Enough is Enough. End this Epidemic at its Source.
A Full-On Crisis
In a historic first, the U.S. now has an Office of Gun Violence Prevention (GVP). Declaring “a full-on state of emergency” last year, California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta said “to fight this epidemic, it’s going to take creative approaches and new action,” creating its own office. The Washington Post in a 9/11 editorial, “Residents are scared,” urged leaders to “cut the rhetoric and take a rigorous look at what is—and is not—working.”
The crisis is growing ever more alarming and out of control. Most Americans (62% vs. 31%) expect it to get worse, not better, over the next five years. (Pew 6.28.23: “Gun Violence Widely Viewed as a Major National Problem”)
- Before Labor Day 2022—and its 18 mass shootings per Mass Shooting Tracker—Ellen Alberding of the Joyce Foundation cited the “unrelenting gun violence [and] Supreme Court decisions that steered our country off-course,” calling the latest, NYSRPA v. Bruen, a “far-reaching setback.”
- “Gun deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, a devastating trend that shows no sign of slowing.” (Robyn Thomas, Giffords Law Center 1.27.22)
- School shootings hit all-time highs for a second year in a row, “a distressing portrayal of the dangers facing our kids today” says Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown for Gun Safety (USA TODAY 9.14.23). “More active shooter drills. Safe rooms. Bulletproof backpacks. The American classroom is changing.” (CNN 9.22.23)
- Brady United’s Kris Brown in “One Nation, Packing Heat” (Bloomberg Bus. Wk 7.26.21) warned of “a dystopian universe where the only rational thing is to have a gun all the time.”
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked: “What the hell is going on in the United States?”
- MomsDemand’s Shannon Watts tweeted: “So many shootings it’s hard to keep track.” Refusing to throw in the towel she demanded: “WHAT IS THE OTHER OPTION?”
GVP researchers report that “over the last decade, excluding accidents and suicides, more than 300,000 Americans have been shot, and nearly half have died. Millions more have suffered trauma, as witnesses to shootings or as friends and family members of victims. By every measure, the physical, financial and emotional toll of gun violence in our society is staggering.” (A. Papachristos, Dir. of Inst. for Policy Res., Wash. Post 11.24.23) But they don’t ask what changed just over a decade ago, ignoring a dramatic change in the law.
Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is not working. While the GVP community still puts hope over experience, citing the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act after the Uvalde elementary school shooting, the reality is, as Fareed Zakaria noted in a CNN Labor Day special, “Lessons on Guns,” marginal reforms are “umbrellas in a hurricane” that make “no perceptible difference.”
D.C. v. Heller (2008) turned a gun problem into a Gun Epidemic.
The numbers speak for themselves.
The Real Problem and its Source
“To understand the real problem with guns in the USA just google ‘Argument turns deadly.’ Angry people should not have a gun. Even normal people get angry.” (Andrew Wiles, 7.24.22). This was a reply to MomsDemand’s Watts, tweeting in disbelief that an Oregon father of 3 was shot dead when his windshield-wiper fluid landed on another car. Over that July 4th she tweeted that a Washington, D.C. landscaper and father of 2 was killed by a motorist angered by grass clippings blown onto his car.
The real problem is the new normal, like a spilled drink that left 5 shot, 2 dead at a Norfolk restaurant in 2022, or dispute that left 5 more shot, 2 dead at a Louisville restaurant this August. Earlier that month, a California judge had a deadly argument while drunk, texting: ‘I just lost it. I just shot my wife. I won’t be in tomorrow. I will be in custody.’ In September, an Oklahoma judge shot 6 cars in road rage and twice rear-ended a woman who ‘cut him off.’ Meanwhile, 12 shootings erupted at high school football games to start the 2023-2024 school year. In July, 10 were shot in a dispute after Denver won the NBA title, with 2 more shot at its parade. Last year 20 were shot in fights after a Milwaukee playoff game.
What changed—accessibility—followed the Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller (2008). Heller guaranteed for the first time a right to have a gun for self-defense, striking D.C.’s ban on handguns—the deadliest firearm used in most shootings—boosting gun sales, shackling gun control and unleashing deregulation. After McDonald v. Chicago expanded Heller in 2010, tossing bans in Chicago and other cities, gun proliferation and deaths increased and then accelerated, creating an unmistakable inflection post-2008 and 2010 across virtually every metric (see graphs above and Gun Problem Becomes Epidemic).
It’s also basic sense: Before Heller’s right to a gun in 2008, applied nationwide in 2010, there was no epidemic.
This epidemic cannot be explained by mental health, poverty, inequality, youth, Covid-19 or “crime.” While factors, all are found in other nations with a fraction of our gun violence; indeed were present in this country prior to Heller. None account for the last 15-years’ surge in gun deaths and injuries. Or spike in school shootings depicted by the K-12 School Shooting Database (as of July 2023), generally flat for decades, from 1970 to 2010, whose inflection post-2008-2010 could not be more graphic:
What does explain the surge—and epidemic—is Heller’s allowing all “law-abiding citizens” a gun.
The historian Heller relied on, Joyce Malcolm, called that a “dangerous freedom.” An 1832 treatise it cited condemned pistols that “frequently turned a quarrel into a bloody affray.” Dissenting Justice Breyer warned, quoting the American Journal of Psychiatry: “‘Most murders are committed by previously law-abiding citizens, in situations where spontaneous violence is generated by anger, passion or intoxication.’”
Despite clear, mounting evidence, the GVP community chooses not to blame the decision that puts America in peril, unable to to do anything about it. But Heller’s consequences are impossible to ignore, with American society now unable to protect itself. Due to a court decision, we now face a full-on crisis of escalating guns, violence and fear, and other destabilizing, costly effects.
Record high guns, deaths, shootings
- 25,198 gun deaths by July 2023, set to pass 2021 all-time high of 45,080 (Gun Violence Archive)
- 500+ killed in mass shootings through August 2023, the most in at least 10 years (Forbes 8.29.23)
- Record high 818 mass shootings (4+ shot incl. shooter) in 2021—over 2 a day (Mass Shooting Tracker)
- School shootings reach new high again, “doubling in past year” (The Hill 9.14.23)
- Soaring impulsive, angry, grievance, intoxicated shootings
- Record domestic shootings of all ages, gender, race: parents, grandparents, kids shooting each other
- “Every day in America, at least 41 children lose a parent to shootings” Wash. Post 4.21.22
- “Leading cause of death among U.S. children,” surpassing car crashes in 2017 NE J. of Medicine 4.20.22
- Record suicides from ready access to guns
- For children aged 10 to 14, the suicide rate tripled 2007-2020 WSJ June 5, 2022
- Road rage shootings “continue to surge” to one every 16 hours (Everytown 3.20.23), doubling 2014-16 and again 2017-21 Trace 5.2.22
- Rising shootings at fast-food and other service providers over botched orders
- Record levels of all types of firearms, now exceeding 400 million
- Record FBI background checks of 39 million firearms in 2020-2022
- TSA gun seizures eclipsing all-time 2022 high, “soaring 6 times since 2008” Wash. Post 3.19.22, 10.12.23
A public living in fear
- Devastated families and communities across the country
- Domestic partners routinely threatened, injured, killed with guns, often despite protective orders
- Elementary school students in active shooter drills, others March for Our Lives
- “Imagine the stress, trauma and anxiety that a second active shooter lockdown in 16 days caused our students, faculty and staff.” (UNC chancellor, Wash. Post 9.13.23)
- “Gun-wary schools are mandating clear backpacks” (Wash. Post 8.27.23)
- “One third of K-12 parents are very worried a shooting could happen at their child’s school” (Pew 10.18.22)
- Children shot by guns flooding homes on playgrounds, streets, school buses, parking lots, athletic fields
- Schools, churches, businesses, agencies hardened, screened, armed
- More colleges wall off campus, add security at entry points and guard booths (Wash. Post 10.12.23)
- Government buildings add shooter drills, text alert systems, blueprints for responders (Wash. Post 10.5.23)
- Public gatherings, stores, restaurants, workplaces, polling places increasingly dangerous
- Shootings “rising on public transit across the country” Wash. Post 4.17.22
- Stray bullet, bystander, accidental shootings becoming routine
- 3 in 10 residents in nation’s capital do not feel safe Wash. Post 2.27.22
Destabilizing, costly, embarrassing effects
- Private militia doubled post-2008, threatening governments, officials, public assemblies, elections
- “Far-right radicalism is the nation’s top domestic threat” per FBI (Wash. Post 8.26.23)
- Rising armed resistance to police, traffic stops, 911 calls
- Threats to judges, sometimes deadly, quadrupled 2015-2021 (U.S. Marshalls Service)
- Record shootings over race, gender, faith, politics
- Surging injuries, requiring hospitalization, therapy, trauma care
- The nation’s capital pays $1.5 million per fatal shooting, $1 billion in 2021 Wash. Post 4.22.22
- “It takes more than 100 people to save a gunshot victim’s life” BuzzFeed 4.29.22
- $280 billion in annual health care, insurance and government costs, or 1.3% of GDP
- Wasteful litigation: 3,000+ cases applying Heller, not real 2nd Amendment
- Legislative and electoral gridlock over marginal reforms
- “American guns and extremism fuel global violence” (Trace 9.21.23)
- Other nations issue travel advisories to U.S. and deplore its “shameful” gun violence
'GOOD GUY WITH A GUN' ISN'T WORKING
MARGINAL GUN SAFETY ISN'T 'WINNING'
WE NEED A NEW PERSPECTIVE AND APPROACH
The Real Solution
Mainstream GVP’s legislative, research and grassroots efforts serve important functions in their focus on gun safety and prevention. But modest reforms can’t reverse a growing gun epidemic, or cure the real problem: angered citizens with guns.
A more fundamental response is required. The facts are clear: Heller truly is the elephant in the room and must be challenged, not ignored. That starts by seeing it as the series of glaring errors and oversights it is—a house of cards that cannot stand, even in this Court.
The Necessary Action
This Heller-fueled crisis has overtaken the country’s ability to manage it. We can no longer afford to accept the egregious, “radical,” and dangerous decision that has led to an epidemic—unique in the world—of guns and gun violence. Heller is wrong and needs to be overturned.
That is the American Enlightenment Project’s mission. To learn more, visit Why AEP, Gun Problem Becomes Epidemic, 2nd Amendment Explained and Heller’s 2nd Amendment.
With your help we can file the court challenges needed to bring an end to Heller and this crisis. Please support us today.
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