The good intentions of initiative 1639, also known as I-1639, are a mere facade. The bill’s contents were put forth with the best of intentions which drove voters to support the bill by a large margin. Unfortunately, those same good intentions made any real discussion of the bill equivalent to political suicide. Initiative 1639 was written to fail.
There are real problems that the bill attempts to address. America has far more gun deaths than any other developed country, by a large margin. In an article for NPR about gun violence, Nurith Aizenman found that, “the U.S. has the 28th-highest rate in the world: 4.43 deaths due to gun violence per 100,000 people in 2017.” The article took into account armed conflict and self-harm, and excluded those numbers from the final list.
To put the 4.43 into perspective, America’s population is about 325.7 million. This means there are about 14,400 deaths to gun violence in America every year. America’s gun violence numbers are much higher than those of other developed countries, and steps should be taken to address the problem.
Steps to curb gun violence are always welcome, but they have to be effective. Otherwise, common people are stripped of rights to make politicians look good and victim numbers do not change in any significant manner. The bill’s first mistake is that it fails to address any broader causes of gun violence, and only looks to attack gun owners for the actions of small groups of unrelated people.
Marc Gius, in a 2017 article about the effects of gun control on school shootings, stated that, “Although assault weapons bans may reduce the overall number of school shooting victims, the average reduction in murder victims may be less than 10 per year. Hence, it is unclear if gun control is the most appropriate policy to use to reduce the number school shooting victims.” There are two major issues this brings up about assault weapon bans. The first issue lies in the incredibly small number of actual results the ban brings about. While any number of lives saved can and should be viewed positively, the difference between 14,428 and 14,418 is a .0007% change.
The second issue that Gius posed shows that the time and effort that went into enacting I-1639 was largely wasted. Data from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission shows that $5,514,204.41 was the highest amount raised by a single organization in support of the bill, and opposition of the bill raised $622,332.60. That is six million dollars raised to fight over a bill whose methodology has not shown to be empirically effective. Those six million dollars could have been better spent searching for real solutions, such as lobbying to allow the CDC to investigate gun violence again.
Another large issue with the bill comes from the age discrimination. The bill itself makes claim that, “studies show that eighteen to twenty year olds commit a disproportionate number of firearm homicides in the United States and research indicates that the brain does not fully mature until a later age. Raising the minimum age to purchase semiautomatic assault rifles to twenty-one is a commonsense step the people wish to take to increase public safety.”
Data gathered by Statista, a statistics database, on U.S. homicide rates in 2017 grouped by age tells a completely different story. Of the homicides committed by firearms in 2017, 1467 were committed by the 17-19 year old bracket. The 30-35 year old bracket contained 1465 of the year’s homicides. A difference of two is not “a disproportionate number” between the age brackets. In fact, the two highest brackets of homicides by age were the 20-24 year olds, at 2519 homicides, and 25-29 year olds, who committed 2053 homicides. I-1639 makes false claim to a large part of its own existence while disparaging the responsibility of the generation it claims to protect.
Initiative 1639 has several good ideas. Unfortunately, the bill’s architecture does not support the goals of public safety that voters were looking for. The wasted money and ineffective policy will only serve to encourage harsher restrictions once gun control advocates realize that their pet policy has failed to produce any meaningful results.