Monday, January 26, 2009

250 Million

I recently heard that there are an estimated 250 million guns in the United States. There are an estimated 111 million households in America. Using these numbers that would mean there are 2.2 guns for every household in America. That seems like a lot of guns to me. As I began to ponder these numbers I wondered with all of these guns are we a safer nation? Have all of these guns provided us with the security many of us are seeking?

I began researching the facts concerning gun violence in America in relation to the rest of the industrialized world. What I found was shocking not in what it said about guns but what it said about our culture. With or without guns we live in a violent culture. Confrontation and violence seems to be ingrained in our national psyche. In America, violence appears to be the first remedy to situations both by the government and its people. Do I believe there are too many guns in America? Yes I do, but I don’t believe that the problem for all the violence in America is guns. I believe in trying to reduce the number of guns not because I believe it will make us less violent of a society but because guns make killing and violence too easy. Guns make killing too quick and too efficient. People kill today without thinking and without remorse and with guns you can do that. Imagine if there were fewer guns killing would become more difficult. Guns make killing too detached. Without guns you would have to face down your intended target and it would be messier.

I want to provide some figures to illustrate but the problem with the NRA and other gun lobbyists is that any talk of restricting guns is immediately met with hyperbole and demagoguery. The problem with not considering the arguments and opinions of others is that you begin to seem irrational and foolish. By the way the armed militia argument being necessary to prevent tyranny is wrong on many levels. We aren’t providing arms to minutemen soldiers but to any idiot that can get one. Also an armed society has proven to be no safer a democracy than a non armed society. The US has 90 guns for every 100 people making it the most heavily armed country in the world.
[1] The second most armed nation is Yemen, that bastion of democracy. Are the people in England, Canada, or Greece more in danger of losing their democracies because they are not as armed as the US?

On the list of murders per capita in the world the United States ranks 24th. We rank higher than any of the industrialized nations except Russia. We trail countries like Columbia, Mexico, and Zimbabwe; not bad company for the richest nation on earth.

· In 2005 there were 30,694 gun deaths in the US.

· In 1998 gun homicides in the rest of the industrialized world were as follows[3]:

o 373 – Germany
o 151 – Canada
o 57 – Australia
o 19 – Japan
o 54 – England
o 11,789 – US

More guns have obviously not made us safer. However guns alone are not the problem. We must begin to adopt ways to reduce the level of violence in our culture and in our society at large. This will be extremely difficult in a society that glamorizes violence and disseminates it through all forms of media. The economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama have led to an increase in the number of requests for background checks for gun purchases. In November they were up 40% over the previous year and in December they were up by 25%. People are feeling less secure about the future and showing this unease by purchasing more guns.

We have made killing too easy in our country and have not addressed the underlying culture of violence. You cannot glorify violence and then have easy access to guns. Somehow we must tone down the aggression and teach our children that violence is not the answer to all of life’s challenges and difficulties. We must develop a responsible and comprehensive way of reducing the number of guns or none of us will be safe. Just as the drug kingpin Carlos Escobar was held responsible for flooding our streets with dangerous drugs so the gun manufacturers must be held accountable for flooding our streets with guns. We can no longer decide arbitrarily which dangers we seek to address and which ones we don’t. Where there is arbitrary power, there is tyranny.

Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. - John Adams

[2] CDC Mortality Report 2008
[3] Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

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