Time to face facts on gun control

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Time to face facts on gun control
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Sun, 07-29-2012 - 10:22am
Some startling facts.... Time to face facts on gun control

 

By Fareed Zakaria

It has now been just over a week since a lone gunman opened fire on moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. The airwaves have been dominated by soul searching.

Most of the pundits have concluded that the main cause of this calamity is the dark, strange behavior of the gunman. Talking about anything else, they say, is silly. The New York Times’ usually extremely wise columnist, David Brooks, explains that this is a problem of psychology, not sociology.

At one level, this makes sense, of course, as the proximate cause. But really, it’s questionable analysis. Think about this: are there more lonely people in America compared with other countries? Are there, say, fewer depressed people in Asia and Europe? So why do they all have so much less gun violence than we do?

The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases – I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally –but because it has more guns.

Look at the map below. It shows the average number of firearms per 100 people. Most of the world is shaded light green – those are the countries where there are between zero and 10 guns per 100 citizens. In dark brown, you have the countries with more than 70 guns per 100 people. The U.S. is the only country in that category. In fact, the last global Small Arms Survey showed there are 88 guns for every 100 Americans. Yemen is second at 54. Serbia and Iraq are among the other countries in the top 10.

We have 5 percent of the world's population and 50 percent of the guns.

But the sheer number of guns isn’t an isolated statistic. The data shows we compare badly on fatalities, too.  The U.S has three gun homicides per 100,000 people. That’s four times as many as Switzerland, ten times as many as India, 20 times as many as Australia and England.

Whatever you think of gun rights and gun control, the numbers don’t flatter America.

I saw an interesting graph in The Atlantic magazine recently. A spectrum shows the number of gun-related deaths by state. Now if you add one more piece of data – gun control restrictions – you see that the states with at least one firearm law (such as an assault weapons ban or trigger locks) tend to be the states with fewer gun-related deaths.

Conclusion? Well, there are lots of factors involved, but there is at least a correlation between tighter laws and fewer gun-related deaths.

I've shown you data comparing countries, and comparing states. Now consider the U.S. over time. Americans tend to think the U.S. is getting more violent. In a recent Gallup survey, 68 percent said there’s more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago. Well, here’s what I found surprising: the U.S. is actually getting safer. In the decade since the year 2000, violent crime rates fell by 20 percent; aggravated assault by 22 percent; motor vehicle theft by 42 percent; murder – by all weapons – by 13 percent.

But guns are the exception. Gun homicide rates haven’t improved at all. They were at roughly the same levels in 2009 as they were in 2000. Meanwhile, serious but non-fatal gun injuries caused during assault have actually increased in the last decade by 20 percent, as guns laws have gotten looser and getting automatic weapons has become easier.

We are the world’s most heavily-armed civilian population. One out of every three Americans knows someone who has been shot.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not to his or her own facts. Saying that this is all a matter of psychology is a recipe for doing nothing. We cannot change the tortured psychology of madmen like James Holmes. What we can do is change our gun laws.

Should U.S. gun laws be tougher? What would you change?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-18-2004
Sun, 07-29-2012 - 3:18pm
<< Think about this: are there more lonely people in America compared with other countries? Are there, say, fewer depressed people in Asia and Europe? >>

I read a link a day or two ago that said reasearch shows that there is more mental illness in the US than other countries. I will try to find it.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
Wed, 08-01-2012 - 11:51am
This year has been terrible in my area. Way too much gun violence...or kids accidentally shooting themselves or others. Guns are just too easily available to whomever wants them...and that risk of accidentally shooting someone doesn't decrease with 'education' apparently. We had a police officer (not SPD - another local dept) who left a gun in his SUV with two small children. Apparently, the son was fascinated by guns & pulled it out & shot the daughter & killed her. WHY was an off-duty cop carrying a loaded gun under his car seat???? And why would he leave it there when he knew that the little boy knew where it was??

All of this just astounds me...but then, aside from hunting (or law enforcement), I see little use for people to have guns...sigh....

 nwtreehugger  

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Wed, 08-01-2012 - 5:15pm

The United States stands out from the rest of the world... because it has more guns.

The statistics clearly show that our cultural enthusiasm for individual gun ownership comes at a high price, IMO.

I'm not expert on the Constitution or gun laws, but I was listening to someone on the radio who identified bits of the gun debate that are new to me (I probably haven't been paying much attention):

1) The NRA is heavily sponsored by the people who sell guns. The people/corporations who sell guns have a lot of money which they give to the NRA in order to be able to sell more guns.

2) The idea of individual gun ownership as we know it today is probably not at all what the Second Amendment addressed. At the time that the nation was forming the only feasible way to establish a militia  was to have people use their individual weapons/guns to collectively protect the community from real and perceived enemies. Over the decades the responsibility to protect the community part of the Right to Bear Arms has been forgotten and only the ownership bit is held on to.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-03-2009
Thu, 08-02-2012 - 10:38am

Jason Alexander wrote an eloquent and well-reasoned piece with which I agreed wholeheartedly: 

I’d like to preface this long tweet by saying that my passion comes from my deepest sympathy and shared sorrow with yesterday’s victims and with the utmost respect for the people and the police/fire/medical/political forces of Aurora and all who seek to comfort and aid these victims.

This morning, I made a comment about how I do not understand people who support public ownership of assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Colorado massacre. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AR-15

That comment, has of course, inspired a lot of feedback. There have been many tweets of agreement and sympathy but many, many more that have been challenging at the least, hostile and vitriolic at the worst.

Clearly, the angry, threatened and threatening, hostile comments are coming from gun owners and gun advocates. Despite these massacres recurring and despite the 100,000 Americans that die every year due to domestic gun violence – these people see no value to even considering some kind of control as to what kinds of weapons are put in civilian hands.

Many of them cite patriotism as their reason – true patriots support the Constitution adamantly and wholly. Constitution says citizens have the right to bear arms in order to maintain organized militias. I’m no constitutional scholar so here it is from the document itself:

As passed by the Congress:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

So the patriots are correct, gun ownership is in the constitution – if you’re in a well-regulated militia. Let’s see what no less a statesman than Alexander Hamilton had to say about a militia:

“A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss.”

Or from Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Definition of MILITIA
1
a : a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency
b : a body of citizens organized for military service
2
: the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service

The advocates of guns who claim patriotism and the rights of the 2nd Amendment – are they in well-regulated militias? For the vast majority – the answer is no.

Then I get messages from seemingly decent and intelligent people who offer things like: @BrooklynAvi: Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes. OR @nysportsguys1: Drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?

I’m hoping that right after they hit send, they take a deep breath and realize that those arguments are completely specious. I believe tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing. What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality. Hardly the primary purpose of tomatoes and sports cars.

Then there are the tweets from the extreme right – these are the folk who believe our government has been corrupted and stolen and that the forces of evil are at play, planning to take over this nation and these folk are going to fight back and take a stand. And any moron like me who doesn’t see it should…
a. be labeled a moron
b. shut the you-know-what [I removed the actual word to comply with TOS] up
c. be removed

And amazingly, I have some minor agreement with these folks. I believe there are evil forces at play in our government. But I call them corporatists. I call them absolutists. I call them the kind of ideologues from both sides, but mostly from the far right who swear allegiance to unelected officials that regardless of national need or global conditions, are never to levy a tax. That they are never to compromise or seek solutions with the other side. That are to obstruct every possible act of governance, even the ones they support or initiate. Whose political and social goal is to marginalize the other side, vilify and isolate them with the hope that they will surrender, go away or die out.

These people believe that the US government is eventually going to go street by street and enslave our citizens. Now as long as that is only happening to liberals, homosexuals and democrats – no problem. But if they try it with anyone else – it’s going to be arms-ageddon and these committed, God-fearing, brave souls will then use their military-esque arsenal to show the forces of our corrupt government whats-what. These people think they meet the definition of a “militia”. They don’t. At least not the constitutional one. And, if it should actually come to such an unthinkable reality, these people believe they would win. That’s why they have to “take our country back”. From who? From anyone who doesn’t think like them or see the world like them. They hold the only truth, everyone else is dangerous. Ever meet a terrorist that doesn’t believe that? Just asking.

Then there are the folks who write that if everyone in Colorado had a weapon, this maniac would have been stopped. Perhaps. But I do believe that the element of surprise, tear gas and head to toe kevlar protection might have given him a distinct edge. Not only that, but a crowd of people firing away in a chaotic arena without training or planning – I tend to think that scenario could produce even more victims.

Lastly, there are these well-intended realists that say that people like this evil animal would get these weapons even if we regulated them. And they may be right. But he wouldn’t have strolled down the road to Kmart and picked them up. Regulated, he would have had to go to illegal sources – sources that could possibly be traced, watched, overseen. Or he would have to go deeper online and those transactions could be monitored. “Hm, some guy in Aurora is buying guns, tons of ammo and kevlar – plus bomb-making ingredients and tear gas. Maybe we should check that out.”

But that won’t happen as long as all that activity is legal and unrestricted.

I have been reading on and off as advocates for these weapons make their excuses all day long. Guns don’t kill – people do. Well if that’s correct, I go with @BrooklynAvi, let them kill with tomatoes. Let them bring baseball bats, knives, even machetes — a mob can deal with that.

There is no excuse for the propagation of these weapons. They are not guaranteed or protected by our constitution. If they were, then we could all run out and purchase a tank, a grenade launcher, a bazooka, a SCUD missile and a nuclear warhead. We could stockpile napalm and chemical weapons and bomb-making materials in our cellars under our guise of being a militia.

These weapons are military weapons. They belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don’t agree with you. These are the weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.

SO WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO SUPPORT THEM? WHY DO YOU NOT, AT LEAST, AGREE TO SIT WITH REASONABLE PEOPLE FROM BOTH SIDES AND ASK HARD QUESTIONS AND LOOK AT HARD STATISTICS AND POSSIBLY MAKE SOME COMPROMISES FOR THE GREATER GOOD? SO THAT MOTHERS AND FATHERS AND CHILDREN ARE NOT SLAUGHTERED QUITE SO EASILY BY THESE MONSTERS? HOW CAN IT HURT TO STOP DEFENDING THESE THINGS AND AT LEAST CONSIDER HOW WE CAN ALL WORK TO TRY TO PREVENT ANOTHER DAY LIKE YESTERDAY?

We will not prevent every tragedy. We cannot stop every maniac. But we certainly have done ourselves no good by allowing these particular weapons to be acquired freely by just about anyone.

I’ll say it plainly – if someone wants these weapons, they intend to use them. And if they are willing to force others to “pry it from my cold, dead hand”, then they are probably planning on using them on people.

So, sorry those of you who tell me I’m an actor, or a has-been or an idiot or a commie or a liberal and that I should shut up. You can not watch my stuff, you can unfollow and you can call me all the names you like. I may even share some of them with my global audience so everyone can get a little taste of who you are.

But this is not the time for reasonable people, on both sides of this issue, to be silent. We owe it to the people whose lives were ended and ruined yesterday to insist on a real discussion and hopefully on some real action.

In conclusion, whoever you are and wherever you stand on this issue, I hope you have the joy of family with you today. Hold onto them and love them as best you can. Tell them what they mean to you. Yesterday, a whole bunch of them went to the movies and tonight their families are without them. Every day is precious. Every life is precious. Take care. Be well. Be safe. God bless.

Jason Alexander

http://www.salon.com/2012/07/22/jason_alexanders_amazing_gun_rant/

Jabberwocka

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Thu, 08-02-2012 - 11:50am

I think this link is good, too. I provided a snip-it

http://mhbenton.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/the-reasoning-behind-the-second-amendment/

In the end, during our initial development as a nation, individual states required the militia to maintain order.  Rather than a position of sinecure, militia served, earned their pay (or received no pay at all) and often died in the process.  It was left to the federal government to maintain a national army and to the states to maintain a self-policing force the national army called upon from time to time.  That is what the Second Amendment is about, the ability of the individual states to maintain civil order and assist in national times of need.  Standing armies are costly.  Avoiding that level of public debt, states organized militia groups.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Thu, 08-02-2012 - 11:55am

IF the intent of the Second Amendment was to keep us safe from undue violence,

and IF the Constitution was intended to be fluid not absolute,

then I think revisiting the idea of how to keep us safe from undue violence needs to be revisited. Weren't guns considered to be controlled by the hand of God back in the 1700s? Rifling hadn't yet be invented, so Divine Intervention was believed to control the direction of the bullet. Weapons have very different technology now.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-30-2002
Thu, 08-02-2012 - 1:00pm

There is the gun control issue, but what everyone seems to be failing to address is the problem we have when someone is having a mental health crisis and nothing can be done UNTIL they become a danger to themselves and others. I can tell from experience that you can see it coming down the pike. You can call law enforcement and behavioral health and NOTHING will be done until these people are criminals and that usually means someone got hurt.

For some reason, one of the "freedoms" we have in this country is to lose the executive function of our brains and be allowed to still make life altering decisions for ourselves and others. Mentally ill people have "the right" to be as sick as they can possibly be before anyone steps in to help them or stop them.



iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Thu, 08-02-2012 - 1:47pm

I shared this link in another thread - thought you might be interested.

http://mentalillnesspolicy.org/media/bestmedia/uncivilliberties.html

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-18-2004
Fri, 08-03-2012 - 8:45am
The last article I read said that his psychiatrist reported him to a "violent assessment" team at the university, and nothing was done.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
Fri, 08-03-2012 - 12:22pm
Excellent! Thank you for posting this!

 nwtreehugger  

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