GUN VIOLENCE: ARE WE HAVING THE RIGHT DISCUSSION?
By Damien RushGun violence has been on the forefront of popular debate and rightly so. But never have there been so many instances of gun violence in the news recently; the most being attractive to the media are the incidents involving cops shooting African Americans and the recent and tragic trend of school shootings. One of the largest studies of gun homicides in America was recently completed by Professor Michael Siegel from Boston University. He and his coauthors compiled data from 1981-2010 on gun homicides across all fifty states.
This is in no way support for either side of the gun debate. Both sides of the argument concentrate too much on the ‘objects’ or guns while ignoring the dysfunctional tendencies of a society which owns or feels compelled to deploy such ‘objects’ as justification for any social or geopolitical purpose.
Although some social maladies and dysfunctional behavior were considered as contributing factors their research was primarily focused on the correlation between the numbers of guns in possession to the percentage of homicides committed with guns. Even though during that time violent crime had actually decreased, they found correlations between gun ownership and gun homicides to be consistent. In other words the more concentration of firearm ownership in a particular demographic the higher the gun related homicide rate becomes, according to their study.
The results of this gun study are sure to fuel the fires of gun control activists giving them the evidence they need to prove that where there are guns, there will be death and hence justification for more restrictions on gun ownership. I believe that this study simply points out the obvious, along with the fact that where there are more automobiles there will be more automobile related homicides and where there are more lawnmowers there will be more lawnmower related toe amputations.
“According to recent surveys, approximately a thousand police officers die each year in service to their communities.”
A similar gun study done in Geneva, Switzerland, the Small Arms Survey, concludes similar data as well. Ironically though, other legitimate and documented sources can be found to contradict the statistical information from both studies, one being the Crime Prevention Research Center, by pointing out crucial factors that were omitted which would have had a profound effect on the others’ results. Some countries issue their citizens weapons for national defense for example. These weapons are not counted as “privately owned” within the context of their data.
So much discussion surrounds the gun or “object” itself. Both sides make valid statistical points with plenty of social memes and videos. But there are enough formulations and comparisons of statistics that to get through them all would take a lifetime.
This is in no way support for either side of the gun debate. Both sides of the argument concentrate too much on the “object” while continually being in denial of the dysfunctional tendencies of a society which owns and feels compelled to deploy such “objects” as justification for any social or geopolitical purpose.
We get statistics on every comparison with gun violence in the U.S. from car accidents compared to gun deaths or which neighborhood is the safest because more gun owners live there, etc. (proven “statistically” to be true and or false depending on who your sourcing). But the comparisons we don’t often see circulated on the social networks, news commentaries, or through mainstream public discussion are the comparisons between the U.S. and other countries who allow their citizens privately owned guns along with “state” issued firearms.
One source is gunpolicy.org. Per-capita gun ownership in America is 100% out of a hundred. Switzerland, whose national sport incidentally is shooting, ranks number three or four depending on the source for highest private gun ownership behind the U.S., with a ratio of about 47% -50% per one hundred. Serbia 60% per one hundred (it’s ironic how we outgun countries involved in numerous civil wars or ones that harbor extremism) and Yemen about 55% per one hundred.
“The UN International Study on Firearm Regulation omits Switzerland from its comparative analysis. The Swiss example contradicts the Study’s hypothesis that a high incidence of firearm ownership correlates with high violent crime.” – Stephen P. Halbrook, Ph.D., J.D.
Scandinavian and European countries that allow gun ownership (who are not undergoing a civil war) have considerably lower homicide rates, even taking into consideration the populations and smaller percentage of gun owners’ per-capita. With similar social conditions, ratios of 40 -50% (Switzerland) compared to (United States) 100% should place the Swiss in comparison, much closer to the halfway point than shown in the GRAPH.
But why, as the charts show, is the U.S. so far ahead of the curve in gun related homicides? What’s the difference between our societies and why are their statistics so disproportionate to ours? Compare the standards and quality of life in the U.S. across the board to countries like Switzerland, Denmark or Sweden; all “right to bear” countries. The answers may lie less within the “object” itself and more within the social conditions surrounding it. For one of the wealthiest countries we have one of the highest poverty levels of all the industrialized nations.
Our penal system is now a for profit commercial industry traded on the stock exchange that incarcerates according to race and social standing. Our ratings in education are dropping across the board. Our leaders demonstrate no leadership at all and our economy is a joke. Half the population is numbed out on prescription anti-depressants while the other half self-medicates with illicit drugs and alcohol.
“Between 2004 and 2011, there have been over 11,000 reports to the U.S. FDA’s MedWatch system of psychiatric drug side effects related to violence,” including 300 homicides. The FDA estimates this total is less than 10 percent of the actual number of incidents since most go unreported. According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHRI), a non-profit mental health watchdog group, government officials are well aware of the connection.”
We have access to every illicit drug off the market, all the guns and toys we want and any pleasure we can get a loan for. But out of reach still is legitimate quality health coverage for all, good whole affordable foods, a job market that values labor over capital, and access to better education and job training; we send billions in aid to other countries and give subsidies and preferential treatment to celebrities and the wealthiest among us while our inner cities get more disparity. Chances are that when measured up to other societies, ours might appear to be somewhat dysfunctional in comparison. We haven’t learned that environmental stimuli are important to human behavior. That human nature is not overtly violent or neurotic unless the behavior is taught or the neurosis is cultivated.
Unfortunately there will always be guns. Pandora’s Box was open on that a long time ago and as the story goes, it’s up to how we choose to deal with the situation that will be our legacy. Guns will never be eradicated unless under martial law. Is that what you want? There are those among us who think we do; for the mere fact that history has shown how many societies who’ve undergone aggressive gun control or disarmament measures have eventually met with disastrous if not genocidal consequences. This is one of the underlying considerations by which the principles and protections of gun ownership are maintained by the 2nd Amendment.
It’s not about the guns, or the “object” or the control there of. It’s about how we as a society provide the knowledge and opportunity for something better than the “object” as the go to remedy for life’s disappointments. If you were to observe how we “maintain” our society compared to how other nations “care” for theirs, the “object” itself becomes far less important compared to the bigger picture.
War, what is it good for? But if you’re going to have one, adequate training and proficiency with a firearm is key to owning one. Sensible gun registration, education and handling should be everyone’s priority and may be a necessary evil for any nation or individual’s security in these unpredictable times. Regardless of whether you choose to own one or not, in a society supposing to maintain good public policy and a secure environment for growth, the only direction that a gun should be pointing is outward in defense of our nation against a foreign invasion, not inward against each other.