“So why did U.S. life expectancy trends slow and then peak in 2014? And what, if anything, can policy makers and politicians realistically do to make increasing it a priority? As noted above, the big recent dip largely resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2023 Scientific Reports article “estimated that US life expectancy at birth dropped by 3.08 years due to the million COVID-19 deaths” between February 2020 and May 2022. But let’s set aside that steep post-2020 downtick in life expectancy resulting from nearly 1.2 million Americans dying of COVID-19 infections.
A 2020 study in Health Affairs chiefly attributed the 3.3-year increase in U.S. life expectancy between 1990 and 2015 to public health, better pharmaceuticals, and improvements in medical care. By public health, the authors meant such things as campaigns to reduce smoking, increase cancer screenings and seat belt usage, improve auto and traffic safety, and increase awareness of the danger of stomach sleep for infants. With respect to pharmaceuticals, they cited the significant reduction in cardiovascular diseases that resulted from the introduction of effective drugs to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
So a big part of what propelled increases in U.S. life expectancy is the fact that the percentage of Americans who smoke has fallen from 43 percent in the 1970s to 16 percent now. Smoking is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and cancers, rates of which have been dropping for decades. In addition, the rising percentage of Americans who are college graduates correlated with increasing life expectancy.
However, since the 2004 peak, countervailing increases in the death rates from drug overdoses, firearms, traffic accidents, and diseases associated with obesity contributed to the flattening of U.S. life expectancy trends.
A 2021 comprehensive analysis of the recent stagnation and decline in U.S. life expectancy in the Annual Review of Public Health (ARPH) largely concurs, finding that “the proximate causes of the decline are increases in opioid overdose deaths, suicide, homicide, and Alzheimer’s disease.” Interestingly, the U.S. trend in Alzheimer’s disease prevalence has been downward since 2011. In addition, the ARPH review noted that “a slowdown in the long-term decline in mortality from cardiovascular diseases has also prevented life expectancy from improving further.” So enabling and persuading more properly diagnosed Americans to take blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medications would likely boost overall life expectancy.”
“No other high-income country has suffered such a high death toll from gun violence. Every day, 120 Americans die at the end of a gun, including suicides and homicides, an average of 43,375 per year. According to the latest available analysis of data from 2015 to 2019, the US gun homicide rate was 26 times that of other high-income countries; its gun suicide rate was nearly 12 times higher. Mass shootings, defined as attacks in which at least four people are injured or killed excluding the shooter, have been on the rise since 2015, peaking at 686 incidents in 2021. There have been 565 mass shootings in the US in 2023 as of late October, including the Lewiston shooting, and at the current pace, the US is set to eclipse the 2021 record this year.”
“According to a database maintained by Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, there were 520 active attacks — defined as when one or more people are “actively killing or attempting to kill multiple unrelated people in a public space,” including but not limited to shootings — between 2000 and 2022. In many of those cases, police were unable to stop the attacker, either because the attack had already ended by the time they arrived or because the attacker surrendered or committed suicide. Only in 160 cases were police able to successfully intervene by shooting or otherwise subduing the attacker.
nother 2021 study from Hamline University and Metropolitan State University found that the rate of deaths in 133 mass school shootings between 1980 and 2019 was 2.83 times greater in cases where there was an armed guard present. The researchers argue the results suggest the presence of an armed guard increased shooters’ aggression and that because many school shooters have been found to be suicidal, “an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent.””
“In 2008, the Supreme Court effectively wrote NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s “good guy with a gun” theory into the Constitution. The Court’s 5-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) was the first Supreme Court decision in American history to hold that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm. But it also went much further than that.
Heller held that one of the primary purposes of the Second Amendment is to protect the right of individuals — good guys with a gun, in LaPierre’s framework — to use firearms to stop bad guys with guns. As Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in Heller, an “inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right.”
As a matter of textual interpretation, this holding makes no sense. The Second Amendment provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
We don’t need to guess why the Second Amendment protects a right to firearms because it is right there in the Constitution. The Second Amendment’s purpose is to preserve “a well-regulated Militia,” not to allow individuals to use their weapons for personal self-defense.
For many years, the Supreme Court took the first 13 words of the Second Amendment seriously. As the Court said in United States v. Miller (1939), the “obvious purpose” of the Second Amendment was to “render possible the effectiveness” of militias. And thus the amendment must be “interpreted and applied with that end in view.” Heller abandoned that approach.
Heller also reached another important policy conclusion. Handguns, according to Scalia, are “overwhelmingly chosen” by gun owners who wish to carry a firearm for self-defense. For this reason, he wrote, handguns enjoy a kind of super-legal status. Lawmakers are not allowed to ban what Scalia described as “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family.”
This declaration regarding handguns matters because this easily concealed weapon is responsible for far more deaths than any other weapon in the United States — and it isn’t close. In 2021, for example, a total of 14,616 people were murdered in the US, according to the FBI. Of these murder victims, at least 5,992 — just over 40 percent — were killed by handguns.”
“Forensic firearms identification includes well-established uses such as determining caliber and other general characteristics, but examiners are also frequently called on to testify whether a particular bullet was fired from a particular gun. A gun’s firing pin and the grooves on the inside of a gun barrel leave marks on cartridge casings when a bullet is fired, so a firearm examiner compares crime scene bullets to samples fired from the suspect gun and looks for matching patterns under a microscope.
According to the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners (AFTE), which sets standards for the field, a positive identification can occur when there is “sufficient agreement” between two or more sets of marks or patterns. The AFTE argues—as one of its members did as a witness for the state of Maryland in Abruquah’s appeal—that its methods are scientifically sound, widely accepted, and have low error rates in testing.
However, over the past decade many forensic methods, especially “pattern-matching” disciplines like bite mark and tool mark analysis, have been challenged by critics who argue that they rely on subjective interpretations that are nonetheless presented as scientific conclusions in courtrooms.”
“One of the most common types of new laws this year are those that allow handgun owners to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Florida, Nebraska and South Carolina have passed such laws, joining 23 other states that have passed permitless concealed carry since 2010. North Carolina advanced a similar law that was shelved earlier this month, but the state legislature did repeal a law that required a permit to buy a handgun, overriding the Democratic governor’s veto.
Other states have considered expanding the areas in which concealed weapons can be carried. In Mississippi, the state Board of Education implemented a policy last year to comply with a decade-old law that allowed guns in K-12 schools. In West Virginia, guns are now allowed on public college and university campuses, a similar law to one Tennessee considered. The Iowa state House passed a bill allowing legal gun owners to keep a weapon in their car on public grounds and decriminalized the carry of concealed weapons for certain people, like those deemed a danger to themselves or others. The Missouri House advanced a law allowing guns in places of worship and on public transportation.
Many of these gun-rights expansions are also geared toward schools. After the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers, the Republican Party promoted arming teachers as a way to increase school safety, and states have since begun passing laws allowing it. Last year, Ohio passed a law allowing teachers to be armed after 24 hours of training (down from 700 hours); this year, Mississippi passed a bill that would create a program to arm teachers, and Oklahoma has considered one similar to Ohio’s, though its legislative session is almost over. Texas’s legislature is considering a law that would offer a stipend to armed teachers, and Indiana has passed a bill allowing state-funded handgun training for teachers.”
“We don’t know much about the effects most of these specific laws will have, because longstanding roadblocks on gun-related research mean we don’t know a lot about what kinds of gun laws prevent shootings, especially mass shootings. More than 20 years of research has found that increased availability of guns is associated with higher rates of homicide, and a 2014 study in the Journal of Urban Health found that a repeal of Missouri’s permit requirement for handgun purchases contributed to a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates in the five years that followed.”
“many states are working to prevent the kind of data collection that would tell us more about the relationship between guns and gun violence. The federal government doesn’t track gun purchases. To fill in the gaps in that data, the gun-safety advocacy community has tried to work with credit-card companies to track gun purchases, according to Holihan. But Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Utah are among the states that have passed new legislation preventing “discrimination” against gun manufacturers in an effort to stop that practice before it starts, and credit-card companies have backed away from it. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has also banned state agencies from working with banks that track gun purchases.”
“Yet the perpetrator, who was killed by a police officer at the scene, had been licensed as an armed security guard, which means he passed a background check and was legally allowed to own firearms.
In that respect, the killer was typical of people who commit crimes like this. That is the main reason why expanded background checks cannot reasonably be expected to have much of an impact on mass shootings, contrary to the impression left by politicians who reflexively recommend that solution.
Federal law disqualifies broad categories of Americans from owning firearms, including people who have been convicted of felonies or subjected to court-ordered psychiatric treatment. Background checks are required for all gun sales by federally licensed dealers, and some states extend that requirement to transfers by private sellers.
As several news outlets noted after the Allen attack, Texas is not one of those states. But that detail does not seem relevant in this case: Although the killer bought some guns from private sellers, CNN reported, the rifle he used in the attack was “purchased legally,” meaning he was not a “prohibited person” under federal law.”
“In 2020, gun violence surpassed traffic accidents, cancer, suffocation, and poisoning as the leading cause of death among children and teens. That makes the US exceptional: In no other wealthy or similarly sized country is gun violence one of the top four causes of death among children and teens, let alone the leading one, according to a 2022 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That analysis also showed that the US accounts for 97 percent of all child and teen firearm deaths among its peer countries.
Most of those US deaths are caused by assault, with 3.6 children and teens per 100,000 dying on that account in 2020. By comparison, 1.7 and 0.3 per 100,000 children and teens died from firearm suicide and unintentional or undetermined firearm-related causes, respectively.
Children and teens in the US also experience ongoing secondary effects from gun violence, even if they are not injured in a shooting. Researchers at Penn Medicine found in a 2021 study of more than 2,600 shootings that there was a significant spike in emergency department visits for mental health issues among children after neighborhood shootings, with the most acute effects observed among children living closest to the site of the shooting and those who have witnessed multiple shootings.”
“The executive order represents incremental progress in a state with some of the laxest gun laws in the country, and comes just as two lawmakers previously expelled from the state legislature for participating in a gun control protest return to their posts.
It requires that new criminal history information and court mental health information be reported within 72 hours for purposes of including it in the state’s background check system. It also directs the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to evaluate how its background check system can be improved.
But it still leaves gaping holes in a background check system. It also wouldn’t have stopped the Nashville shooter, who bought their guns legally from five different local gun stores and had no history of contact with law enforcement or commitment to an institution that would have been flagged on a background check.
The governor has separately called for the state legislature to pass a red flag law, also known as an extreme risk protection law, under which individuals believed to pose a danger to themselves or others can be barred from possessing firearms. But it’s not clear that there is the political will to do so among Republicans in the state, who have in recent years removed permit requirements to carry a handgun in public and pushed legislation that would loosen restrictions on carrying guns on school campuses.”
“The new executive order doesn’t fill a major gap in Tennessee’s background check system: Current law doesn’t require background checks for private gun sales, ones where there isn’t a licensed dealer involved. Those sales can occur at gun shows or online marketplaces such as Armslist. According to an Everytown analysis of 2018 gun ads on Armslist, one in eight prospective buyers in Tennessee wouldn’t have passed a background check.
Currently, 14 states require universal background checks on all gun sales, including those that occur online.”