attribute the killings to “mental health situations” and not gun violence, but he also condoned a Wild West approach to the Second Amendment. The Texas gunman was pursued by armed civilians and shot twice while fleeing the scene. Gun owners and NRA advocates everywhere likely cheered at Trump’s positive spin on the Texas massacre, saying that without armed civilians the incident might have been worse.
According to Trump, the current rubric for anti-gun control successes is 26 civilians dead for every perpetrator killed by other armed civilians. At that phenomenal rate of killing, a lone perpetrator will soon climb to the top as King of the Hill, and that is bad news for Trump. For a man who ducked military service and can barely handle a nine-iron, money is on any gunslinger against Trump being the armed civilian who saves the day.
Japanese leaders must have been scratching their heads trying to make sense of Trump’s skewed perspective and desperate attempt to find a bright light in the darkness of another horrendous domestic mass murder. Giving people more guns is contrary to Japan’s gun control policies that allow its citizens to enjoy single-digit gun violence figures. In 2014, Japan had a total of six gun deaths, or one for every 21 million residents.
Compare that to this year in America, where 308 mass shootings alone have resulted in 531 deaths and another 1619 casualties. Single incident gun-violence statistics are even more disturbing with over 13,000 deaths in 2017 — one for every 61,000 men, women, and children. The figure may not sound daunting, but it is when a killing affects entire communities.
This year’s gun violence rate removes one person from small close-knit cities like Saginaw, Michigan, Eau Clair, Wisconsin, and Coon Rapids, Minnesota — places where the loss of one person to a gun homicide or shooting puts the entire community on edge. Taking this year’s total as a whole, it would mean the loss of entire towns like Meadville, Pennsylvania, Orangeburg, South Carolina, or Zephyrhills, Florida.
Factor in casualties, and the ratio of American gun violence in 2017 is one per 24,000 residents. Contrast that to this year’s military casualties at one per 44,000 troops. It is now safer to join the military than it is to go to church in the United States. And Donald Trump says the nation needs more guns and less control. He is right, however, about the crisis being a question of mental health — the mental health of every legislator and politician like him who refuses to address the problem of out-of-control gun violence.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, gun-violence is the third most frequent cause of death in America. Considering such troubling statistics, the number one priority for U.S. leaders and lawmakers should be gun control and not tax reallocation or travel bans.