At the outset of this blog I want to declare that I am a licensed gun owner.
Today America is in mourning yet again after another mass shooting. 13 people were killed (including the shooter) and 20 injured in a community college in Oregon, when a man walked into the college and opened fire. There is some media speculation that the shooter targeted Christians, but that’s not the focus of this blog.
In Obama’s speech post the shooting in which he was clearly visibly moved, he challenged the media to compare the number of gun deaths to the number of terrorist deaths over the last decade of so.
So lets have a look at some figures and some comments from some Journalists. I will post my sources at the end of the blog.
There are roughly 32,000 gun deaths per year in the United States. Just think about that figure for a moment. That is approximately the population of Nowra killed by guns each year. (And please no one make the dumb comment that guns don’t kill people, people kill people). Of those deaths, around 60% are suicides. About 3% are accidental deaths (between 700-800 deaths). About 34% of deaths (just over 11,000 in both 2010 and 2011) make up the remainder of gun deaths and are classified as homicides.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 firearms (excluding BB and pellet guns) caused 84,258 nonfatal injuries and 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000), 21,175 by suicide with a firearm, 505 deaths due to accidental discharge of a firearm, and 281 deaths due to firearms with “undetermined intent” for a total of 33,169 deaths related to firearms (excluding firearm deaths due to legal intervention).
Comparatively over the last decade, Terrorism killed an average of 28 Americans a year, both on US soil and abroad, according to figures from the University of Maryland. Gun violence has killed 428 times more Americans over the past decade than terrorism. And that’s using a narrow definition of gun violence, which includes homicides but excludes suicides, accidents and other kinds of gun deaths. It also uses a wide definition of terrorism, including attacks in which doubt exists about a terrorist link and crimes by anti-abortion assailants. Over the last decade, In all, gun homicides accounted for about 119,000 American deaths. If we widen the definition of “violence” to include suicides, accidents and other gun deaths, that figure swells to more than 300,000 deaths.
Fareed Zakaria, who wrote the book A Post American World which I read last year and really appreciated his analysis and thoughts, has written an opinion piece recently on guns in America.
To absorb the scale of the mayhem, it’s worth trying to guess the death toll of all the wars in American history since the War of Independence began in 1775, and follow that by estimating the number killed by firearms in the US since the day that Robert F. Kennedy was shot in 1968 by a .22 Iver-Johnson handgun, wielded by Sirhan Sirhan. The figures from Congressional Research Service, plus recent statistics from icasualties.org, tell us that from the first casualties in the battle of Lexington to recent operations in Afghanistan, the toll is 1,171,177. By contrast, the number killed by firearms, including suicides, since 1968, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI, is 1,384,171.
That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, “secondary smoke” obsessions that characterise so much of American life.
Since 9/11, the United States has responded aggressively to the danger of terrorism, taking extraordinary measures, invading two countries, launching military operations in many others, and spending more than $800 billion on homeland security. Americans have accepted an unprecedented expansion of government powers and invasions of their privacy to prevent such attacks. Since 9/11, 74 people have been killed in the United States by terrorists,according to the think tank New America. In that same period, more than 150,000 Americans have been killed in gun homicides, and we have done . . .nothing.
Our attitude seems to be one of fatalism. Another day, another mass shooting. Which is almost literally true. The Web site shootingtracker.com documents that in the first 207 days of 2015, the nation had 207 mass shootings. After one of these takes place now, everyone goes through a ritual of shock and horror, and then moves on, aware that nothing will change, accepting that this is just one of those quirks of American life. But it is 150,000 deaths. Almost three Vietnams.
After last week’s incident in Lafayette, La., the governor of the state and Republican presidential candidate,Bobby Jindal, pointed his finger at what has now become the standard explanation for these events: “Look, every time this happens, it seems like the person has a history of mental illness.”
But it makes little sense to focus on mental health. The United States has a gun homicide rate that is at least a dozen times higher than those of most other industrialized countries. It is 50 times higher than Germany’s, for instance. We don’t have 50 times as many mentally disturbed people as Germany does — but we do have many, many more guns.
At least we have stopped blaming gun violence on video games. Perhaps someone noticed that other countries have lots of violence in their pop culture but don’t have this tsunami of gun deaths. Japan, for example, is consumed by macabre video games and other forms of gory entertainment. In 2008,Japan had just 11 gun homicides. Eleven. Why? Hint: It has very tough gun-control laws.
Jindal at least suggested that states follow or even strengthen laws to make sure that mentally unstable people can’t buy guns, but this has placed him beyond the pale for the gun lobby. Former Texas governor Rick Perry’s solution is to loosen the few restrictions on guns that do exist so that, in the Lafayette movie theater, other patrons could have been armed and would have shot the gunman.
The notion that the solution — in dark, crowded movie theaters — is a mass shoot-out is so dangerous that it should rule out Perry as a serious Republican presidential candidate. When asked about such proposals after the mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., William Bratton, who has now been police chief in three major U.S. cities, dismissed the idea. To him the solution is obvious. “[We need] some sanity in our gun control laws. . . . Gun control can reduce these numbers of incidents,” he told CNN.
We have become so inured to the catastrophic levels of violence in our cities that we gloss over them. People often ask me if I think it’s safe for them to travel to countries such as Egypt or Morocco. The reality is that many major U.S. cities have homicide rates that are many times higher than those in places such as Cairo or Casablanca. (And it’s worth noting that non-Islamic terrorists — as in Charleston, S.C. — have killed almost twice as many people as jihadis have in the United States since 9/11.)
I am not sure what the solution is. But America has to do something. 30,000 deaths on average a year with 12,000 of these being murders is just a crazy figure. This is before you consider the almost 100,000 people who sustain non fatal firearm related injuries each year.
Maybe America should follow Australia’s lead and at least restrict the private ownership of automatic and semi automatic firearms. Possibly they should also license all gun owners and require them to store their guns in a gun safe, again similar to Australia. There should also be laws about carry concealed weapons.
Unfortunately, the outrage and grief will subside and yet again it will just be a matter of time until the next mass shooting. Too many innocent people losing their lives. I just feel sad.