So, How Do We Prevent Mass Murders?

Map of violent crime per 100,000 people in the...

Map of violent crime per 100,000 people in the USA by state in 2004. “Violent crime” includes Homicide, rape, robbery and serious assault. >100-200 >200-300 >300-400 >400-500 >500-600 >600-700 >700-800 >800 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yet another horrendous mass murder occurred yesterday. Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old male (I hate to refer to him as a “man,” although state and federal laws have to draw the line somewhere) killed his mother, then went to the elementary school where she worked and opened fire on students and staff. By the time the massacre ended, twenty small children (first grade and younger, I believe) were dead, along with six adults at the school, the young man’s mother, and finally himself (he committed suicide, which is how most mass murders end).

Already, politicians are calling for stricter gun control laws. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wanna-be-dictator of New York City, has already jumped into the fray demanding stricter gun laws. Ordinary citizens have flooded the White House with petitions for stronger gun control laws. I have to admit, it is hard to avoid getting passionate when you see news like this. After all, the deaths of 20 children in the first-grade age range hits all of us personally. Mothers and fathers think of their own children at times like this. As a grandfather, I could not help but think that, in three years, my son and his wife will be entrusting my oldest grandson to a school. Teachers and school employees see their own students in the eyes of these victims. We have all loved a child in this age gap.

Yet I have to ask, is gun control the answer? I know some of my less-religious friends may find this to be a contradiction in terms, but this man of faith demands evidence. Facts matter to me: Ideas and concepts must be backed up by data.

I compared data from two websites this morning. The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence posts a state-by-state gun-control scorecard at http://www.bradycampaign.org/stategunlaws/ (you can download the PDF summary by going to the headline, “Brady State Scorecard Reviews Gun Laws Across the U.S.” and going to the link to “Click here to download state rankings”). I also found a comparison of violent-crime rates by state at the US Census Bureau’s website. Although these sites provide data from different years, this is a starting point for discussion. The most violent states will usually stay pretty violent, and the states with the most lenient gun-control laws will usually not be too quick to clamp down on gun rights.

I kept my study pretty simple. I compared the ten states with the strictest gun laws with the ten whose laws were most lenient, taking a look at the violent crime numbers. Here are a few of my observations:

  1. Connecticut, where the most recent mass shooting occurred, was ranked fifth in terms of gun-control legislation.
  2. The ten states with the strictest gun-control laws had an average of 422.3 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The ten states with the most lenient laws had an average of 378.4.
  3. The three states with highest crime rates (South Carolina, Tennessee, and Nevada) fell near the middle of the pack in terms of gun-control legislation. South Carolina and Tennessee were tied for 20th (ignore the fact that the Brady Campaign’s PDF says they were tied for 22nd; one should calculate these rankings from the top down, not the bottom up), while Nevada was tied for 28th.
  4. Although not ranked with the states, the District of Columbia had almost twice as much violent crime as any state. I believe it also has very strict gun-control laws. It also has a lot of politicians. This leads me to believe that we should pass a law banning politicians.
  5. Two of the three states with the lowest crime rates (Vermont and Maine) also fell near the middle of the pack. North Dakota (49th in violent crime) had some of the most lenient gun control laws (in a six-way tie for 42nd).
  6. California had the strictest gun laws and the 14th-highest crime rate. Utah had the most lenient laws and was 45th in crime rate.

To draw a thorough conclusion, a more thorough study of the numbers would be needed; this is only a beginning. But, it leads me to believe that both the gun-control advocates (who say that stricter gun laws will solve our crime problems) and the gun-rights supporters (who think an armed population will immediately reduce crime) are not completely accurate. The data slightly favors gun-rights supporters, but even that does not solve the problem.

I would be interested in seeing studies comparing other cultural and demographic trends with violent crime. What about religious involvement? Divorce rates (Adam Lanza was from a broken home, and countless statistics show that children of divorce face greater social challenges than those who grow up in two-family households) are worth looking at. So are economic factors (if I had more time, I would be interested in finding violent crime rates since the recession began). I believe that some or all of these factors, as well as a host of others I did not mention, are more closely intertwined with violent crime than gun-control legislation is.

I am reminded once again of the Scripture that says, “[I]f my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV). As I have written before, our nation’s greatest problems lack a political solution, since they are, at their root, spiritual maladies. The gun itself is a tool: It can be used to protect our families, to hunt for dinner, for recreation, or to kill innocent children. The degree of wickedness in a person’s soul determines whether he or she will use that tool for evil. As long as that wickedness prevails, the sinner will find a way to achieve his or her goals. Only a transformation of the heart, by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, will eradicate sin. Therein lies the solution, and our politicians are unable to offer that.

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