Both candidates are shocked and saddened by the events in Aurora; neither is likely to address the issue of guns. One of them has a base that believes as a matter of faith that guns reduce violence; the other refuses to challenge that absurdity, lest he be painted as anti-gun (though the country’s leading gun lobby has already declared him the “most anti-gun president in American history”). Given the cognitive dissonance, it makes sense that they would suspend their campaigns during the peak of this news cycle.

Some sobering statistics about guns and gun crime from Howard Steven Friedman’s new book THE MEASURE OF A NATION, which compares the US to a cohort of “competitor” nations:

The data strongly suggest that guns intensify crime situations and increase the likelihood of the outcome being more violent or lethal. For example, in a family or intimate assault, death is twelve times more likely if a gun is present than if another weapon is used. Analysis shows that an estimated 41 percent of gun-related homicides and 94 percent of gun-related suicides would not have occurred under the same circumstances had no guns been present.

The correlation between rates of firearm-related deaths and gun ownership is etched even more sharply by the fact that countries with the lowest rates of civilian firearms ownership, like Japan and South Korea, have the lowest rates of firearm-related deaths. The United States, with its widespread presence of guns, has by far the highest rate of firearm-related deaths; in 1998, about one-half the deaths were suicides. The low rate of firearms-related deaths in the United Kingdom is undoubtedly a reflection of that country’s 1997 ban on private handgun ownership.

Our violence is not limited to the streets and to ordinary citizens. We even have a higher rate of political assassination than most other countries–all by guns. Four American presidents out of forty-four, as of this writing, have been assassinated while in office, and two others were severely injured in assassination attempts….

The correlation between the presence of guns and personal safety comes into sharpest focus when we look at murder rates. In 2008, firearms were the cause of 67 percent of all homicides in the United States–by far the majority of these deaths. At the same time, the intentional homicide rate in the United States is much higher than that of other countries.

It is more than twice the rate of our next closest competitor, South Korea and about ten times higher than that of Japan. In fact, if the homicide rate in the United States were brought down to the level of our competitors, more than 12,000 lives per year would be saved; that is about twice as many American lives as have been lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars since 2001.

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6 thoughts on “Guns

  1. I found this statistic after the last school shooting, which was in March. (Does this mean we went three months without a mass shooting incident in this country? Wow…)
    According to a recent report from the Children’s Defense fund, 3,042 children and teens died from gunfire in America in 2007. That’s one child every three hours. Eight children every day. Fifty-eight children every week. Six times as many were injured.

    I thought after Gabby Giffords, even those who feel they need guns in their homes, would say, We cannot have elected officials frightened they will be killed when they appear before the people they serve. We cannot have children dying in schools. That’s not a healthy society.

    After Dunblane, the UK banned private ownership of most handguns. I don’t think even a massacre in a nursery school would accomplish that here. I haven’t read about many school shootings in the UK. Here, people just keep dying.

  2. I think anthropologist Elliott Leyton, dubbed the “man who studies murder,” has the most coherent and informed theory about this. Look him up sometime. Other countries have high firearm ownership – even Newfoundland here in Canada – yet they manage to stay civilized. I read his book on serial killers about ten years ago, and saw his documentary on CBC. His theory is basically that the US has such a high rate of violence because of its culture. Television is one of the main desensitizing agents. Bad words and sex is frowned upon, while death, blood and mayhem are standard fare – all day, everyday. Others have had similar theories but I think Leyton is the most convincing.

    In other words, banning guns just ain’t gonna cut it. There’s a much deeper tradition involved that needs to be addressed.

    1. Michael Moore’s BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE made a similar point about Canada. The US’s cultural propensity for violence cannot be doubted.

      But it seems to me that that’s even more of a reason to do something about restricting assault weapons–it might not cure the problem, but it almost certainly would save lives. As Timothy Noah just noted over at The New Republic, tear gas grenades are perfectly legal in Colorado.

  3. Our attitude toward guns in America is not the same attitude as they people of Canada have. That is obvious. Plus we has years of playing on peoples’ fears-the communists were coming, the UN was coming, the illegal hordes were coming across the Southern border etc. Hofstader aptly named it “The Paranoid Style of American politics” Now we have 9-11 and an African American president with a suspiciously foreign name and the irresponsible rantings of right wing fearmongers.I do not think it was ever the intention of the first amendment to protect-lies, slander, libel and threats but this is what these fearmongering bigots feed their audience daily. Of course it has had its effects-. inscessant conditioning of a blissfully ignorant audiences into a level of bigotry and sociopathy. Of course we have a broken system where the mentally ill and the angry and disenfranchised cannot get treatment but can have legal access to weaponry and are exosed to the irresponsible rantings of right wing buffoons and charlatans. This kind of activity isn’t all that unuusal in America-there doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by that someone hasn’t gone into a workplace, a home, a restaurant or a mall and opened fire resulting in a number of deaths. To keep advocating giving more guns to more people is hardly a solution-just the blathering of reactionary imebeciles.No one of any influence has advocated total gun bans but this is what the NRA and their proxies are telling their rank and file.

  4. Killer had an AR-15 assault rifle, among other weapons. How long before some start arguing that the problem isn’t the easy access to weapons no sane person should want, but that the audience wasn’t themselves carrying assault rifles.

  5. I once called some tv reporter and asked her to define “assault rifle”. She couldn’t,,, of course. LOL! But that’s typical libspeak: using words they can’t define.

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