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Americans indulge destructive lies (see Part 1) to sustain a “gun debate” friendly to powerful interests and smug commentators – then lament America’s staggering epidemic of shootings in shocked outrage.

Deploying particularly egregious falsehoods, spokespersons on all sides demonize schools and young people as apocalyptically dangerous. These popular narratives, tailored to making guns more palatable for “the grownups” to discuss, render effective reform impossible.

In fact, schools are among America’s safest places from gun violence, far safer than homes, a reality crucial to designing gun policy. An American has more chance of being killed by a lightning strike than being shot to death in a school. Young people, incessantly berated in the harshest tones, really represent one of the few positive features of America’s dismal gun trends.

How dangerous are schools? Over 50 million children and adults attend 131,000 American elementary and high schools an average of seven hours per day, 180 days a year, at typical 93% attendance levels. Over the last year (a particularly bad 12 months for school shootings, including Uvalde’s), there were 72 persons killed in school gun violence by the broadest definition. That is, students ages 5-18 spent approximately 13% of their total annual hours in school while suffering 3% of their total gun deaths in or around a school.

Granted, no one should be shot at school (as if there’s a place they should be shot). However, child has less risk of being shot in an American school today, even in a uniquely bad year for shootings, than in Germany. The average American student would have to attend school every school day for 400 years to witness any kind of shooting – fatal, injury, or random – and for over 200,000 years (since the late Pleistocene) to risk being personally shot to death in or around a school.

How, in a country in which 134 people die by gunfire every day, can that be? The main reason is that most schools are gun-free. Yet, gun-rights fanatics are pushing a “crazy” crusade to arm hundreds of thousands of school teachers and officers, which has already led to more adults shooting students, other adults, and themselves.

More guns in Americans’ hands means more gun killings. Straightforward mathematical analysis shows the most consistent predictors of gun deaths are social factors that nations we admire for low gun tolls effectively minimize: poverty, and the percentage of homes with firearms. Whether strict gun laws cause fewer people to have guns, or fewer gun owners creates the political climate for tough gun regulations, the main issue is simple: how many people have guns?

The impact of gun proliferation is enormous. Mathematical analysis shows that California’s low level of gun ownership, more than its tough (by American standards) gun regulations, explains California’s low per-person rate of gun killings – an impressive 40% below the national average. This is no small matter. If the percentage of California households harboring firearms (24%) rose to Texas’s level (43%), California would suffer 800 more gun fatalities every year, approaching Texas’s real toll.

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Surprisingly, the biggest decline by far in gun deaths, both suicides and homicides, has occurred among youth in cities once notorious for gunplay. In Los Angeles, gun deaths among teenagers plummeted by 85%, from 426 every year in 1990-94 to 63 in 2015-19. Homicide arrests of LA teens have fallen by over 90% since the early 1990s.

In New York City, gun deaths among teens fell by 91%, from 262 per year in the early 1990s to just 22 per year in 2015-19. Even more surprising, teenagers’ gun death rates in Texas’s big cities fell by 77% from the early 1990s to the 2010s. That’s not as impressive as the declines in California’s large cities (down 83%) or New York City, but it is astonishing in a gun-packed state like Texas.

Today, California’s big-city teens (five-sixths of whom are of color) now have lower gun-death rates than White, middle-aged adults ages 45-64 in its conservative-voting, mostly-rural counties. That astounding reality challenges everything we thought we knew about violence.

Is it less toxic lead in young brains, thanks to stricter environmental regulations? The sublimating and connecting effects of video and online youth cultures? Younger Millennials and Generation Z stepping up to compensate for today’s increasingly debilitated grownups? No one has a good explanation. American interest-groups’ obsolete ideologies override the urgent need to study dynamic new trends.

Gun-policy lobbies, researchers, and the press – who should be flocking to L.A., New York City, Dallas, Houston, and San Diego to study how once-menaced teenagers were bringing down their gun-death rates to amazingly low levels – have been silent. Silent, that is, until they found their tongues to falsely single out “young people” to blame for 2020-21’s uptick in shootings that actually occurred among all ages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This ongoing disgrace shows why America makes no progress on gun violence. Gun-debate lies are not evenly distributed; the gun-rights lobby is far more destructive and crazed in its delusion that “a good guy with a gun” is some kind of savior in a nation awash in 400 million guns.

The gun-control movement has plenty of mythmaking to answer for, though. Gun-control lobbies’ emotional, youth-fearing strategies have trapped them into denying real trends that affirm progressive ideals, like the greater safety of racially diverse youth and gun-free schools. A truly “innovative” gun policy, as California Attorney General Rob Bonta promised in unveiling his new Office of Gun Violence Prevention, would cite young people and schools not as frightening, but as promising models.

Our choice is stark. We can explore politically difficult, honest measures to drastically reduce guns in American hands to the low and regulated levels found in sensible Western countries. Or, we will continue to suffer many hundreds of thousands dead and injured from gunfire, including children, decade after decade.