June 26, 2008: The Supreme Court has ruled today that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense, the justices’ first major pronouncement on gun control in U.S. history. Please read the link for the full story as it appears on Yahoo! News (Supreme Court finds individual right to own guns). It is a sad day for the country. I had written a blog a couple of months ago on gun ownership and related violence. I’m reposting the article.
Feb. 14, 2008: Stephen Kazmierczak, a 27-year-old former student opens fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, killing five people. He then commits suicide. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the horrific shootings and their families who lost their loved ones to this terrible tragedy. 9 years since the Columbine High shooting (13 killed ) in Littleton, Colorado and barely 10 months since the massacre of Virginia Tech shooting (32 dead, and 15 wounded) the worst single mass shooting in U.S. history. Why does it happen over and over in America?
I was in Switzerland when the shooting at Virginia Tech occurred, which also has a high gun possession rate incidentally of a western state. The western world outside of the United States saw that it has more gun violence than other countries because we have more guns and are willing to sell them to madmen who want to kill people. Here at home, the talk was more about treatment of mental illness in universities, violence in the media and in popular culture, copycat killings, the alienation of immigrant students, and everything except how it happened and what are we going to do about it. We were told that it was not the right moment to ask how the shooting had happenedspecifically, why an obviously disturbed student, with a history of mental illness, was able to buy guns. For heavens sake, Glocks and Walthers (the ones that Cho acquired in the Virginia Tech shootings) are designed to kill. They are certainly not made for hunting.
In the wake of the killings, I searched for some statistics of single mass shootings in Western democracies where data is easily available.
|Date||Place||Dead|| Legal Status
|16 Apr 2007||Blacksburg, USA||32 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|26 Apr 2002||Erfurt, Germany||16 + 1||Legal guns, pistol club member|
|27 Sep 2001||Zug, Switzerland||14 + 1||Legal guns, license pistol owner|
|29 Jul 1999||Atlanta, GA, USA||12 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|20 Apr 1999||Columbine, CO, USA||13 + 2||Not legal guns|
|28 Apr 1996||Port Arthur, Australia||35||Legal guns|
|13 Mar 1996
||Dunblane, Scotland||17 + 1||Legal guns, pistol club member|
|16 Oct 1991||Killeen, TX, USA||23 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|13 Nov1990||Aramoana, NZ||13 + 1||Legal guns, licensed gun owner|
|18 Jun 1990||Jacksonville, FL, USA||9 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|06 Dec 1989||Montreal, Canada||14 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|19 Aug 1987||Hungerford, England||16 + 1||Legal guns, pistol club member|
|20 Aug 1986||Edmond, OK, USA||14 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|18 Jul 1984||San Ysidro, CA, USA||21 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
|18 Jul 1984||Austin, TX, USA||16 + 1||Legal guns, no license required|
So, every country has known the horror of mass shooting by a violent lunatic who got his hands on a gun. Violent lunatics are not exception to this country. They bear similar profiles from country to country and culture to culture. But, no other country on the list has had a repeat performance as severe as the first except for the USA. Most of the other countries tightened their gun laws after the horrific incidents. But here in the US, not enough was done between the two massacres of forty years ago on a college campus in Austin, Texas and today in DeKalb, Illinois to make weapons of mass killing harder to obtain. In fact, while campus killings continued weapons have got more lethal, and, in states like Virginia, where the N.R.A. is powerful, no harder to buy.
Here’s a bare-bones list of state gun rules:
– No limits on assault weapons
– State and federal criminal background checks
– No restrictions on concealed weapons-even snub nosed handguns
– Gun owners are held responsible for leaving weapons around children, but no safety lock requirements exist.
– Cities can’t hold gun makers liable for gun violence.
– Can’t give kids under 18 handguns or assault weapons, but kids can possess rifles and shotguns.
– Can’t sell handguns to kids under 18, but any kid over 12 can buy shotguns and rifles, all without parental consent.
– You don’t need a license to buy a handgun.
– There are no requirements that gun-buyers register. The cops have no idea how many guns there are in the state.
Firearms are the second most frequent cause of death overall for Americans ages 15 to 24, (Violence Policy Center). Public health research has shown that firearms violence is directly related to firearms availability and density. According to the VPC, what separates America from other Western, industrialized nations, is not our overall rate of violence, but our rates of lethal violencewhich can be directly traced to gun availability. In 2004 alone, 29,569 Americans died by gunfire: 16,750 in firearm suicides, 11,935 in firearm homicides, 649 in unintentional shootings, and 235 in firearm deaths of unknown intent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Let us look at the international gun deaths of the western world.
Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated):
|USA||4.08 (1999)||6.08 (1999)||0.42 (1999)|
|Canada||0.54 (1999)||2.65 (1997)||0.15 (1997)|
|Switzerland||0.50 (1999)||5.78 (1998)||–|
|Scotland||0.12 (1999)||0.27 (1999)||–|
|England/Wales||0.12 (1999/00)||0.22 (1999)||0.01 (1999)|
|Japan||0.04 (1998)||0.04 (1995)||<0.01 (1997)|
Now, lets look at the handgun ownership statistics:
|Country|| Households – %
So, there is a clear relationship between handgun ownership and murder rates. With 200 million guns and more than 10,000 gun homicides a year the USA leads the statistics, year after year. But, to the gun pushers, adding more guns would somehow make America safer. If that were true, our policemen and women would be safe and the police station the safest place. The gun pushers try to create demand for their product, and they do it by fabricating nightmarish scenarios that (they claim) can be addressed with the firearms they have for sale. I have compiled here a list of myths perpetrated by the pro-gun lobby.
I invite you all to debunk the myths by sound, logical arguments.
Myth#1 “Owning a gun will protect you from crime.”
Myth#2 “A machine gun is no more deadly of a weapon than a baseball bat.”
Myth#3 “When criminals can no longer have easy access to guns, they will turn to other deadly weapons such as knives and baseball bats to commit their crimes.”
Myth#4 “All gun control efforts will lead to a total ban on guns.”
Myth#5 “Gun control only affects law-abiding citizens. Criminals won’t be affected by gun control laws.”
Myth#6 “Gun control is a socialist plot to disarm America and ‘take our guns away’.”
Myth#7 “The supporters of gun control are motivated by ‘fear’ of guns.”
Myth#8 “The second amendment to the Constitution was intended to arm the people against a possible tyrannical government. We would need modern weaponry, like semi automatic assault rifles, to fight the government.”
Myth#9 “The primary reason for the high level of crime in this country is that judges are too soft on criminals and the legal system allows too many criminals to go free.”
Myth#10 “Israel and Switzerland have very high rates of gun ownership and they don’t have our crime problems. This proves that guns are not the problem and gun control is not the answer.”
I will write about myth#10. Both Switzerland and Israel have much stricter gun control laws than the United States. All men in Switzerland are members of the militia and issued rifles by the government and these rifles are all registered and all ammunition must be accounted for. When it comes to handguns, the Swiss require a background check, a permit to purchase a handgun, and handgun registration. Israel requires a license to carry, possess or buy a handgun and they conduct thorough background checks, including personal interviews. And Switzerland does have a high rate of gun related homicide and suicide compared to other western democracies.
Enough is Enough!!
Editor’s Note: The author had originally published this blog and specified The Columbine Shootings happened in Littleton, Colorado. The Columbine high school is actually in Columbine and not Littleton. Littleton is only the postal address for the school.
More posts by this author:
- Primer on Global Warming and Climate Change – Part III (Mitigation and Adaptation)
- Global Food Crisis
- Oil Crisis and the Media
- The Human Brain
- Primer on Climate Change and Global Warming – Part II (Impact)