Change the gun debate,
end THE GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC.

 

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 over the next five years. (Pew 6.28.23: “Gun Violence Widely Viewed as a Major National Problem”)

“My response is, we have to stop it, so your children, your family, your friends can leave your home, walk the streets, go to the grocery store, and go to church to be safe from gun violence. There’s no excuse for this carnage.” President Joe Biden 1.12.24
  • “You step outside the U.S., and people think what is happening here is insane.” (Jon Lowy, Global Action on Gun Violence, New Yorker 1.31.24)
  • 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 a second year in a row, “a distressing portrayal of the dangers facing our kids today” says Sarah Sharps, Everytown for Gun Safety (USA TODAY 9.14.23). “More active shooter drills. Safe rooms. Bulletproof backpacks. The classroom is changing.” (CNN 9.22.23)
  • Brady’s Kris Brown in “One Nation, Packing Heat” (Bus. Wk 7.26.21) warned of “a dystopian universe where the only rational thing is to have a gun.”
  • 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 give up she implored: “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 — addressing symptoms and not the disease — is not working. While the GVP community still puts hope over experience, citing the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act after the Uvalde elementary school massacre, 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.” (A. Wiles 7.24.22). This was a reply to MomsDemand’s Watts, tweeting in disbelief an Oregon father of 3 was shot dead when his wiper fluid landed on another car. On July 4th she tweeted a D.C. father of 2 was killed by a motorist angered by grass clippings blown on his car.

“Anyone interested in gun policy should set a google alert for ‘shooting parking lot’. These are not gang shootings. Every day regular people get shot by armed civilians during disputes at malls, grocery stores, and shopping centers.” (K-12 School Shooting Database, 1.30.24)

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 shot, 2 dead at a Louisville restaurant last August. That month, a California judge, arguing while drunk, texted: ‘I lost it. I just shot my wife.’ In September, an Oklahoma judge shot 6 cars in road rage and rear-ended a woman who cut him off. This February a Pennsylvania judge shot her boyfriend. Days before an argument left 22 shot, 1 dead at Kansas City’s Super Bowl parade. Last June, 10 were shot in disputes after Denver won the NBA title, with 2 more at its parade. The prior year 20 were shot in fights after a Milwaukee playoff game.

“Tragedies often begin with an argument. Instead of words or a punch, a gun is pulled.” (Wash. Post editorial, 3.25.22)
“Now we’re seeing what’s always been part of human conflict coupled with the accessibility of firearms.” “We have individuals of all ages using firearms to resolve their disagreements.” “Arguments that should be resolved through words” “end up where someone’s dead.” (Milwaukee police chief, 05.2022)

What changed—accessibility—followed the Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller (2008). Heller guaranteed for the first time a right to own a gun for self-defense, a “dramatic upheaval in the law” (Stevens, J., dissenting). Striking D.C.’s ban on handguns—the deadliest firearm, used in most shootings—Heller boosted gun sales, shackled gun control and unleashed deregulation. After McDonald v. Chicago expanded Heller in 2010, tossing bans in Chicago and other cities, gun proliferation and deaths increased, then accelerated, creating an unmistakable inflection post-2008/2010 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 spontaneous violence generated by anger, passion or intoxication.’”

Granting all law-abiding citizens a right to a gun, Heller perversely turned those unable to control their human impulses while armed into criminals. Such rising “crime” is crime Heller created.

Heller’s Consequences

Heller’s impact is impossible to ignore, with American society now unable to protect itself. Due to a court decision, we face a full-on crisis of escalating guns, violence and fear, and other destabilizing, costly effects.

Justice StevensJustice Stevens, deploring the “slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns,” disclosed all justices could forsee the “negative consequences” of Heller’s “radical change in the law,” and urged “overruling Heller is desperately needed.”

Record high guns, deaths, shootings

  • Records gun deaths, 25,198 by July 2023, set to pass 2021 all-time high of 45,080 (Gun Violence Archive)
  • Record mass shootings, 500+ killed by 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)
  • Record school shootings, new high again, “doubling in past year” (The Hill 9.14.23)
  • “Number of guns found in schools is soaring” (Wash. Post 10.16.23)
  • Soaring impulsive, angry, grievance, intoxicated shootings
  • Record domestic shootings of all ages, gender, race: partners, parents, grandparents, kids shooting each other
  • 46% of mass killings of 4 or more in 2015-22 were of intimate partners or family (Everytownresearch.org)
  • “Every day in America 41 children lose a parent to shootings”  Wash. Post 4.21.22
  • “Leading cause of death for children,” passing car crashes in 2017 NE J. Med. 4.20.22
  • “Child Gun Deaths Spiked 87% in 10 Years” (Forbes 10.13.23)
  • “Each year 19,000 children & teens are killed or injured, 3M exposed to gun violence” (Everytownresearch.org)
  • Record suicides from gun access, 90% of attempts result in death vs. 4% of all others (Everytownresearch.org)
  • Suicides among children aged 10 to 14 tripled 2007-2020 WSJ June 5, 2022
  • “One quarter of all gun suicide victims had been drinking” (Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence 1.30.24)
  • Record road rage shootings every 16 hrs (Everytown 3.20.23), doubling 2014-16, again 2017-21 Trace 5.2.22, including in response to flashed headlights (by domestic abuser now before Supreme Court in US v. Rahimi)
  • Record armed carjackings, “rose for the sixth straight year in 2023” (Wash. Post 1.27.24)
  • “Alarming rise in carjackings” gives DoorDash, UberEats, Grubhub drivers trauma, anxiety (Wash. Post. 1.23.24)
  • Record fast-food shootings over botched orders or declined credit card (also in US v. Rahimi)
  • Record levels of all types of firearms, now exceeding 400 million
  • “16 million people – 1 in 20 adults – own at least one AR-style rifle” (Wash. Post 12.28.23)
  • Record FBI background checks of 39 million firearms in 2020-2022
  • TSA gun seizures “soaring 6 times since 2008,” 93% found loaded 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, 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 routinely shot by guns flooding homes, playgrounds, school buses, athletic fields, streets
  • Schools, churches, businesses hardened, screened, armed
  • Colleges wall off campuses, add security and guard booths (Wash. Post 10.12.23)
  • Medical facilities rattled by “violence uptick,” add campus police (WSJ 5.8.23)
  • Government offices add drills, text alerts, responder blueprints (Wash. Post 10.5.23)
  • “Voting offices, fearing worst” get ready with tourniquets, live shooter drills (Wash. Post 2.11.24)
  • Public gatherings, stores, restaurants, workplaces increasingly dangerous
  • Public transit shootings “rising across the country” Wash. Post 4.17.22
  • Bystander and accidental shootings becoming routine
  • In nation’s capital, 3 in 10 residents do not feel safe Wash. Post 2.27.22
  • “Fatal shootings surge in D.C, frightening residents” (Wash. Post 8.7.23)

Destabilizing, costly, embarrassing effects

  • Pseudo-militia doubled post-2008, threatening governments, officials, 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
  • “Surging political threats menace US democracy” through swatting, other violent tactics (Wash. Post 2.9.24)
  • Threats to judges quadrupled 2015-2021, sometimes deadly (U.S. Marshalls Service)
  • “I believe people when they say they want to hurt or kill us.” (Wisc. Justice Karofsky, Wash. Post 2.9.24)
  • “Deeply disturbing spike” in threats against federal and state officials, including judges and legislators (DOJ, AG Garland 1.5.24), and shooting at Colo. Supreme Court (1.2.24)
  • Record hate shootings and threats over race, gender, faith, politics
  • Parents now being prosecuted for their child’s misuse of guns (Wash. Post 2.9.24)
  • Record shooting injuries, requiring hospitalization, therapy, trauma care
  • “Shooting is a massive risk to hearing,” hearing loss from recreational guns is “epidemic” (Wash. Post 2.20.24)
  • $280 billion in annual costs of health care, insurance and government, or 1.3% of GDP
  • Nation’s capital pays $1.5mm 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
  • “As longevity declines U.S. short on answers,” gun violence a “major factor” (Wash. Post 12.28.23, 1.14.24)
  • Wasteful litigation: 2,000+ cases applying Heller, not real 2nd Amendment
  • Legislative and electoral gridlock over even marginal reforms
  • Travel advisories issued for U.S., other nations deplore its “shameful” gun violence
  • Foreign governments sue U.S. manufacturers and dealers for exporting gun violence (New Yorker 1.31.24)
  • “American guns and extremism fuel global violence” (Trace 9.21.23)
 

'GOOD GUY WITH A GUN' ISN'T WORKING

MARGINAL GUN SAFETY ISN'T 'WINNING'

WE NEED A NEW PERSPECTIVE AND APPROACH

The Real Solution

Despite clear mounting evidence, the GVP community chooses not to blame the decision that puts America in peril, unable to to do much about it. While research, legislative, and grassroots efforts serve important functions in focusing on gun safety and prevention, modest reforms can’t reverse a growing epidemic, or cure the real problem: impulsive citizens with gun.

“Thoughts, prayers, and social media posts aren’t going to solve the problem: we need action.” Parkland survivor Sari Kaufman.
Empowering angered human beings with guns is little different than giving them a right to drive drunk, and just as dangerous and unregulatable.

A more fundamental response is required. The facts are clear: Heller is at the root of this crisis and must be challenged, not ignored. That starts by seeing it as the series of glaring mistakes and oversights it is—a house of cards that cannot stand, even in this Court.

Among other basic errors, “until judges start reading the Second Amendment in a strict constitutional sense — i.e. that ‘militia’ means just that: an organized governmental armed force — this slaughter will continue.” (John Elsbree to Wash. Post ed. 1.9.24)
 

“If they continue to pursue a pathway of inaction, more people are going to die.”
(Parkland survivor Jaclyn Corin)

Help us overturn these flawed and dangerous decisions, re-empower legislators to end the crisis, and save lives.

 

The Necessary Action

This Heller-fueled crisis has overtaken the country’s ability to manage it. We can no longer afford to accept the “radical” decision that has led to an epidemic—unique in the world—of guns and gun violence. Heller and subsequent decisions like Bruen are egregiously wrong and need 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 its gun crisis. Please support us today. 

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