The population of the United States is roughly 322 million and there are approximately 101.05 firearms for every 100 people. There’s no question that’s a lot of guns. The reported percentage of households with one or more guns (both legal and illegal) in 2014 is 31%, which is actually tied for the lowest percentage (2010 saw 31.1% of households with guns) since 1973 with 47% of homes in possession of firearms, and well below the highest rate of 50.4% in 1977. So there has been a pretty steady decline of households in possession of guns since the 70’s and yet we are seeing more gun violence now than we did then. Are we sure the gun is the problem?
Don’t worry, gun enthusiasts hear you. “We need stricter gun laws, more gun control!”
Okay. California has the toughest gun control laws in the country, ranking number one on this gun law score card, implementing new fancy schmancy smart gun laws in 2014. Tell that to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting the other day. The four guns used were purchased legally. California gun laws require that you pass a background check, obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate which includes a written test, and wait 10 days to complete the transaction, among several other restrictions. This same source goes on to say; “In 2013, California had the 9th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Even with this relatively low ranking, California still suffered 3,026 deaths from firearms in that single year. Additionally, in 2013, at least 6,035 others were hospitalized or treated in emergency rooms for non-fatal gunshot wounds in California.” California was still ranked number one on the gun law score card of 2013, by the way. And yet despite all their laws to protect their residents, more than 9,000 persons were shot that year.
States were scored using a point system and graded accordingly. “States earned points for other smart laws, such as prohibiting domestic violence offenders from accessing guns, limiting bulk firearms purchases, and regulating gun dealers. States lost points for laws that weaken public safety, such as permitting hidden, loaded guns in schools and bars, removing the duty to retreat outside the home, and allowing concealed weapons in public without a permit.”
So let’s look at the states who scored F’s. Vermont ranked at 41, which is quite low. However, it’s rate of gun death ranks it at 39, which is quite high. Okay, okay, Vermont is small, you say, a population of 626,562 (2014). So let’s look at South Dakota, a relatively average-sized state with a population of 853,175 (2014). They ranked 43, with the rate of gun deaths ranking it at 34. Still pretty high up there.
Now let’s look at actual deaths. The CDC data for 2013 states that of the 16,121 homicides, 11,208 are a result of firearms (however it does not specify if said homicides were civilian homicides or included police-involved shootings, or what percentage of those deaths are in self-defense, drug related, or due to robbery). Of the 41,149 suicides in 2013, 21,175 are a result of firearms. On a related rabbit trail, many people claim that stronger gun control would prevent suicide, which is just ridiculous. If a person is intent on committing suicide, they will do so with or without a gun. Do you want to help prevent suicide? Then stop treating mental illnesses like a fake illness. Statistics show that those who attempted suicide with a gun and survived were less likely to attempt suicide again. Wouldn’t you say that’s because the individual finally started to receive help for their illness? Oh, you really are depressed and want to die, maybe we should do something to help you not feel this way!
Anyways, if you google the number of gun deaths in 2013, you are more likely to get a number close to 32,000, which makes for a shaky ground to argue on as ~20,000 of those deaths are suicides. The gun law score card also includes suicide by gun in its numbers, stating, “Firearms were used in 19,392 suicides in the U.S. in 2010, constituting almost 62% of all gun deaths.” 62% of ALL gun deaths in 2010 were SUICIDE, not homicide! The percentage doesn’t change much in 2013 with roughly 65% of all gun deaths being a result of suicide. Are guns and “lack” of gun laws responsible for suicide too? People suffering from a debilitating mental illness such as depression wouldn’t kill themselves if they simply couldn’t access guns, right?
Now, the CDC doesn’t have data for 2014 or 2015, but an estimation of gun deaths in 2014 is 12,569, which does include police-involved shooting incidents. I realize this site tallies all gun incidents so not every officer-involved incident will have resulted in death and therefore we do not know the actual number of deaths by police VS deaths by civilians, but we all know cops kill people, (I know people who get up in arms about that too but that is a different argument) so it is important to understand that to argue on these numbers is to know you are arguing on an estimate with no clear break down of percentages of cause. The Gun Violence Archive’s report of gun deaths in 2015 is 12,228, again including police-involved incidents, which leads me to safely assume that the total in 2013 from the CDC reports also includes police shootings. Furthermore, while we have had more mass shootings in 2015 than we are used to, according to the FBI, the number of murders via firearm hasn’t varied too much in the previous four years, in fact it has slightly decreased. The number of homicides in general haven’t varied much either in that same time frame and the number of crimes committed in general have in fact significantly decreased from 2009-2013. Now while the CDC website and the FBI website state different numbers, (I am assuming because the FBI isn’t including officer-related shootings) they do both show the same thing; we have not seen a significant increase in gun death in recent years.
We all know that people like to compare the United States to other countries, so let’s do that. Obama says (and no, we will NOT go into your feelings on Obama as president, that is a different debate) that mass shootings do not happen in other countries like they do in ours. Well, we have a hell of a lot more people in our country than most countries. We aren’t factoring in population when it comes to rampage shootings. If you factor in shootings per person, the US drops down the list to number 6 surprisingly quickly. We are just better marksmen here, so sure, that makes the fatality rate a little higher but not the rate of gun violence in general, and isn’t that the problem? Gun violence? It’s also important to note that the top 5 countries (Norway, Finland, Slovakia, Israel, and Switzerland) on the index have restrictive gun policies. You may also notice that if you scroll to the bottom, Austria is pretty low on the list of rampage shootings and they also have permissive firearm regulations. You can also find charts that show yet again, we are pretty mid-range when it comes to violence and homicide, not the leading country in violence as the media would have you believe.
Furthermore, we have so many issues in this country that not every other country is going to have. That’s not to undermine the issues of other countries but we are different. Americans are different. Koreans, for example, go to school year round, six-days a week. They take education very seriously. Here, you’re lucky to graduate college. Hell, you’re lucky to go to college at all. Family values in the United Kingdom are different than the family values here, their children don’t suffer child abuse like ours do. So while they may not have the same number of gun deaths, we have more issues than simply “lack of gun control.”
We also live in a country that likes to let the church invade matters of the state and validates religious beliefs, no matter how much they infringe on others, like our fight on gay marriage and abortion. The shooting at the Colorado Planned Parenthood was the result of a religious nutjob who is described as being anti-abortion as well as anti-government. Terrorist attacks are also often due to a crazed religious belief and a strong aversion to the US government, and we have seen a significant increase in terrorist attacks that should not be included in homicide or even mass shooting statistics because that is an entirely different issue.
We also, as a country, do not understand mental illness. Sure, several states do not sell guns to people with mental illness but isn’t that only focusing on those on the extreme, obvious side of illness? What about the weird, quiet, loner kids at school they always tell you to look out for? Are they properly handled? Are they from a loving home or a broken family? Is anyone trying to find that kid help? Without them having to feel broken or isolated or less of a person for feeling the way they do? Of 160 mass public shootings between 1915 and 2013, 97 of the shooters either showed signs of a mental illness or were diagnosed with one, most often paranoid schizophrenia. We also know that most mass shooters are male. We live in a society where a man cannot feel sad or depressed or have any feelings at all without being told he’s less of a man. What would change if this was no longer an issue, and if those with mental illness could more easily get the help they needed without having to feel weak or unmanly or isolated?
The shooter at Marysville Pilchuck High School was mentally ill. Could the shooting at Marysville Pilchuck been avoided if his family had contained their guns differently? Or would he have found another way? The simple fact is that we don’t know. As an aside, I graduated from MP, that one does hit close to home so I am not too distant from the issue. The shooters at Columbine were deranged. Additionally, the Columbine massacre included bombs, so even if the parties responsible couldn’t access guns, (which let’s be realistic, they probably could have) they still would have done a LOT of damage. And I’m pretty sure bombs are entirely illegal.
We have gangs in the United States shooting people over turf-wars. If you google “drug shooting 2015,” you will find many articles of people dying from drug deals gone bad. Oh wait, aren’t hard drugs illegal too? Drugs kill people all the time. The CDC states, “In 2013, 43,982 deaths were due to drug poisoning.” And I wonder what percent of fatal shootings are drug or gang related? Gun laws haven’t prevented that type of gun-related deaths so far, unlawful citizens will always get their illegal weapons one or another, won’t they? It seems naive to think they won’t.
On the note of comparing the US to other countries and why that’s silly, in 2013-2014, an estimated 3.1% of the adult population (age 16-59) of England and Wales were described as “frequent drug users.” Compare that to 9.4% of the population (age 12+) being illicit drug users in 2013 in the US. We have more gun deaths but we also have more drugs (and more child abuse). Hmm…
We are also a society who despises our government. Hell, other countries despise our government! I have several friends on Facebook who reside in Canada or Australia. I have noticed they tend to get more worked up over government happenings in the United States than they do over what is happening in their own country. Our government inspires rebellion in many people, what affect does that have on gun use in the US? On terrorist attacks? Is it not safe to assume that if people didn’t hate our government so much, the general increase in happiness would result in a decrease in shootings?
I haven’t even touched on how law-abiding gun owners can and have prevented crime with their guns (and yes, I’m totally aware that the anti-gun folk hate hearing all this but that doesn’t take away from it’s relevancy). There’s no knowing how many deaths would happen during a robbery if the robber wasn’t shot by the homeowner. Robbers are also more likely to make victims of households without firearms. Additionally, we don’t know how many rapes would be prevented if everyone carried a weapon openly. A rapist or mugger won’t target a person walking down the street with a shoulder holster, that gun does protect you! Lastly, of all the gun owners in the US, what percentage of them do you think go out and kill people? No matter how anti-gun you are, you have to admit that number is probably pretty small.
I’m not saying there should be absolutely no gun laws. I don’t think it’s a problem to have to pass a background check to be sure you don’t have a violent history. I’m not even necessarily saying you shouldn’t need a permit to own or carry a firearm, but it definitely shouldn’t be more obnoxious than obtaining a driver’s license, and I think every state should allow open and concealed carry. But the idiots, you say! Well there are idiots in every aspect of life, you will never be able to protect the world from them. I also believe that my right to own a gun and use it to defend me or mine, as well as my right to take that gun and bring home dinner, should not be infringed upon, and I should not have to go through a waiting period to purchase a firearm. Lastly, everyone is so concerned about mass shootings right now, but the states without these laws in place are not necessarily the states involved in mass shootings.
The truth is, gun control doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked in the past with other countries and there’s no actual reason to believe it would work here. In fact, the number of gun-related deaths would increase if the US enacted a ban, which has proven true for other countries who enacted a gun ban. But those other countries have less gun-related homicides than we do! That’s true, but consider all the problems we have with our society and how that affects the statistics. You cannot say that because whatever country has strict gun laws and a low gun crime rate that the US would yield the same results if the same laws were implemented, because every non-american will tell you that Americans are not the same as they are. And while you can argue my opinion all day long, you cannot argue facts.
“We don’t have a gun problem in the United States, we have a cultural problem.”