Another horrid gun tragedy, and here we are again left with unnecessary funerals, bullet-ridden victims, and grieving survivors.
Race relations, crime, violent ideology, poverty, poor mental health, copycatting, etc., are all factors contributing to the high number of shootings in America. Accordingly, we should strive to improve these conditions. But other countries have some of these problems too. What’s the difference?
About 42 percent of all civilian-owned guns in the entire world are in the U.S. Gun murders per 100,000 residents here are about 3.5 compared to an average of .28 in similarly advanced countries. High gun availability, poor screening of purchasers, along with the more dangerous types of firearms and larger magazines sold in America, significantly contribute to people being maimed and killed.
Currently, firearms are used in 71 percent of this nation’s murders and 41 percent of robberies.
Guns are used to murder approximately 11,500 people annually, up from 8,500 in 2013. About 34,000 people yearly are killed by being shot with a gun, either by suicide or homicide. Additionally, approximately 80,000 citizens are wounded, some horribly. Hence, 114,000 people are killed or wounded by being shot each year.
Some illuminating research has been done recently on our gun-violence issue using detailed data collection and sophisticated statistical analyses that were not available to previous researchers.
Studies reveal that the American states (and areas within states) that have the highest gun ownership, most concealed-carry permits, and largest pro-gun ideology have some of the greatest problems with firearms. These findings help researchers to identify the heavy influence of guns in the social mix.
It is clear: Guns are a key component of our gun violence problem. Someone needs a gun to commit a shooting. Putting the rare exceptions aside, which usually lead to more confusion than illumination, people are less prone to kill or maim other people or themselves if they don’t have a gun. Yet we now have about 300 million firearms in America and rising.
Each year here, there are about 350 mass shootings (defined by four or more people being shot). Every day an average of seven children and teens are killed by gunshot. The total annual cost of gun violence in America is approximately $230 billion. The whole affair is unnecessary and rather sick.
Many arguments regarding gun control were debunked by events in Australia — a country with various similarities to America. After a string of gun massacres, the final bloody one in Port Arthur in 1996, the national government banned and bought back many types of firearms. Australians haven’t had a single gun massacre since. Overall homicide and suicide rates by guns also plunged, and their home-invasion rates did not increase.
“But the Second Amendment gives me the right to have my AR-15,” some might say. Given, however, that the Second Amendment includes the introductory clause, “A well regulated militia,” it seems very likely that gun ownership was linked to what we today call the National Guard.
Moreover, the founding fathers were progressive-minded men. They didn’t envision our modern military being so separate from individual gun ownership, nor could they have imagined the development of modern firearms. It’s most likely a horrible distortion of the Constitution, whose main purpose was to establish a democratic republic and promote the “general welfare,” to think its framers would have endorsed the policies of the NRA.
In reaction to the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre came forward, once again, to tell his followers to be angry at liberals for “exploiting the tragedy.”
But given it’s natural for people to focus more on a topic after an awful event (such as talking more about terrorism after a terrorist attack), it’s easy to see that LaPierre is tossing out a red herring meant to redirect his followers’ attention away from a moment of reflection or social responsibility.
“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” we often hear. But let’s accurately finish that sentence, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people, using guns.” With that last clause added, firearms are appropriately placed at the forefront.
In 1960 it would have seemed farfetched to be able to curb cigarette smoking. Yet that is exactly what we accomplished, saving the lives of millions.
Instead of taking a long-term strategy of turning our schools and other public places into fortresses, or implementing measures as senseless as arming teachers, let’s face the obvious and travel the path that rational people have done in most other advanced nations: Take meaningful steps to reduce the availability of guns.
Mark Mansperger is an associate professor of anthropology and world civilizations at WSU-Tri-Cities. His research includes cultural ecology, societal development and political economy.