How can we really see?

What if we could look at the world and really see it? I mean seeing it through the eyes of imagining. I hope that in reading these posts, the eyes of your mind will open and let you see more, feel more, and think more about the world.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Gun Crimes in America, An Epidemic

Mass shootings splash across the front pages of American media and many voices beg for an answer to end gun violence. To find a solution we need to understand where criminals get their guns, what kinds of crimes they are used in, and whether you have more to fear from your neighbor or a stranger.

Let's break down some statistics from the United States Department of Justice to help us work toward a solution that makes sense. Our main sources will be surveys of inmates from 1991-1997 and federally reported crime statistics.

Firstly let's remember that people are more likely to commit any crime if they are poor, uneducated, and surrounded by violence. The highest crime areas are often the poorest because people are struggling to survive, and a lack of education contributes by making it harder to escape poverty. Drugs and gang violence become a resort for many because joining a gang provides protection and selling drugs brings in income faster than any legal job they could acquire.

Males of any ethnicity who are under 25 and had less than a college education are the biggest group carrying guns while committing crimes.

Where do these men come from?
They are people who grew up with parents who abused drugs and/or alcohol. Their peers were engaging in illegal acts around them as they grew up.

Urban areas are the most likely place for a homicide to occur. Why? Poverty levels are worse in big cities, with a lot of people packed into a much smaller area than suburbs or more rural locations. It's also easier to hide illegal activities such as illegal gun sales among a larger population.

How many?
The number of homicides in America has actually dropped off between 1990 and now. How do we account for the number of mass shootings and major gun homicides in the media?

To do this, we need to examine who the murderers really are. Is it some stranger in the night, breaking in to shoot you dead? The answer may shock you. The overwhelming majority of people killed in the last 30 years were killed by someone they know. For female victims it is most likely they will be killed by an intimate partner (husband/boyfriend) and for males it is most likely they will be murdered by a friend or acquaintance.

About half of murders are done by someone the victim knows personally. For minors, the likelihood of being killed by someone you know slowly lowers from birth until the teenage years.

However if the murder occurs during the commission of another felony, the most likely to die are the elderly because they are unable to defend themselves from an assailant.

Sadly, most young children are killed by a parent or friend of the family. Child murders often occur during custody battles or because the parent no longer wants their child. Most children under age 5 are killed by men, echoing the overall statistics for the population. Added to the previous chart, this means that the father of a child is the most likely to kill the child, or a male family friend.In fact, overall a male is astronomically more likely to murder someone than a female. But remember, not every man is a killer! These are just statistics from convicted violent offenders, this does not mean your friend or neighbor will kill you or your child.

Is this a race issue? Is this about racial tension and aggression? Sometimes it is, but most often it's not a racial issue. Most violent crime is committed against someone of the same ethnic background. You're more likely to be killed by your neighbor's teenage son than someone of a different skin color walking through your neighborhood.

Okay, so just how are these people killing other people? What weapons are they using?
Most people are killed by guns, especially able-bodied adults. But what type of guns are being used to kill people? Are they hunting rifles, hand guns, or automatic weapons?
Most violent offenders who have a gun are carrying around handguns. Why? They're easier to conceal! Simple as that. Yet we can still see that less of them are carrying weapons on them since the late 90's.

1994 is when the 5 day waiting period and background checks for handguns was voted on. 1998 the NICS background check system goes into effect. 1999 trigger locks are mandated for all new handguns, and background checks/waiting periods are extended to firearms sold at gun shows following the Columbine shooting in April of that year.

Where did they get the guns?
So if we already have laws about this, why are we still talking about closing a gun show loophole? Are they getting them from gun shows?

Most criminals who had a firearm did not just walk out and buy it. Not at a gun show, not at a store. Their weapons either came from people they knew, or they were stolen/illegally purchased. Let me reiterate those numbers for you, 1.4% of semiautomatic handguns that were carried by criminals were bought at a gun show. Yes, that gun show they have been touting all over the news and people are getting all riled up over. You are about 25 times more likely to get shot by someone whose brother gave him a gun than by someone who bought it at a gun show.

Let that sink in for a second.
25:1 odds.

25 times more likely. You are 25 times more likely to be shot by someone you know who got their gun from a friend than someone you know who bought a gun from a gun show.
Think about that the next time you give someone a gun.
Think about who YOU love that they may hurt!

So what types of criminals are these, who are buying guns illegally or receiving them from people they know? Are they sick in the head?
Half of these people were previously in jail for a serious crime. Half of them. Many were still on probation or parole, and felons aren't supposed to even have guns! Many of them were drug users.

What about their mental health? Only about 10% have ever been in an inpatient mental health facility. Even less if they were in federal incarceration. This is NOT a mental health issue!
People who are being treated and show no signs of violence toward themselves or others are not likely to murder anyone.

Most violent gun-toting criminals are not insane. They are mentally healthy, competent, and someone gave them a gun.

The vast majority of them were also U.S. citizens, and virtually none of them were people kicked out of the military for bad conduct. We're not going after veterans with PTSD here, people.

But what about these mass shootings on the news!!!
So let's address mass shootings. This is becoming a huge, HUGE problem for the United States of America. What percentage of gun homicides are these?

Most shootings that are not one person killing one person... involve just two victims. A mother and father, siblings, children, wife and child, spouse and lover, etc.
Mass shootings are not a huge percentage of homicides committed, but they stick in our memory. Seeing so many lives taken at one time hurts us to our core and makes us hug our loved ones closer.

Please tell us who's doing this!
So who is committing these murders? We know they're overwhelmingly male. But this next statistic will horrify you.

Most homicides with multiple victims are committed by those 25 and under, notably teenage boys.
14-17 years old, taking the lives of two or more people by shooting them dead with a handgun.
The worst part is, most of their victims are also under 25.

Teenagers cannot legally purchase firearms. A person must be 18 to buy a rifle or shotgun and 21 or older to buy a handgun.
Who is supplying them with these guns?

And these males, these boys, are poor, under-educated, and from troubled homes.

So what do we do?
How do we keep firearms out of the hands of these young men? How do we keep them from killing?

If they were educated, well-fed, and had a way out of the inner city, they wouldn't be killing each other in droves.

If people stopped making guns accessible to people they know have a history of violent behavior, even convictions for it, we would see less murders.

If people pointed out domestic violence and got men arrested for assault when they hurt someone, less women and families would be murdered.

Why do they do it?
Read biographies and autobiographies of violent offenders, and it's a real eye-opener. I have. I've read dozens. They overwhelmingly have two main things in common.

1. Most of them were subjects of abuse by a parent or family friend, which matches the statistics for how often children under 5 are killed by an adult male in their life. We need to stop the cycle of abuse that causes young males to lash out and hurt others.

2. Most of them did not feel connected to the society around them. Many lacked friends, or were part of gang violence. Many did drugs. They lacked proper socialization and attachments to the bigger world around them. They don't know how to process their emotions in a healthy way, or how to express anger without resorting to violence. We did this. We as a society tell boys not to cry, not to express themselves in a safe way. WE NEED TO STOP THIS.

What can I do personally?
If you see someone being violent, don't let them get away with it. Report assaults, report sexual abuse. Don't be a bystander. They may be someone you love, but we already saw up above that someone we know is the most likely person to kill us. Get them stopped before they go that far!

Don't purchase a gun for someone else because they can't pass a background check. Don't purchase one for someone you know can be violent.

Do encourage young males, and females, to express themselves in healthy ways and use words to express themselves.

Listen to teens who have trouble at home. If you can, help get them out if they are being abused.

Keep firearms locked up, don't let someone know the code if they can't be trusted to keep it secret. Especially don't allow males between 14 and 25 to have unsupervised access to guns you purchased.

What should the government do?
Stricter penalties need to happen for people who purchase a firearm and then give it to someone who uses it in a crime.

Penalties need to happen for people who leave a firearm unsecured that is then used in a crime or accidental shooting. Guns safely locked in a safe or lockbox not included, unless the owner negligently shared the combination with a minor or someone they knew had violent tendencies.

Someone caught carrying a firearm that is traced and found to be stolen should be given heavier penalties.

Think of any other things the government could legally do? Share in a comment.


Firearms and Crime Statistics - Bureau of Justice Statistics

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