Today at a bank in Louisville, Kentucky, a man entered with a gun and soon, 5 people were dead and 8 injured.
In Orlando, Florida on Sunday, eight people including 3 children were shot in two separate mass shootings. The day before, four people were killed at – get this – “a celebration of life” event in Houston, Texas.
There was a mass shooting somewhere in America every.single.day in April.
I do not know the circumstances of this most recent shooting. It does not matter.
What matters, is that America is the country where one of humankind’s greatest feats of ingenuity was imagined and accomplished yet we
cannot, will not do anything about the epidemic of gun violence here.
Think a minute about this: The Wright Brothers flew a motorized, controllable airplane for 59 seconds on a windy beach in North Carolina in 1903. In sixty-six years, humans went from landbound creatures to moonwalkers. Great minds from around the world have been layering onto the knowledge base ever since so that we fly at a level of safety that makes this exceptional form of movement unexceptional.
In an article following the murder of school children in Uvalde, Texas in 2022, Thomas Warrick and Javid Ali, asked the question, ‘Why not treat gun violence the way we treat air accidents?’ in this article in The Hill. They rightfully note that aviation is so safe because “losses drive measures to prevent future accidents.”
Even considering the less regulated and more hazardous world of general aviation in America where accidents get far less scrutiny, fewer people died in 2020 than were killed in mass shootings in that same year; 322 fatalities in private planes, while 513 people were killed at the supermarket, a house of worship, a concert or just living their lives as people do.
Aviation boomed as quickly as it did because there was a product to sell. But it could only gain a market if it was seen as safe. Two years ago, Forbes contributor James Asquith wrote that if global aviation was a country, it would be the world’s 20th by gross domestic product, equal to the output of Argentina or Switzerland. In the United States, airlines generated $206.3 billion in revenue in the first 3 quarters of 2022.
Though it pales in relation to the airlines, the US gun business is big too, worth about $28 billion. Yeah, they have a product to sell and safety, so far seems irrelevant. There are more firearms in America than there are people. We own nearly half of all the guns in the world. The majority of weapons are produced by just three companies, Smith & Wesson Corp., Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc., and Sig Sauer, Inc.. The industry throws a lot of money at politicians to keep its favored status, spending $54 and a half million influencing the 2016 election and $9.55 million in contributions to the federal elections just past.
Following Monday’s bank shooting, Louisville’s deputy chief of police, Paul Humphrey told reporters, “There is no active danger known to the public at this time.” He was trying to calm a jumpy city. I’d say the danger to the public is active and real. Statistics show Americans are far more likely to be shot than they are to die flying with a fairweather pilot in an old Beechcraft.
It is ironic that the only place in America where one can be reasonably sure they will not be a victim of gun violence is on an airplane. Do we need to accept that? Or, can people imaginative enough to break the bonds of gravity, free ourselves from the bondage of guns?
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.