The end of 2015 is still almost four months away, yet so far this year, there have been a total of 255 mass shootings in the United States – the most recent of which took place this past Sunday, the 30th of August. There were actually two, that day. One of them was in Memphis, Tennessee, while the other took place in a town called Muskegon Heights, just northwest of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Between the two shootings, one person died and eight more were wounded.  The deadliest shooting this year took place in Waco, Texas on May 17th. That shooting, the result of an armed conflict between three rival biker gangs, claimed 9 lives and left 18 more wounded.

It happens so often that much of the American public has become desensitized to it. How many of us even remember the Waco incident? For that matter, who outside of Memphis and Muskegon Heights even knew about those shootings this past weekend?

After the senseless shooting deaths of two journalists last week, Hillary Clinton spoke out on the need for stricter gun laws in the US. In response, Republican lawmakers shed the proverbial crocodile tears, while Chris Christie proclaimed, “We’re not enforcing the law in this country,” blaming President Obama for the problem. Donald Trump attributed it to mental illness: “This isn’t a gun problem. This is a mental problem…that’s what they should be focusing on instead of guns — they should be talking about mental health because there’s so many things that can be done.”

Ironically, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed medical professionals to detain anyone suspected to be mentally unstable. At the same time, GOP lawmakers are standing firm against stronger federal gun laws.  Marco Rubio spouted, “What law in the world could have prevented him from killing them, whether it was with a gun or a knife or a bomb?”

Let’s try and answer Mr. Rubio’s question.

The newest two states – Hawaii and Alaska – present a study in stark contrasts when it comes to gun violence. In order to purchase a handgun in the Aloha State, one must have a permit, pass a background check, and have the gun registered. Furthermore, there is a 14-day waiting period. Hawaii does not have a “stand your ground” law, and it is almost impossible for an ordinary citizen to obtain either a concealed or an open carry permit.

Alaska has virtually no gun laws whatsoever. Anyone can walk into any store, plop down their cash, and walk out with a hand gun. They can carry it at will, either under a jacket or on the hip. Oh – and Alaska does have a “stand your ground” law.

In 2013 (the most recent year for which statistics is available), the death rate for gun victims in Hawaii was under three out of 100,000 persons. In Alaska, it was nearly 20 out of 100,000 persons.


Kristen Brand of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) doesn’t think so – and statistics back up her opinions on the issue. She told KHON (Honolulu) television news that “reducing exposure to firearms and having stronger gun laws saves lives.” She added:

Each year, the data consistently show that states with strong gun violence prevention laws and low rates of gun ownership have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. The highest gun death rates are in states with weak gun violence prevention laws and easy access to guns.

But don’t take Ms. Brand’s word for it – nor ours. Check out this chart, courtesy of the National Journal – and make up your own mind. The statistics overwhelmingly show that states with strict gun laws have the fewest shootings per population size, and those that have lenient gun laws have the highest number of shootings per population size.

But don’t expect any GOP lawmakers or candidates to give it even a cursory glance.

Watch David Pakman address this issue:

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.