The recent shooting tragedies in Colorado and Wisconsin are terrible events. These tragedies heighten our fears and concerns about safety in our country. Yet, the greater tragedies in America occur every day, when someone who has access to a gun kills another. It is even worse when the victim is a teenager or child and the perpetrator is also a teenager or child. Yesterday, a 16-year-old killed someone he knew that was only 13. I mention the teenager and children homicides as this seems like something we adults should be so repulsed by that we try to fix it. Yet, we do not as there is too much money to be made by gun sales and the people who sell them invest so much money through the NRA in the politicians to have it their (the sellers’) way.
Let me say upfront I do not own a gun and will likely never own a gun. With that said, I realize that guns have a place in our society and there is data that shows where responsible gun laws are in place, there is less crime. Yet, the data also shows that place is not the United States as we can lay claim to being number one in the world by dwarfing the gun death rates when measured against the 23 wealthiest nations. We have 20 times the gun murder death rate of the next 22 wealthiest nations combined. Per the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery and Medicine.net, the US has the following alarming statistics on top of the claim made above in bold:
– Among the wealthiest 23 nations, the US can lay claim to 80% of all gun deaths.
– The US can also lay claim to 87% of all gun deaths of children.
– In the last 44 years, over a million people have been killed in domestic gun related deaths. That is more than died during the Civil War where only Americans were involved in the conflict.
– The US gun death rate is over 14 per 100,000 people (we’re number 1). Compare that to Mexico at under 13, Canada around 4, Ireland around 1 and Great Britain under 1/2. And, let’s throw in Japan at under 5/100 per 100,000.
– We have 300 million firearms in the US, with 4 in 10 households owning a firearm. The average number of guns per owner is seven.
To avoid being a statistical report, those key data points should suffice. But, let me hone in on a comparison to Canada as Canadians have a similar feeling (as a people) about gun ownership as we in the US. Canadians also permit gun ownership with 3 out of ten households owning at least one gun. Yet, the Canadian gun death rate of 4.3 is about 30% of the US rate of 14.2 per 100,000. If we flip the ratio, the US has over three times the rate of gun deaths than Canada.
These statistics bother me and should bother all Americans, even the gun owners. I also recognize it is more than about guns, but having easy access to guns is a huge factor. To say it is not, is an insult to our intelligence. People who have access to guns kill people. Yet, the US has others factors that are leading to more guns deaths than the next 22 countries combined and over three times that of Canada our most kindred spirit and neighbor.
Our culture through movies, TV, and video games is more violent than other cultures. More of the movies and TV shows are made in America, so this art is imitating life and perpetuating that culture. It was back in the 1970’s when TV crime shows started moving away from the bad guy being led off in handcuffs. The more sizzling way to capture a crook was to kill them, as it is a cleaner end to the show. Now, you would be hard pressed to see the bad guy led away in handcuffs.
Another key reason is poverty in America is atrocious with 50 million Americans in poverty. That is 1 out of 6 for those of you keeping a scorecard. There is a level of disenfranchisement in these impoverished areas that lead youths to be attracted to criminal elements and businesses. Gun possession is a rite of passage to some of these youths. And, with average male not truly maturing until their late 20’s and with brains of teenagers not yet fully developed, we have poor judgment occurring. The lesser percentage of two parent family in impoverished settings (and in general) is also a factor as the male role models are fewer. I would note that this poverty is not present only in the cities. Rural America is seeing some of the worst poverty and the reference to criminal activities has grown outside of cities due to the above coupled with the fewer police and authorities to address this rise.
So, we need to address these collaborating issues, but very clearly we need to address our gun ownership requirements. A NRA influenced Congress let the Brady Law expire after ten years in 2004. The NRA sends 88% of its donations to GOP members and 12% to Democrats, but ironically, the Democrats are just as scared of them as some felt they Democrats lost Congress following the passage of the Brady Law. And, the NRA can talk all it wants about our current President, but one of my pet peeves about him is his record on gun control is very poor.
At this point, we need to make this the important issue it is. We need to reinstate the Brady Law which did two basic things – require a five-day waiting period on gun purchases and banned assault weapons. I personally think we need to make it longer than five days as this is not a fishing license. We need thorough background checks. Also, I believe no one should own an Uzi or an AK47. If you have one, then in my mind, you are up to no good. I believe more Americans would agree with that point than don’t. But, let me add one more key point that police officers have said would be a way to reduce crimes. Make sure all bullets are clearly identified, so that the killing instrument can be traced back to a purchase. The fact that our law enforcement cannot get the support for this is beyond me.
Children and teenagers are dying every day by guns. We need to stop this. It is wrong. The NRA is arguably the first or second most powerful lobby in the country. Their voice is heard. I personally do not need to hear more from them, as we know they want to facilitate the sale of as many guns as possible. We need our politicians to hear the voice of reason. Mr. President, Governor Romney, please make this an issue. It is that important.