Nationwide spike in gun violence reveals ‘very disturbing trends’

As the nation mourns the lives lost in Uvalde, Buffalo and Tulsa, Americans are also dealing with gun violence that does not make national news. Since Friday, there have been shootings with multiple people wounded or killed in Arizona, Virginia and Houston, Texas. Joshua Horwitz, co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University, joins Geoff Bennett to discuss.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    As the nation mourns the lives lost in Uvalde, Buffalo and Tulsa each day Americans are dealing with gun violence that does not make national news. Since just yesterday, there have been shootings with multiple people wounded or killed in Phoenix, Arizona, Hampton, Virginia, and Houston, Texas. To discuss this epidemic of gun violence, I'm joined by Joshua Horwitz, he's the Co-Director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University.

    It's good to have you with us. And this spike in gun violence since the summer of 2020 as you will know, it has been widespread it's across cities with lacks and strict gun laws, with progressive and conservative prosecutors, cities and states, as well as, you know, ones that have Republican and Democratic mayors and governors. So what accounts for this?

    Joshua Horwitz, Co-Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions: Well, what we're seeing is this undoubtedly, the latest numbers we have from 2020, which you've examined, the CDC data shows that homicides is up 35% in 2020. And while we don't have all the answers, there's some trends that certainly correlate with increased risk of violence. There's been a huge displacement of social supports, which I think is a big issue. And we know that, you know, when you can — when you can't interact with a favorite teacher, or a violence interruption program is halted because of the pandemic. Those types of supports are extremely important. There's also some other things that are going on, we've seen record increases in gun sales, we've seen a number of states make it easier to carry guns concealed. We've also seen record use of alcohol and alcohol is a big risk factor for violence. We don't know how this is all going to play out. There's some very disturbing trends going on through the pandemic that are correlated with an increased risk of violence.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, right now there is a bipartisan Senate group that is considering, making changes to red flag laws and incentivizing states to set up red flag laws. They want to expand background checks, increased funding for mental health services, would any of that make a significant difference as you see it?

  • Joshua Horwitz:

    I do. I'm a big proponent of what we — you know, some people call them red flag laws, we call them extreme risk protection orders. But gun removal, the ability for a civil order to remove guns from people or risk of danger to self or others seems to be a very important step here. There was one in New York, it wasn't used. So implementation is incredibly important here. But, you know, Texas doesn't even have the opportunity to try to do this. And we know that there was some warning signs with the shooter, there was warning shot signs in Buffalo. And there's, you know, we're developing a body of evidence that looking at where this law can be effective. And it's very important when people are showing warning signs of violence, that we believe that, when someone says, I'm going to shoot in a school, I'm going to hurt myself, friends, family members, community law enforcement needs to step in. And what I like about these risk protection orders, they're simple, they're temporary, but they're immediate, they get the guns out of the hands of someone who's at risk when it matters.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    What about an assault weapons ban? President Biden has called for that, there don't seem to be in fact, we know based on our reporting, the votes don't exist for that on the Hill right now. The last Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004. Based on your research, was that a real tipping point in the uptick of mass shootings?

  • Joshua Horwitz:

    There's certainly been more mass shootings since the assault weapons ban expired. And obviously, a lot of them are done with an AR-15. What makes those weapons particularly deadly is a large capacity magazines. So those were magazines over 10 rounds. And now you can get these magazines 20, 30, 40, 50, even 100 rounds. And there's really good evidence that the large capacity magazines, those are a big issue. And when we've prohibited those, we've seen less mass shootings and less loss of life. So I think that the combination of high capacity magazines, large capacity magazines, and assault weapons are a really deadly combination.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And according to FBI data, it appears that far more people are killed each year by handguns. That's despite all the attention on those AR platform style weapons. So how should lawmakers address the proliferation of handguns?

  • Joshua Horwitz:

    We need handgun purchase or licensing. You know, there's a number of states that have that just a handful and those states seem to have a much lower homicide rate or — those states that have that have reduced gun violence. Handgun purchase or licensing makes it — reduces homicide rates. It also affects suicide, reduces mass shootings. Licensing is a really powerful tool and if you look at — if you look at states like Connecticut where there's good data, they really reduced their rate of gun violence because of the licensing law. In a place like Missouri where they got rid of it, the homicide rate went up. We know what to do here. The reason we have good solutions, we have good answers to this. The reason we don't have that, these are choices that our elected officials are making, and they can make better choices and save lives. Because at this point doing nothing is not working.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    When you say we know what to do here, we know what the solutions are. What are the solutions, you know, separate from the political debate on Capitol Hill, if you were to implement a policy prescription that would address this epidemic of gun violence, what would it look like?

  • Joshua Horwitz:

    Yeah, I mean, I started — I'll give you a couple of things. I start with a licensing law to describe what purchase or licensing, I'd have robust gun removal, similar gun removal statutes, DB removal, extremists protection removal laws in every state, I would have a ban on large capacity magazines, I would make sure that those between 18 and 21, can't get any firearms, especially assault weapon, and I invest heavily. We invest heavily in violence interruption programming. There's many more things we can do but those are five things that would really work. And if you put them all together, we can save so many lives in this country, and we're just not doing it.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Joshua Horwitz is Co-Director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at Johns Hopkins University. Thanks for your time, and thanks for your insights.

  • Joshua Horwitz:

    Thanks for having me.

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