Preventing Gun Violence: Don't Accept Credit Card

Charles Walker served in the Air Force for 13 years and is now an Electrical Technician. He is currently completing a B.A. with a concentration in Political Science.    Email:

Charles Walker served in the Air Force for 13 years and is now an Electrical Technician. He is currently completing a B.A. with a concentration in Political Science.


The vitriol reaction to mass shootings always leaves the nation in dismay. While there is some argument about what leads to the radicalization of these shooters, few can disagree that each of these incidents can and should be called terrorist acts. That’s their intended purpose, to cause fear, sew division and cause as much death as possible. While we all recognize the issue, few solutions are ones that the public can stomach. 

Gallup Poll shows that support for gun ownership in the US is high, but it comes with the caveat of a view that it’s imperative we control who gains access to those guns. The question then becomes how we can make this happen. Most conversations result in a call for more background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and an improved mental health system. Yet, these may not be the right solutions for the following reasons. 

Background checks: 

Background checks are usually first on the list in terms of enacting gun control. The Gallup Poll concluded that 90% support background checks for all sales. While there is a question on how a private seller would be able to conduct one and at what cost, the background checks would have little effect. Most guns used in crimes are obtained through illegal means such as theft. In some cases of mass shooters, they have no strong criminal history and nearly all pass a background check to legally purchase the weapon. While more can be done to share information on a national database, background checks aren’t going to stop individuals who just turned 18 or 21 from purchasing these weapons. 

Assault Weapons Ban:

The ban on assault weapons is the next touted response to mass shootings as a means of prevention. There’s moderate support for the measure and it makes rational sense to see the lack of necessity for self-defense. However, a small percentage of gun violence in general, is caused by rifles. And it would go to show that if a rifle weren’t available, they would-be shooter would simply move on to pistols. And while there is some room to ban assault weapons, if we could even agree on a proper definition of the word, hand guns are by far a no-go zone in terms of constitutional protections. 

Mental Health:

Almost unanimously one of the stronger ideas about those who commit mass shooting comes on the back of mental health and the implementation of red flag laws. (We should all be in agreement that anyone who wishes to commit these acts isn’t exactly mentally fit, those who are truly mentally ill -Bipolar, anxiety disorders, depression- are much more a danger to themselves than to other individuals). It makes sense that if you notice an individual acting strangely that you could get the police and courts to intervene. But according to a reason article, red flag laws have their own issues of abuses and if you could have an individual’s weapons taken away by just an anonymous phone call, it can be a tool to leave a home defenseless. Even if they worked as intended, red flag laws still require a judge to concur with the threat beyond a reasonable doubt and when no action has occurred or professional diagnosis of mental illness, that’s a high bar to cross. 

Even with all these ideas, none of them are strong course of action to directly point to and say “This will greatly curb mass shootings in a meaningful way” and do it in a manner that’s constitutional. So, how are we to curb these actions? Maybe we can look at how these guns are obtained.

In 2018, the New York Times did a piece detailing how credit cards are used to purchase the items before a mass shooting. 

Most of these shootings are done by young, men. These young men have issues concerning isolation, ill defining purpose, and most likely severe depression. But these young men also don’t have a viable means of income, and even so most likely don’t have the ability to pay for a rifle (easily over $1,500 for the rifle alone) out of pocket while maintaining living expenses. The NYT piece identifies at least 8 of 10 mass shootings were placed on a credit card and it makes sense for young individuals to use them. They have no intention to pay the credit card company back, due to being dead or in jail, and funds of $2,000-$10,000 can be quickly and readily available through an online application. Maybe we can deter them at the cash register by banning the use of credit to purchase a weapon and ammunition. This will not deter all mass shootings, but it is a start that does not affect anyone’s constitutional protections to purchase a gun. And it will make it harder for individuals to purchase a gun in a fit of anger and those who have no intention of actually paying for the weapon. The middle class knows how hard it can be to save $1,000 for emergencies, let alone a weapon. And hopefully if we force individuals to pay “in cash” for those weapons, cooler heads will prevail.