Why is gun violence so prevalent in the United States in comparison to other developed countries? If one looks at the numbers it’s not hard to conclude that a part of the problem is because of the shear numbers of firearms that permeate our society. Though statistics about the numbers of firearms can only be estimates, there are believed to be, close to or more than, the number of guns in the country as the number of people who live here, that number being over 320 million. This far exceeds any other nation. Though the US has less than half of the population of next 22 developed nations, it has 81% of all gun deaths. Of those other 22 countries 90% of the women killed by guns are in the US. Women are 5 times more likely to be killed if there is a gun involved in a domestic violence situation in this country. Most disturbing, and related to the recent school shooting in Parkland, FL, of the 22 industrialized nations the US has 91% of all the firearm gun deaths of people under the age of 18. Suicide and homicide were the second and third most causes of death in this country, respectively, among teens from 15-19, after unintentional injury. Firearms were the instrument of death in 88% of the homicide deaths and 41% of teen suicide deaths. Teen suicide is on the rise. Non firearm suicide attempts result in death in only one out of 760 cases. Almost 1 in 4 firearm attempts is fatal. I find it hard to believe that someone can argue with the case that the easy availability of guns we have in this country isn’t responsible for our high gun related death rates, especially the unacceptable death rates of our children.
These firearm death rates and how they correspond to gun ownership rates can’t just be correlated from nation to nation but within our own borders from state to state. In the states that have the highest per capita gun violence there are fewer restrictions on gun purchasing and a greater culture in gun ownership. Alaska is at the top of this list, or more aptly put, bottom of this list. I think it’s also worth noting that the vast majority of the most violent of our states have a Republican majority.
After spending an afternoon doing research on this topic, I could go on and on writing about these horrible numbers. I’ll give you just a couple more. These might add some perspective. Almost 60,000 Americans lost their lives in the Vietnam war. America had troops there from 1955 to 1975. Like the war in Iraq and the 8 other world conflicts that the US is currently fighting, we were, and are not there to protect American lives but to protect US business interests and to signal to other nations our political and military power. I believe that the same mentality that feeds into America’s industrial military complex is at the heart of the gun manufacturers greedy, capitalistic, propaganda. In Vietnam it wasn’t till the American people saw the carnage, felt the loss and absorbed the terrible death that was inflicted, that they rose up and protested and demanded a stop to the bloodshed. 58,00 Americans died violent deaths in Vietnam. That is the number of people who are killed by guns within our own borders every 18 months since 2012. That’s two Vietnam wars worth of American blood every 3 years!
Isn’t it time we take a step back, acknowledge that something is wrong with this society and to collectively find the will to change it. Shouldn’t we reassess our priorities? Do we have the capacity to reason, to learn from our mistakes and to change? We’ve found it all to easy to take lives. Do we have the collective will to save lives?
Yes, I’ve read the second amendment of the constitution, the American right to “bear arms”. But maybe our right to be civil, our right to be trusting, our right to be merciful, our right to live peaceably, the rights of our children to be safe and free from violence should now take precedence over anything, even an archaic amendment written over 200 years ago. I don’t see this happening as long as we continue to look down or into the barrel of a weapon that was designed for only one purpose, to kill. I think we should question seriously how an individual’s right to have a gun should override a society’s right to collective well being, health and safety.