My heartfelt condolences to everyone directly impacted by the horrific events in Newtown. It is unimaginable that this has happened again, yet inevitable that it will be repeated. I am frustrated by the familiar hand wringing and tears that occur at times like these, only to be followed by the lack of our will to make any attempt to do anything about it afterwards. We need to have a serious public conversation about gun violence in this country.
The fact is that our laws, or lack of laws, permit the easiest access to firearms of all developed countries in the world, and we have a homicide rate from gun violence several times greater than any of them. Even among third world countries we rank shamefully high.
In 2011, there were 9,146 gun-related homicides, or three per 100,000 population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. That’s roughly 20 times the average rate of all other developed nations, according to the Washington Post. Max Fisher_The Washington Post (data source: UNODC)
The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership. By contrast, Great Britain has a gun ownership rate of about 6 gun for every 100 civilians. Last year it had 41 gun-related homicides, or .07 per 100,000 population. Meanwhile, Finland, where there are 45 guns per 100 , had only 24 gun homicides in 2011, a rate of .45 per 100,000 population. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list
The statistics are incontestable; the more guns there are, the more people get killed by guns.
If we value life, as we claim, shouldn’t we be willing to try anything different from the status quo to lower these horrific numbers?
Other societies have tried different methods and they work demonstrably better than our system. And, in these countries citizens are allowed to own guns for protection and for sport, but reasonable limits that relate directly to the health and safety of the community are placed on ownership.
I have heard the arguments against gun control. Guns don’t kill, people do. Cars and even alcohol kill more people, these are the acts of the mentally ill, and these acts occur in jurisdictions with strict gun laws.
Well, guns do kill. That is their only purpose.
And cars have a huge social value and are more heavily regulated as to ownership and safe use than firearms.
Alcohol, while much less utilitarian than cars, is also heavily regulated.
Mass killings are often attributed to the mentally ill but the majority of those being killed daily are murdered by someone they know.
And in a country where the free flow of commerce between gun controlled jurisdictions and liberal access to guns jurisdictions exist, the occurrence of an incident in any one place is no indicator of the effectiveness of a particular legislation. Washington, DC has strong restrictions on ownership of guns but it is next to Virginia which has virtually none.
If we can agree that the status quo is unacceptable, can’t we agree that we should do something about it? And in considering our options isn’t it reasonable to learn from the experience of countries that have a stellar record in this area? If something we try doesn’t work we can change it. But aren’t the lives we are losing worth trying different ideas until something works better than what we have now.
There is no single reason or single action that will eliminate the problem. There are other major social factors involved, but this is the significant issue and we must begin somewhere.