Art Hobson: Shootings as American as apple pie

Volume of gun violence shows need to address the problem

Posted: October 31, 2017 at 1 a.m.

I'm no expert on gun violence, but events have surely shown we'd better pay attention to it. The Las Vegas massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, but it was only one of many shootings and we need to develop some feeling for these numbers. Then, maybe, we'll begin to do something.

Did you know that a second mass shooting occurred in Lawrence, Kan., on the same day as the Las Vegas massacre? Google the Oct. 1 headline "5 people shot in downtown Lawrence; 3 dead," to read the full story. Furthermore, in the seven days prior to the massacre, there were nine mass shootings with 41 victims (not counting the shooters), of whom seven were killed.

U.S. mass shootings in August

(includes number shot, excluding shooter)

Aug. 1

Chicago, 4

Fresno, Calif., 7

Toppenish, Wash., 6

Aug. 3

Washington, 4

Aug. 4

Lodge Grass, Mont., 5

Aug. 5

Allendale, S.C., 4

Lakewood, N.J. 4

Tallahassee, Fla., 4

Aug. 6

Bronx, N.Y., 4

Bronx, N.Y., 6

Oakland, Calif., 7

Aug. 8

Chicago, 7

Aug. 12

St. Louis, 4

Aug. 13

Philadelphia, 5

Sacramento, Calif., 4

Suffolk, Va., 4

Aug. 14

North Hollywood, Calif., 4

Aug. 16

Wyandanch, N.Y., 4

Aug. 19

Cleveland, 5

Aug. 20

Brooklyn, N.Y. 4

Chicago, 7

Aug. 21

Baltimore, 4

Memphis, Tenn., 4

Newark, N.J., 4

Newark, N.J., 4

Whitakers, N.C., 4

Aug. 22

Chicago, 4

Aug. 24

St. Louis, 4

Aug. 25

Gainesville, Fla., 4

Aug. 27

Evansville, Ind., 4

Sacramento, Calif., 5

Aug. 28

Clovis, N.M., 6.

SOURCE: gunviolencearchive.org

Mass shootings are commonly defined as four victims shot in one incident, not including the shooter. Let that definition, one person gunning down four or more others, sink in. According to data from gunviolencearchive.org, mass shootings occur nine times every 10 days on average. They're as American as apple pie.

I suggest reading the accompanying list of just August's mass shootings slowly and aloud, pausing after each entry: "August 1st, Chicago, Illinois, four." Perhaps read this in a church group or other gathering. Such a list certainly deserves thoughtful reverence.

These are our fellow Americans, from cities like Memphis and Philadelphia and small towns like Mays Landing, N.J., and Danville, Ill. Behind each victim, there is a story of a family and a loved one. It's easy to look up the details of each by going to gunviolence.org. The entry labeled "Mass Shootings" lists all 282 such incidents in 2017. You can learn the names and ages of the victims and the shooter, where in town the shooting occurred, the nature of the incident, what kinds of guns were involved, and sources of information about the incident.

During the 1,735 days of the years 2013 to 2017 up through Oct. 1, there were 1,516 mass shootings, averaging nine of them every 10 days.

Mass shootings are just a fraction of our gun-related mayhem. In 2017 to Oct. 16, America has had 48,857 incidents of gun violence or gun crime, 12,215 gun deaths (about twice as many Americans as have been killed so far fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), 24,877 gun injuries, 567 children (ages 0-11) and 2,549 teens (ages 12-17) killed or injured by guns, and 282 mass shootings.

In all these categories, America is far out in front of all other advanced nations. For example, Wikipedia lists the annual number of gun homicides per million population among the 35 democracies of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The most recent numbers show 17 nations including Japan, Poland, Austria, Hungary and Spain, at less than two such deaths per million; then 11 nations including France, Ireland, Italy and Canada at between two and four deaths per million; then Portugal and Greece between four and six deaths per million; then Chile, Turkey and Israel all at about 10 deaths per million; then finally, the USA at 36 and Mexico at 64.

Americans own 265 million guns, nearly one for every adult, which surely sounds like a lot. However, 61 percent of households own no guns while just 3 percent of adults own half of all guns. This highly armed minority own an average of 17 guns per person. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, had 23 guns in his hotel room.

Americans need to discuss what to do about gun violence.

Commentary on 10/31/2017