Don Rogers: We’re the primitives with guns in this world
Civilian gun violence kills more people per capita in America than in Afghanistan or Pakistan, more than Yemen or Syria.
How’s that for giving pause? Our nation at peace compared to the poorest of nations at war.
And this is with our firearms homicide toll declining by almost half since 1993.
But we’re not the deadliest country, nor the deadliest developed country by this measure. We don’t lead the world in mass shooting deaths per capita; we’re not even in the top 10. I realize this doesn’t quite fit the alarmist narrative. But shouldn’t we be clear-eyed about reality?
Norway, France, Switzerland, even Finland bear higher rates of mass shooting fatalities per year. Canada is only slightly safer. But Japan, South Korea and Russia, among a host of others, suggest answers.
Mexico, for all its well-chronicled cartel shootings, statistically rings up a little safer from firearms fatalities than the United States. Latin America generally might suffer the most gun violence of all, which makes Mexico’s comparative safety more remarkable, thanks to that country’s gun control laws.
Sure, other nations are not America, with the third-highest population and arguably the most diverse and free country in the world. China is very different, limiting a lot more than weaponry. But Australia, ironically enough, considering the founding of that country, offers a helpful model for us today.
Researchers debate how much to credit legislation following a horrific mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996. But suicides with firearms plummeted, mass shootings dropped from more than a dozen a year to near zero, and the homicide rate fell by about half. That’s something.
In 2000, South Africa did what we should do: ban assault weapons and institute background checks, permits and licenses. The result over the next five years was a 13.6 percent average annual decline in deaths from gun violence in five major cities. This at least suggests progress is possible with legislative ideas in our country.
Gun violence varies widely by state, too, and also suggests these measures work. The less regulated states, primarily in the South and interior West, have the higher gun death rates. Alaska has the most, at 23 deaths per 100,000 population. The West and East coastal states with more gun control measures run the lowest. Massachusetts is the safest at 3.4 firearms deaths for every 100,000 residents. This doesn’t appear complicated.
We don’t need to rip up the Constitution, though we could apply a more intelligent interpretation of the 2nd Amendment than we have in our modern era, inflamed by the National Rifle Association’s grip on Republican politicians and judges, just a fact.
A right doesn’t mean license for anyone for any reason to buy up any firearm and as many as a heart could possibly desire. We are paying a price for this gluttony.
Guns that spray bullets enough to kill a dozen people in seconds are not needed for sport or the personal protection they presume to provide. A permit similar to a driving license, with similar conditions, only makes sense. Past history of violent behavior should disqualify possession of these weapons, along with service in a “militia.” I haven’t heard a sane argument against these points, frankly.
The Heritage Foundation reminds us gun control alone is no real solution, either. California, for instance, has strong gun control and the most mass shootings per capita of the nightmare variety: that lone gunman in the crowded place. And need I bring up Chicago, poor Chicago, or any other inner city?
It’s not so simple as take away the guns and voila, that’s the end of it. It may be less the type of firearm itself than who bears the weapon. Certainly it took a combination of reducing the number of weapons, the lethality of weapons and especially who has weapons in the other nations showing America the better way.
The data is there. The models, too. The path is reasonably clear.
I should note here what a friend reminded me after reading my column last week on gun violence: Under 3% of people meeting a diagnosis for mental illness are shooting others. They are far, far more likely to be victims than perpetrators.
Making the most lethal firearms easier to obtain than a drink at a bar, well, that’s what’s crazy.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.