By Trevor Burns For RealClearPolicy

The recent tragic shootings in Atlanta and Boulder have led to a new round of executive orders from the Biden administration. A portion of these orders will focus on making home guns – the so-called “ghost guns”.

The problem is that these weapons are not a significant source of weapons used for criminal purposes.

The fact that someone can make an “assault weapon” may scare some, but assault weapons are used in a tiny percentage of crimes per year compared to other firearms. Nonetheless, they make all the headlines.

Unfortunately, this is how gun policy plays out in America: a tragic shootout causes lawmakers to focus on the weapon used, invariably described as a “particularly dangerous weapon of war.”

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A shoot in white, affluent, suburban Boulder naturally attracts the attention of pundits, journalists, and politicians who likely reside in similar areas.

Between these tragedies, however, handguns kill thousands of people a year – about 30 times more than “assault weapons” – and in a way that receives far less attention: primarily gun violence in the military. deprived neighborhoods and suicides of middle-aged men. But we invariably focus on “assault weapons,” the firearms that are used in the shocking killings that occur in otherwise extremely safe places.

Meanwhile, in Chicago for a weekend in late February, 27 were shot, 6 fatally. And although we do not have the full data, it is very likely that a handgun was used in all cases.

There is no agreed upon definition of the term “assault weapon”, but proposed bans, such as the 1994–2004 federal ban, generally focus on a few cosmetic features of certain semi-automatic rifles. Regardless of the definition, they are still guns, and guns are used in relatively few murders – between 300 and 400 in recent years, based on data spanning 2015 to 2019.

This makes sense because guns are difficult to conceal and often more expensive. Anyone who is worried about being the target of gun violence or wants to commit the violence themselves is much more likely to hide a handgun in a pocket or in their belt.

Therefore, handguns are generally used in about 6,500 homicides per year.

Of the homicide victims, more than half are young men, and more than two thirds of them are black.

But two-thirds of gun deaths in this country are suicides, and men kill themselves about three times more often than women and with guns about seven times more often.

In suicides, although we do not have complete data, handguns are used much more often than other types, if only because it can be physically difficult to use a long gun on the body. oneself.

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When it comes to teenagers, while every school firing an “assault weapon” is a tragedy, schools are still very much. safe places for children to be. A student is fourteen times more likely to kill himself with a gun than to be shot in school.

In short, the gun deaths in America are predominantly young black males who are victims of homicides and males between the ages of 25 and 64 who commit suicide. Almost all of this death comes from handguns, but questions about “assault weapons” and the weapons that frighten Diane Feinstein are brought to the fore.

We’re debating how cumbersome and nearly impossible to implement ‘high capacity’ magazine restrictions that won’t have any effect on suicides – it only takes one bullet after all – or crime.

What we tend not to do, however, is discuss policies that will have a significant impact on the number of gun deaths in America. And these policy proposals must go beyond guns.

We must first recognize that America is saturated with guns, and that will not realistically change anytime soon. If half of all guns in the country were eliminated, we would still have between 150 and 200 million private guns.

But if we look beyond this performative and ineffective focus on gun laws, there are changes that would have a dramatic impact on gun deaths. First, there is the end of the war on drugs, which failed and was a disaster in every way imaginable.

While ending the war on drugs wouldn’t end street gangs, it would dramatically reduce their reach and the activities that make them profitable. More importantly, the war on drugs has devastated city centers, wreaking havoc on schools, families and communities. It will take a long time to recover, but ending the drug prohibition craze is a necessary first step.

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For suicides, unfortunately, developing effective policies is more difficult. While guns rarely “cause” a crime – in the sense that a potential criminal decides to commit a crime only after acquiring a gun – guns can more directly “Provoke” a suicide.

The immediate availability of a gun, often associated with drug addiction, can turn a split-second decision into a fatal one.

But suicides aren’t usually split-second decisions, and in a study 38 percent made a medical visit a week before a suicide attempt and 64 percent visited a month before. Some have suggested that doctors check the house for guns and possibly report to authorities.

Still, this could deter many people from seeking help. Finding the balance between helping and scaring potential victims of gun suicide will not be easy.

But we know that offering compassionate help and support is usually the most effective way to avoid these tragedies, and for good reason, this is where suicide prevention experts and organizations focus their efforts.

Ultimately, however, if we don’t focus on homicides of young black men and male suicide, we are not seriously addressing gun deaths in America. Mass shooters are getting attention, but the biggest problems are behind the headlines.

Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.

Trevor Burrus is a research fellow at the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute.

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