Gun control debate derailed by misleading narrative that obscures true issues, JHU expert says

Daniel Webster directs Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research

In a recent op-ed published on the U.S. News & World Report website, Johns Hopkins University gun policy expert Daniel Webster argues that the current national conversation about gun control in the U.S. is often based on a misleading or incomplete narrative.

Daniel Webster

Image caption: Daniel Webster

"The equivalent of several mass shootings happen every day: 30 homicides and 60 suicides by guns in individual incidents," writes Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, adding that rhetoric surrounding the gun control debate "leaves the unmistakable impression that mass shootings and mental illness are the nation's greatest gun violence concerns. They are not."

Webster accuses the powerful gun lobby of muddying the debate, to its own benefit, and steering the conversation away from simple steps that could dramatically reduce gun violence:

The NRA and its supporters want Americans to believe that the choice is between gun ownership and, in essence, gun confiscation. This is a far-fetched framing. We require background checks for all gun sales made by licensed gun dealers, and the system has not been used to create a gun registry or to prevent any person from lawful gun ownership. In fact, federal law expressly prohibits such a registry. Baseless claims of gun confiscation inflame culture wars and stymie the discussion of effective solutions.

The us-versus-them narrative, often told without nuance, titillates news consumers, but it works to the advantage of the gun lobby that is desperately defending the indefensible—a system designed to facilitate gun commerce and allow sales to criminals and traffickers with no accountability. This flawed system is a key reason why our homicide rate by guns is 19 times higher than the average for a high-income Western democracy. Our rates of other violent behavior are unremarkably average among such countries.

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