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Phil Valentine: Guns are not to blame in mass shootings

Phil Valentine • Updated Feb 22, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Everybody’s searching for answers in wake of the latest school shooting in Florida. The gun-grabbers not withstanding, I believe most people genuinely want to stop the shootings. We just have different ideas of how to get there. However, it’s becoming obvious that the debate is focused on the wrong thing.

Naturally, anytime there’s a shooting the emphasis is going to be on the gun. It’s funny how the object of the murder is never the issue when it’s not a gun. When there’s a stabbing, the target is never on the knife. When some crazy person runs people over in a vehicle, the focus is never on the vehicle. Let me demonstrate why the issue here should not be guns. Then we’ll move on to the real problem.

There are more than 300 million guns in America. Whether you like that fact, it’s still a fact. There are about 30,000 gun deaths a year. That includes homicide and suicide. That means that 0.0001 percent of guns are used for evil. Obviously, the problem is not the guns.

The path that led me to the epicenter of the problem is interesting. I knew all the facts that went into my epiphany. I had just never aligned them this way before. A friend of mine once joked on the radio while interviewing a hit songwriter that he knew all those words. Just not in that order. That’s sort of how I felt.

I don’t know if you know this, but back in 1975, the Supreme Court ruled that you could not be held in a mental institution against your will unless you were a danger to yourself or others. I had known that fact because it’s why the homeless population exploded in the ‘80s. The liberals blamed it on Ronald Reagan. Kenneth Donaldson sued his doctor and the mental hospital claiming he had been held against his will. He won.

I also knew that multiple victim shootings seemed to have exploded in the last couple of decades. I wanted to know when that acceleration began to see if I could draw any conclusions. Statisticians have an expression. “Correlation does not imply causation.” The homeless explosion is an example of that. Just because homelessness grew dramatically during the Reagan administration doesn’t mean Reagan had anything to do with it. However, correlation and causation are oftentimes related.

For this to be a fair comparison, I looked at the mass shootings in the 43 years prior to 1975 and the mass shootings in the 43 years after 1975, which would bring us to 2018. I excluded gang killings for obvious reasons. I also excluded robberies and terrorist attacks. These aren’t motiveless crimes. This also doesn’t include U.S. territories nor does it include serial killers. We’re trying to figure out why crazies are randomly killing people.

Here’s what I learned in the course of my research. In the 43 years prior to 1975, there were four mass shootings resulting in 29 deaths. In the 43 years after 1975, there were (get ready) 150 mass shootings resulting in 864 deaths. If that’s not startling enough, in the 43 years since 1975, there have only been six years when there wasn’t a mass shooting.

People want to point to the breakdown of the family unit or increased use of psychotropic drugs. They could certainly be contributing factors. However, one would be hard-pressed to discount the Donaldson ruling in 1975 as a turning point. There are simply too many dangerously mentally ill roaming the streets. That is where our efforts should be concentrated.

Phil Valentine is a nationally syndicated talk radio host. Find him at philvalentine.com.

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