Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) has long been an outspoken advocate for stricter gun laws. But even by his standards, the statement he put out on Sunday following the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which at least 26 people were killed, is very intense.
Here is the statement, which blamed the gun lobby’s influence for Congress’s “paralysis” on guns:
The paralysis you feel right now — the impotent helplessness that washes over you as news of another mass slaughter scrolls across the television screen — isn’t real. It's a fiction created and methodically cultivated by the gun lobby, designed to assure that no laws are passed to make America safer, because those laws would cut into their profits. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach, once again, when I heard of today's shooting in Texas. My heart dropped further when I thought about the growing macabre club of families in Las Vegas and Orlando and Charleston and Newtown, who have to relive their own day of horror every time another mass killing occurs.
None of this is inevitable. I know this because no other country endures this pace of mass carnage like America. It is uniquely and tragically American. As long as our nation chooses to flood the county with dangerous weapons and consciously let those weapons fall into the hands of dangerous people, these killings will not abate.
As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. Ask yourself — how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents.
My heart breaks for Sutherland Springs. Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown. Just like it does every night for Chicago. And New Orleans. And Baltimore. And Bridgeport. The terrifying fact is that no one is safe so long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something.
Murphy is right in one sense: None of this is inevitable. Other countries, such as the UK and Australia, have responded to horrific shootings with stricter gun control laws. They have way fewer gun deaths per person than the US. Based on the empirical evidence, these two facts are intrinsically tied.
Last year, researchers from around the country reviewed more than 130 studies from 10 countries on gun control for Epidemiologic Reviews. This is, for now, the most current, extensive review of the research on the effects of gun control. The findings were clear: “The simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths.”
The study did not look at one specific intervention, but rather a variety of kinds of gun control, from licensing measures to buyback programs. Time and time again, they found the same line of evidence: Reducing access to guns was followed by a drop in deaths related to guns. And while nongun homicides also decreased, the drop wasn’t as quick as the one seen in gun-related homicides — indicating that access to guns was a potential causal factor.
Based on the other research, this actually isn’t a very surprising finding. Regularly updated reviews of the evidence compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center have consistently found that when controlling for variables such as socioeconomic factors and other crime, places with more guns have more gun deaths.
“Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide,” David Hemenway, the Injury Control Research Center’s director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.
For more on America’s gun violence problem, read Vox’s explainer.