Guns in 'Merica

In light of the recent shootings at Umpqua college in Oregon, where 10 people were killed and 7 wounded, President Obama consequently made one of the most powerfully delivered and monumental speeches of his time at the White House (you can watch this here). Obama stressed that shootings of this nature were happening so often now, ‘that it has become routine’ and that the nation is ‘numb to it’. I wanted to briefly weigh in my two cents on the gun debate.

People resisting tighter gun control

I studied Criminology at university, with a specific interest in US politics, its penal system, and jurisdictional law. I wrote a dissertation in my last year on American gun culture, and I merely scratched the surface. So, to summarise, what are the arguments that have torn such a huge divide in America? And, more importantly, what are the facts? Here is my summary in layman’s terms.
“More guns equals less crime”. Yes, you read that correctly. One of the fundamental arguments that people, who are in favour of guns, will tell you is that they genuinely believe arming yourself with rifles, pistols, semi – automatic weapons, whatever in the hell they desire (or can casually pick up from Wal-Mart) will mean they are more likely to deter crime from occurring in one way or another.
"Guns don't kill people, people kill people", another popular counter argument for gun control that I have often heard. This is a famous slogan used regularly by the National Rifle Association, a group of powerful and dominating gun enthusiasts.
Ultimately, if all else fails, they will simply recite the second amendment, or rather, their interpretation of it. This states that, "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". This constitutional quote, ratified by Thomas Jefferson, has been the basis for US citizens and members of congress to argue against restraints on private ownership of firearms and the type of weapon they should be allowed to possess. This amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, a historical document which acts as the foundation of American laws and principles.
Some young, entitled frat boy had an angry debate with me in my criminal law class a few years ago, I will never forget it. He was irrationally angry about the thought of someone 'taking away his rights'. He couldn’t see how it might be ridiculous, for example, to own a semi-automatic assault rifle, a weapon that is designed to fire multiple shots at an incomprehensible speed. So, what is essentially, a machine gun that is designed to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time. This guy was a full on space cadet. I can’t even.
Now that I have very briefly explained some counter arguments from the other side, I would like to challenge them. Because all facts, statistics, and common sense points to that fact that not only are these people wrong about resisting gun laws, but they are also in flat-out denial about the effect that guns are having on their country, and here’s why:

Take a look at figure 1. below.

I read a ton of books on this subject, much of which are still stacked up high in my old bedroom, that provide a plethora of information on this subject. However, since this is not a university essay and I’m trying to be as concise as possible, here’s a simple table collating some facts that will demonstrate my points (above). The estimated number of guns in the United States ranges from 270 - 310 MILLION. So in order to figure out the extent of America's gun problems from a logical perspective, I believe there is great value in reviewing the reported figures for global gun deaths and to see if this correlates with countries that have a high number of guns.
            Figure 1 displays the averaged total gun death rates per 100,000 of the country's population between 2008 and 2010. These countries are also categorised into 'strict', 'moderate', and 'lenient' gun laws. America is classed as a 'lenient gun law' country, meaning that 'anybody can apply for gun ownership, and/or are allowed to carry a gun in public with or without a licence'. Evidence shows that the country with the highest gun ownership rate is in fact the United States, with a reported 88.8 firearms per 100 people. What the hell, America?
As mentioned, Figure 1 also illustrates the gun death ratio. Alarmingly, Washington DC averages a ratio of 31.2 of 100k of the population that dies from gun related deaths. This seems relatively high when compared to London, which has an average of 1.9 per 100k of the population. Note that England's low gun deaths rate can be linked with its strict gun laws as well as its low number of guns.
Let’s consider some other facts….

Australia – A great example of a country that exhibits a correlation between the amount of firearms and, subsequently, their low gun death rates. They average 15 guns per 100 people. Their death rates have fallen over the years, starting at 69 people who died in 1996 to 30 people in 2012. It is interesting to note that in the decade before the country's change of gun legislation, 100 people died in 11 mass shootings. After 1996, there was an announcement of stricter gun laws, these were designed specifically to reduce gun massacres. SINCE THIS, THERE HAS BEEN NO MASS SHOOTINGS IN AUSTRALIA.

UK - In terms of gun ownership in the United Kingdom, there is an estimated 4 million privately owned firearms, averaging a rate of 6.7 guns per 100 people. When looking at a country with strict gun laws, such as the UK, guns deaths are considerably low. It is recorded that in 2011/2012 the UK had 44 fatalities where a gun was used as the main weapon. This was out of a total of 640 murders, meaning that gun murders in the UK in 2011/2012 represented only 6 per cent of all murder cases.

America – We already know that there is an average of 88.8 guns per 100 people in the USA, as well as the fact that their gun laws are more lenient than countries, like Australia and the UK. So, what about the murder rates? Let’s look at some states….  According to the FBI Crime Report 2010, of the 1,811 murders that took place in California, 1,257 of these were gun related. In Texas, another state with a high number of homicides, out of 1,246 deaths, 805 of these were firearm related. Even when examining the states with only a few homicides, such as Wyoming, the same pattern emerges, as 5 out of 8 deaths were linked to firearms. The majority of homicides in America, in 2010 alone, were mainly to blame on gun violence and only seven states had a 50 per cent or less outcome of deaths by guns.

I could go on, and on, and on. And don’t even get me started on how easy it is to obtain a gun over there. There is a serious need for change. But how many more mass shootings will it take for the public to support Obama’s proposed gun laws? What about accidental gun deaths? That 9 year old little girl in Arizona who accidentally shot the gun instructor to death at the shooting range? Guns are so ingrained in their culture, that owning one. and being ready to use it, is just a way of life.

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