In addition to showing the disconnect between guns and America’s violence problem, the demographic disparities in violence are important for another reason: Americans’ perceptions of gun violence are shaped largely by a few high-profile mass shooting incidents, featuring predominantly white murderers and white victims. Considering the share of airtime allotted to these tragedies, one might think that they’re representative of America’s gun violence.
In fact, they’re extremely unusual events that comprise a tiny proportion of America’s gun violence. Therefore, policies intended to address these events in particular — such as “assault weapons bans” — are, almost by definition, poorly crafted to address the realities of the problem. A focus on high-profile mass shootings actually ignores the vast majority of America’s gun violence victims.
Better policy decisions might emerge from a more realistic understanding of what violence in America actually looks like, but that understanding will only come with the acknowledgement that guns are not the fundamental driver of American violence.
At first glance, a comparison of American violence and European violence is a prima facie case for stringent gun control. However, a closer examination of American violence reveals that it has little relationship to guns or gun policy.
The underlying sociological characteristics that make America more violent than Europe are very poorly understood and warrant further study. As the first step of that important work, researchers should acknowledge that simply attributing American violence to guns and permissive gun policy does not accurately capture the reality of the problem.
– Mark Houser in The Reality of American Violence