Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: Revisiting gun violence

Terry Butler calls for an open discussion.

This community opinion was contributed by community member Terry Butler. The opinions expressed do not represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

(My sources for the information I’ve used in this opinion are: and Gun Death Archive @GunViolenceDeaths on Twitter.)

Gilroy, El Paso, Dayton…all small cities with diverse populations, all now grieving and receiving sympathy and best wishes from all over the nation. Certainly there are many diverse opinions among the residents of each, and certainly the controversial topic of guns, gun ownership, gun violence, and citizen responsibilities regarding those topics draws ire from many different viewpoints. It’s a topic almost designed to offend most, if not every adult in the nation. I attempted to start a discussion along these lines in this publication in 2018. A friend, a Hollister native and sometime hunter, told me that I was most likely going to be disappointed. He said that many gun owners have long ago closed their minds to any discussion involving more control of their “hallowed” Second Amendment rights.

I eventually gave up when it became apparent to me that he was right and I was, to coin a phrase, “urinating into the wind.” It seemed that the responses I was getting were about how wrong I was with some of my efforts to supply facts. I’ll admit I did make some errors, but I also provided solid evidence of poor control of weapons intended for war. I think there were three people who wrote in support.

One woman was hounded from the discussion because she had written from an emotional viewpoint as a mother and had used some confrontational language in her appeal to common sense. I wrote a response asking her to start again, but she was frightened by the vitriol. And really who can blame her? Constitutional rights that seem to supersede those of other citizens, visceral motherly emotions and gun rights are not exactly a recipe for level headed discussion. We went on for a couple of months, but I felt like I was preaching not to a choir but to an angry and hostile church of a different religion, one I did not understand and whose adherents did not care to understand me.

Naive idealist that I am, I’d like to try again, given the events of the last few weeks. This time however I’d like to start by simply asking: are there any gun ownership advocates out there who think it’s time to talk? Are there any of those who call for strict controls who are willing to talk to those gun owners with respect? Is there anyone there who is always willing to listen to their opposite number and ask intelligent questions?

Every time one of these things happens I wonder why we are so frozen in the grip of politics that we can’t have this much-needed discussion. I also wonder if any of the victims were strict Second Amendment advocates. Or if any of those whose families are affected are of that group, or if anyone in that group is finding that their mind has been opened to change. It intrigues me to know what happens when people are forced to confront this dilemma head on. Here are some topics that in my opinion could be delved into and discussed:

  • America has a serious gun problem. In 2010, the U.S. homicide rate was seven times higher than the average for populous developed countries in the OECD, and its firearm-related homicide rate was 25.2 times higher.
  • However, gun violence in general has fallen sharply over the last 25 years, by anywhere from 49 to 74 percent depending on which numbers you are looking at.
  • Suicide rates represent the majority of gun-related deaths. Suicides have risen by 25% in a 15-year period, and represent about 60% of all gun deaths.
  • While mass shootings are the most terrifying form of gun violence, they also represent a tiny fraction of total gun deaths per year. In 2018 there were 38,658 gun-related deaths. About 23,000 were suicides. About 14,000 were homicides. Of that, only 71 were victims of mass shootings, or 0.18% of all gun deaths.
  • The majority of politically-motivated mass shootings since 2008 have come from the political right wing. Right-wing terrorism outnumbers Islamic terrorism by a 2:1 margin, and left-wing terrorism by a 5:1 margin.

So, do we have a problem worth discussing or shall we simply remain unable to protect ourselves from deranged individuals because some of us fear that any kind of control is dangerous? Do we keep being afraid to go out in public? And, just to put an emphasis on real-world danger, there’s this from Gun Violence Archive @GunDeaths (Twitter):

The first seven months of 2019 (real-time data as of Aug. 1):

  • 8,574 gun deaths
  • 17,013 gun injuries
  • 377 kids (age 0-11) shot
  • 1,765 teens (age 12-17) shot
  • 1,016 armed home invasions
  • 875 defensive gun use incidents
  • 918 unintentional shootings
  • 248 mass shootings

If anyone reading this would like to open a positive dialogue in order to find solutions all are comfortable with, please respond. Don’t respond with name-calling and anger, please. Let’s talk, not shout. Thanks for reading.

Terry Butler



Terry Butler

Gun violence Attacks on Our Democracy