Why the Parkland Shooting can Change the Gun Conversation in the USA

Out of the tragedy of the Parkland school shooting might come some good. You might be sceptical as Americans are used to schools being attacked by gunmen and we’ve heard before that the most recent shooting will change things. Indeed, school shootings are still so common that the Onion runs the same headline every time. Will the reaction to Parkland actually be different though? It looks like it.

FiveThirtyEight has taken a look into why Americans are complacent with students being shot in schools and the American love of guns. They note that people don’t equate gun violence with guns nor understand how better policy could solve America’s gun problem. The good news is that the reaction to the Parkland shooting is different insofar that the conversation around guns and gun control is more direct. The students from Parkland may represent a new movement for finally stopping gun-based violence in the USA. Indeed, it’s remarkable that two weeks after the shooting Americans are still talking about.

Change in America’s love affair with guns is happening. Companies that favoured the NRA are stopping their support and just today a large American sports store made it slightly harder to get guns. Progress is happening!

The characteristics of the Parkland shooting — and the response to it — mean that this incident could be positioned to overcome some of these psychological barriers. Slovic speculated that focusing on restrictions that target the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting, rather than guns as a category, might make it easier for gun owners to psychologically distinguish the gun used in the shooting from the weapons they personally possess. That could create some common ground that leads to banning or at least limiting the AR-15’s use.

The numbing effect of repeated exposure to violence is also enabled by a quick drop-off in media coverage, but the Parkland students’ vivid stories — combined with images, text messages and videos from the attack — could imbue the event with continued urgency and make viewers empathize with survivors in a new way. “Hearing directly from people who have experienced the trauma is understandably very powerful,” said Sandro Galea, a professor of public health at Boston University who studies trauma and firearms.

Read more.
More on the FiveThirtyEight podcast.

Green Spaces Can Reduce Gun Violence

Countries and regions with a lot of gun violence may want to note that the simple act of providing more green space in urban areas can reduce gun-related crime. In the USA (ranked ninth globally for gun deaths per capita) researchers have found that converting unused lots into parks has had a positive effect on peace!

A new study, published online this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, offers some of the more promising evidence. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied a 10-year project in Philadelphia to convert vacant lots into park space. They found that gun-related assaults significantly declined in areas around the lots that had been greened. Vandalism and criminal mischief also significantly fell off.

Residents in some areas around these newly converted green spaces also reported feeling less stress and getting more exercise – presumably some of the byproducts of a neighborhood reclaiming its streets from crime.

Read more at The Atlantic Cities.

Harper Shuns Democracy, Activists Decide to Cover Costs

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper hates the environment while he continues to stifle democracy in Canada. Clearly, Harper is not good, which begs the question as to why he’s mentioned on a site about good news.

In the context that is Harper’s Canada, activists have to be more creative than usual. The conservatives are stifling debate by not inviting the official opposition to attend the United Nations’ major climate change meeting next month in Bali, Indonesia. As a result, Canadian activists are trying to continue what the current Canadian government dislikes: discussions on climate change. So it is good that the Canadian people actively care about the environment.

A coalition of Canada’s top environmental groups is offering a hand to jilted opposition MPs who want to attend key climate-change talks in Bali, Indonesia.

Environment critics from the three opposition parties were told earlier this week that they would no longer be welcome in the official Canadian delegation attending the United Nations meeting next month.

The government has traditionally allowed opposition MPs, and even non-governmental groups and industry representatives, to tag along to such high-profile summits. The critics were invited to the last major UN climate meeting in Kenya a year ago.

Guns for Bikes Peddling Works

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a program that allows people to turn in their firearms for some thing useful – bikes. The program has been so successful that it is being expanded.

A BBC corespondent proclaims that it’s more successful than a previous UN disarmament program. It’s so sucesful that tin roofs are being given out in places where they don’t have enough bikes to hand out.

“Ngoy Mulunda, a pastor in the south-eastern Katanga region, says he has been given some 6,500 weapons in the past year, which he has destroyed.”

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