In a Pittsburgh suburb called Wilkinsburg, two gunmen ambushed a backyard party last week, killing five people and injuring three more in the attack. The shooters are still on the loose, and the attack marked the 62nd mass shooting in 2016, according to MassShootingTracker.org.
In just one week following that attack, six more people were killed and 35 more people were injured over the course of nine more mass shootings across the US.
In the early Democratic debates, the issue of gun control was front and center after the San Bernardino attack in December 2015, and the massacre at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in June 2015.
On the other side of the aisle though, the Republicans refused to admit that any gun control laws would have changed anything. They generally refuse to talk about gun control, and they continue to argue that the best way to reduce gun deaths in the US is to have everyone own more guns.
And aside from pointing out the general absurdity of trying to reduce gun deaths by arming more people, it's been very difficult to prove that gun control is effective. Perhaps more importantly, it's also been very difficult to figure out which gun control laws are actually effective in curbing gun deaths. That's in large part because of the Dickey Amendment that the Republican Congress passed in 1996 on the behalf of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The Dickey Amendment said plainly that, "None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control."
After last year's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, former Congressman Jay Dickey told the The Huffington Post: "I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time. I have regrets."
It's good that Dickey has regrets about the amendment, but it doesn't change the fact that we've lost 20 years of gun violence research because of the unadulterated greed of gun manufacturers and the NRA's willingness to buy legislators like Dickey. What the NRA and the Republican shills for the gun lobby in Congress really don't want you to know is that it is possible to reduce gun deaths by passing sensible gun control legislation.
Researchers from the Boston University Medical Center just found that we can actually reduce gun deaths by more than 80 percent if we just nationally expanded three gun laws that are already in place at the state-level in various states.
The research was published recently in the peer-reviewed British medical journal The Lancet, and according to lead author Bindu Kalesan, this study is the first to assess a broad array of gun laws and other relevant state-level data.
An international group of legal and public-health researchers constructed a cross-sectional, state-level dataset of firearm-related deaths for each state between 2008 and 2010. The team counted firearm-related deaths in each state in 2010, and collected information about 25 state gun control laws that went into effect in 2009, as well as state-specific information including gun ownership rates, non-firearm homicide rates and unemployment rates for all 50 states.
Then they used a statistical model to break down the association between those firearms laws and gun-related homicides, suicides and overall deaths.
Nine of the 25 laws were actually associated with an increase in gun deaths. That's because those laws are the so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws, like the one that George Zimmerman used to justify shooting and killing 17-year old Trayvon Martin back in 2012. And that really shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone, it's a law that gives the greenlight for civilians to "shoot first, ask questions later."
Nine others of the 25 laws were associated with fewer gun deaths to varying degrees, and seven laws had no significant impact on gun deaths.
The real takeaway from this research though, is that just three laws could prevent more than 80 percent of gun deaths, potentially dropping the rate of gun deaths from 10.1 per 100,000 people in 2010, to just 0.16 gun deaths per 100,000 if all three laws are implemented.
According to the research, laws that require firearm identification through ballistic imprinting or microstamping could reduce the risk of firearm deaths by 84 percent!
A mandatory background check the first time someone attempts to buy ammo could reduce the risk by 82 percent, and requiring universal background checks for all gun purchases could nationally reduce the risk of gun deaths by 61 percent.
If those numbers are accurate, immediately passing those three pieces of legislation nationally could save tens of thousands of lives in this year alone.
We know that the Republican party in practice is anti-science, because it's the only political party in the developed world whose elected officials reject climate change despite the consensus of 100 percent of credible scientists. But reality doesn't change or cease to exist just because some Republicans conveniently don't "believe" in scientific findings that might hurt the bottom lines of GOP donors and lobbyists.
If Republicans truly want to be "pro-life," then they need to boldly break from their NRA donors who profit from death and killing. They need to stop listening to the moneyed interests who fund their campaigns, and start listening to our scientists who say that gun violence is a public health epidemic, and also listen to the 80 percent of Americans who want stricter gun control legislation.
The science is pretty plain-spoken on this, and now we have an opportunity to save thousands of American lives. Let's not miss this chance.
Let your legislators know that you're for common-sense gun regulations.