Election feature: introduction to gun violence

Nov 3, 2020


Serge van Neck on Unsplash

On average, 1,455 people are killed every year from gun violence.

This article is part of The Carroll News Elections Series, written by the students of the Fundamentals of Journalism class. For more information on these series, check out this introduction!

Every six hours, someone is killed with a gun in Ohio, according to Giffords. On average, 1,455 people are killed every year from gun violence. Overall, Ohio ranks 24th out of the 50 states in gun deaths. 

Over thirty-three thousand people  have lost their lives from gun-related incidents this year, and 2020 is not even over yet. 

That number, from the Gun Violence Archive, is expected to increase before the year comes to a close, and gun control advocates are fearful that death from guns will continue to be high unless laws and measures are put into place to limit the uses of firearms. 

Out of the 30,000 plus deaths, over 43% were homicides (14,712) and nearly 57% were suicides (19,140), according to the Gun Violence Archive. Sadly, more than a thousand of the homicides were children from infancy to age 17. 

There has been just about the same number of deaths as there are injuries. In fact, 30,337 people have been injured by guns in the United States in 2020. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2,856 of those were children ages zero to 17.

In fact, 30,337 people have been injured by guns in the United States in 2020. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2,856 of those were children ages zero to 17. 

Specifically, 12 Ohioans have been injured in shootings this year; a quarter of them happened in Northeast Ohio, as stated by the Gun Violence Archive

Deaths and injuries from gun violence are nothing new but there are some new groups demanding change from our lawmakers. John Carroll’s Students Demand Action is one of the groups pushing for increased gun control in our nation. 

Students Demand Action is a bipartisan, anti-gun violence organization that is “part of a national initiative that was created by and for young adults to help engage the power, energy and creativity of high school and college students in the fight against gun violence,” according to the Students Demand Action’s informational page. Each month during the school year, they hold a handful of public meetings “to educate the country on the reality of gun violence, activate our fellow Americans to take action, and pass gun sense legislation,” according to SDA’s basic information page.

On Oct. 8th, students from Professor Carrie Buchanan’s journalism class interviewed the co-leaders of Students Demand Action, Katy Zoller and Gabby Lambesis, about their thoughts on the highly debated issues of gun violence and gun control. 

“Gun violence is [another] epidemic that has been going on for many, many years,” said Zoller. “Every single day, 100 people are killed by guns in America, and seeing all the deaths and pain that Americans are experiencing at this point in time really just motivates us [Students Demand Action members] for change—motivates us to want to work for a better world, because, as Kamala Harris in the vice presidential debate said, ‘We can do better.’”

According to Joe Biden and Harris’ campaign website, “It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited. As president, Biden will pursue constitutional, common-sense gun safety policies.” Republicans, according to the GOP website, “have passed legislation and will continue to advocate for action to get at the crux of the issue while upholding law abiding citizen’s Second Amendment rights.” 

Zoller and the other members of Students Demand Action want gun-control legislation to be passed in Congress to help prevent gun-related deaths. She is not the only young person that hopes for gun restrictions. 

“In 2018,” said Zoller, “seven out of 10 young voters who were polled said that if politicians continue to do nothing about gun violence, then they shouldn’t get re-elected.” She continued to say that “coming out and voting for candidates who are going to keep all of our community safe is really our [Students Demand Action] goal.” 

The results of Election Day are going to be a major factor influencing whether or not gun control legislation will get introduced or be absent from any discussions. If President Donald Trump wins a second term, then the response to gun control legislation will likely be the latter, according to the Republican Party’s platform.

Students march to protest school violence and advocate for harsher gun restrictions. (Wikimedia Commons)

“One of the things about it [gun violence] is that it’s not a stand-alone issue. It’s not just gun violence existing in a vacuum in America,” said Zoller. “It’s equally intertwined with a lot of the injustices and inequities found in our country.” 

Gun-related injuries and deaths are a lot higher among people of color than whites in the United States. In fact, African American men account for 52% of gun deaths, even though they represent seven percent of the population, according to Giffords. The rate for African Americans getting killed by a gun is 17.46 for every 100,000 people, compared to just 1.67 per 100,000 people for white people, the Giffords organization reported.

What’s more, African Americans are five times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans. Zoller is fully aware of this troubling statistic. “Gun violence disproportionately affects people of color in our country, and we’ve all seen the statistics about how people of color are many, many more times likely to be killed by police, for example. Police violence is gun violence.” 

Want to read more about Gun Violence? Check out these other stories from The Carroll News Election Series!

Young People as Voters

Law Enforcement and Gun Control

Gun Violence in Urban Communities

Legislative Initiatives for Gun Control

Election feature: law enforcement and gun control

This article is part of The Carroll News Elections Series, written by the students of the Fundamentals of Journalism class. For more information on these series, check out this introduction!

33.852. That is the number of people who have lost their lives from gun-related incidents this year, and 2020 is not even over yet. This staggering number forces us to ask the question: Should there be stricter gun control to combat the rising deaths?

Police officers and average citizens differ on opinions about gun violence and gun control. After meeting with the Students Demand Action group on John Carroll’s campus, The Carroll News decided to explore those differences by talking to two candidates for sheriff in Summit County in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

With so many deaths attributed to gun violence, many are demanding change on a systemic level. (Pixabay)

Between May and August of 2016, two Pew Research Center surveys conducted by the National Police Research Platform collected the opinions of 7917 officers, and 4538 civilians through mail and online methods. 

One part of the survey asked participants respond to their thoughts on civilians being able to own guns, laws preventing those who are mentally ill from buying a gun, a ban of assault-style weapons, background checks for anyone interested in purchasing a gun and the idea of having a federal database to track gun sales. 

For a few of the questions, both groups gave similar answers, but for the more controversial questions, the answers from the groups varied. 

With respect to the mentally ill owning guns, officers and the civilians mostly agreed that those who are mentally ill should not be able to buy a gun (95% and 87% respectively). Both groups also were in favor of background checks (88% of officers and 86% of civilians). A majority also believed that there should be a federal database to track gun sales (61% of officers agreed while 71% of civilians agreed). 

The Democratic candidate for Summit County Sheriff, Kandy Fatheree, is a 28-year veteran of law enforcement, current captain and commander of civil process at the Summit County Sheriff’s office. Fatheree’s Republican opponent in the Sheriff race is retired captain of the Sheriff’s office Shane Barker, a 26-year veteran of law enforcement. Both candidates offered their opinions on a wide array of gun-related topics and concerns. 

Like most officers and civilians surveyed nationally, Fatheree believes that those who are mentally ill should not have guns. “There are some mental illnesses that should prevent people from having weapons and having access to weapons,” she said. 

“If you have a son or daughter or husband who has been diagnosed with mental illness, then there should be no weapons in your home because you’re giving them an opportunity, should they have an episode, [to use] the weapon that they need in order to do harm. We have to find a proper solution to addressing [the] mentally ill and weapons and their accesses.” 

Barker shared a similar sentiment. “I am all for not having guns in the hand of people that are mentally ill, that have made threats, that have used them in the past. Mental health is huge. My deputies on the road deal with mental issues all the time, and we’re trying to get better training for them, but people go to school to be psychiatrists for 10, 12 years. It’s a lot of responsibility to put onto a street cop that has to think instantaneously what he or she is going to do.” 

With regards to gun safety protocols, Fatheree is in favor of responsible and safe gun ownership. He continued, “I really think that if you don’t know anything about a weapon you need to go take classes to learn about the weapon, and you need to make sure that you render it safe, so that your children and grandchildren cannot get their hands on it and your family experience a tragedy.”

I really think that if you don’t know anything about a weapon you need to go take classes to learn about the weapon, and you need to make sure that you render it safe, so that your children and grandchildren cannot get their hands on it and your family experience a tragedy.

— Kandy Fatheree

Later, Fatheree mentioned, “I think every single weapon needs to be registered so that we know where they’re at. You have to register your car, so I don’t see any reason why a weapon shouldn’t be registered as well.”  

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, an organization that is “the world’s largest and most influential professional association for police leaders” believes in enacting a five day waiting period for people who are purchasing guns. They say this will serve as a “cooling off period” for perspective gun buyers and allow time to conduct background checks. 

The two groups questioned in the Pew surveys differed when it came to Americans being able to own guns. Seventy-four percent of officers believe civilians have a right to own guns, compared to 53% of civilians. 

In another survey, more than 15,000 police officers were asked gun control-related questions by Police1, an organization that produces a variety of content, policy and training information for officers around the country. These officers share a similar sentiment when it comes to the right for civilians to own guns and a ban on assault weapons. 

When it comes to Americans owning guns, “More than 91% of officers in the Police1 survey support the concealed carry of firearms by civilians who aren’t a convicted felon or mentally ill.” 

“Absolutely,” said Fatheree. “I fully support our Constitution the way that our Constitution is written, and I believe that unless our nation decides to change it, I see no reason why people shouldn’t exercise their right if they choose to.” 

When asked the same question, Barker said simply, “Yes I do.”

 The biggest disagreement found from the Pew surveys is on whether to ban assault- style weapons. Among police, 67% of say no, while 64% of civilians say yes. 

Over 91% of officers “said a ban on assault weapons would either have no effect or a negative effect in reducing violent crime,” the Police1 report stated.

Talks about banning assault-style weapons have frequently been discussed in the news, especially with the recent shootings in El Paso, Dayton and Las Vegas where such weapons were used to kill large numbers of people.

Fatheree offered a unique perspective: “I truly have mixed emotions on it. I was in Las Vegas the day that the assault [mass shooting] took place from the Mandalay Bay,” she said. “In fact, I had tried to talk my husband into going [to the concert] because I love country music, but he just wanted to go back to our hotel.

“We went to bed that night, heard all of the sirens, not knowing what was transpiring until the next morning,” said Fatheree. “If I were going to base my opinion exclusively on that situation, I would say we wouldn’t want to have assault weapons. Those who are mentally ill that have access to them, and then we end up with a mass shooting, mass murders, so I’m not sure exactly which way to go with that. I would not want to infringe on anybody’s rights, but I certainly don’t feel that weapons should be in the wrong hands either.”  

Students march for an end to gun violence, signaling that substantial change must happen. (Wikimedia Commons)

Barker, on the other hand, does not believe there should be a ban on assault-style weapons. He explained, “There was this so-called weapons ban. I believe it went from 1994 to 2004, and there was no significant drop [in gun- related incidents] with that. 

“The assault weapons [ban] has become an emotional type thing,” said Barker. “Assault to me, means a fully automatic weapon, which means when you pull the trigger, it expends every cartridge that it has inside of it. Those are already illegal in the country. They’ve been illegal for decades.” 

Unlike Barker, the IACP is in favor of banning assault weapons because “they are routinely the weapons of choice for gang members and drug dealers.” 

Interestingly, the Police1 survey asked participants, on a scale between one and five, from least to most important, how important legally-armed citizens are in reducing crime. Seventy-five percent of officers believed strongly that legally-armed citizens reduce crime and answered four or five on the survey question.

In response to these figures, Fatheree said, “I don’t know about reducing crime, but certainly if you are armed, you’re more prepared to defend yourself and your family than if you’re not armed.” 

Barker concurred with the majority of officers in the survey. “I would absolutely agree with that. If it’s a trained, competent, mentally-sound individual, [then] yeah. It does prevent crime because there’s about 900,000 police in the country, and we can’t be everywhere,” said Barker. “We generally respond to crimes. It’s pretty rare that we are able to get to someplace while [a crime] is going on, so yes I would agree with that overall.”   

With an average of 100 people dying every day from gun violence and many more injured, should there be stricter laws and gun control legislation in our country? This question has been asked by many, including journalists, politicians and civilians. 

In another survey conducted by Pew Research Center in September 2019, 60% of Americans surveyed believe there should be stricter gun laws in the U.S. That number is up 3% from 2017.

The IACP believes in “legislation and policies that seek to improve the safety of our communities, which in turn enhances the safety of law enforcement officers.” The association is in favor of putting in place responsible measures to ensure gun safety but does not directly say that they are for gun control. 

Fatheree and Barker were asked if they have the same opinion on tougher gun laws as the majority of Americans surveyed.

“As far as any other restrictions on it, I can’t think of any that I would [favor] specifically,” said Fatheree. She also mentioned that the mentally ill should not have weapons or have access to them.

She added, “As a law enforcement officer, we don’t write laws. We can make some recommendations. Obviously, you want everybody to be safe, and you don’t want to infringe on anybody’s rights.” 

Barker is against stricter gun laws “because the places that they’re the strictest — Chicago is a great example — the gun laws there, I don’t think you’re allowed to own a handgun in the city, but the murder rate there is skyrocketing, especially recently,” he said. 

“When you ban anything or you prohibit anything, the law-abiding citizens would follow the laws and turn the guns in, but the criminals, they’re going to find a way to get those [weapons].”

While opinions on gun-related issues and gun control come and go, the many families who have suffered the loss of a loved one to gun violence remain ever present.  

As the story ends, 35,002 people are dead: 1,150 more died from gun violence between the time I started writing this story and the time I finished it. 

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