Guns Down

GUNS DOWN

I have been trying to get my head round the numbers involved when it comes to guns in the USA. Here’s my attempt at a make shift infographic – feel free to try and make a better one.

Here are the sources of the stats:

“There are as many as 300 million guns in circulation today (the majority owned legally, but many not) and more than 4 million new guns come onto the market each year. To talk about eradicating guns, especially given what the Supreme Court has said about the individual right to gun-ownership, is futile.”

The Atlantic

US Child Population statistics.

The atlantic article also argues that

“40 percent of all guns sold in America legally are sold without benefit of a federal background check”

The heartening thing is that President Obama does seem to be willing to make an impact on this issue, one of the benefits of the second term of a presidency is that it could be less about trying to be re-elected and more about making a difference.

The big question for me is whether the US’s christians will find a way to start a movement that will give Obama and even the Republican opposition the political space to make some changes. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – trying to eradicate guns. Just make it more difficult to own them.

[For more on this see here]

 

9 thoughts on “GUNS DOWN”

  1. After making guns illegal or making whatever adjustments to the gun laws, what then will be done to focus on criminals and social deviants, those who have no compunction about breaking the law?

    1. By trying to take the guns out of civilians hands – does not mean you might not still chose to have armed police?

      1. Let’s assume the police will be armed, my question still stands. What will be done to focus on criminals and social deviants, those who have no compunction about breaking the law?

        1. I am a law abiding christian citizen who enjoys competitive match target shooting. I abhor what happened on Friday. It breaks my heart. I want more discussion concerning these horrific tragedies to find ROOT CAUSES and deal with them. There may be legislation that could help. But the real problem is not the guns! The real problem are those who conduct themselves illegally and inappropriately. So, after legislation changes/additions are made, my question still stands, what will be done to focus on criminals and social deviants, those who have no compunction about breaking the law?

  2. Surely its about changing a culture that depends on people owning guns to feel safe at home. Do the stats hold up ? Are more robberies / attempted murders stopped than people killed and injured by accident or in these kinds of shootings?

  3. Krish,

    Thanks for your concern for this issue. I am for more stringent controls on guns (particularly assault weapons) in the US. Still, this is a much more complex issue, and is plagued by mutual distrust on both sides of the argument, and well, the veritable complexity of a nation of 300 million people. Here are a few points that may help the many incredulous and aghast Europeans understand America and this issue.

    1. Many blogs, comments, and news stories from the European side seem to perceive of or paint the US as a nation of gun crazed nuts, worried about the protection of their private property. While this may be a true in some cases, for the most part it is not an accurate portrayal. At least not where I grew up and lived in the US: Texas. I believe most people will support gun control laws, as long as individual rights are retained…

    2. Which leads me to the second point. There are legitimate reasons for many American’s to own guns, and indeed the livelihood of many depends on it. The first point would be for hunting, which for some American’s is still depend on their sustenance. One thing European’s need to remember is that the US is a huge nation with vast wild spaces. It is more like Africa than it is like Europe. Secondly, I grew up in a state where being killed by a mountain lion was a real possibility (rare but real). People working and living in certain areas of the states need to carry weapons to protect them from wild animal attacks. In the central north it will be issues with wolves and bears. From Texas to California it is mountain lions. In the south, there are pumas and alligators. In Alaska, I have friends who have to carry weapons because of risk of grizzly bear attacks. Also, many ranchers and farmers need weapons to protect their livestock. The US is still a wild and dangerous place. Thirdly, we share a long and un-patrolled border with a very unstable nation. I also have friends who work in South Texas in remote areas. They are often alone in the middle of nowhere, in areas that are known paths of drug and human trafficking. This is true from Texas to California, and I do believe that law abiding citizens need to be able to protect themselves in situations like these. This is nothing to say of the rights of Native American’s with whom hunting is an integral part of their culture and lifestyle.

    3. Many seem to assume that American evangelicals are part in parcel to this “gun crazed” culture. While this may be the case in some situations, I don’t believe it is the norm. In rural areas possible, but not in the cities. My evangelical experience in large cities is that few own guns, or are even concerned with the issue. Some may hunt and own a rifle which they use in the country once or twice a year, but that would be it. There isn’t a swell of interest or support for guns among evangelicals in the cities. This of course draws a bigger tensions between urban America and rural America, but this tension has existed for well over 100 years.

    4.One must understand where the impulse to own a gun in the American culture is coming from. There are two streams. One descends from the American Revolution and the right to own weapons to defends oneself and community against tyranny. This is not as strong as the second, which derives from Western expansion. After the Civil War, the US finished settling its last remaining spaces. The Civil War released a plethora of men who had been exposed to horrible violence into the American West. At the same time, the mass production of distilled alcohol was perfected, as well as the repeating pistol and rifle. What happened was a over flowing of desperate, inebriated men into areas (where there were few women) where there was no law enforcement (or the law was enforced by revolving gangs of criminals), and where the threat of criminality and Indian attack were common. The last half of the 19th century the US had the highest murder rate in the world. To live in the West, even as a law abiding citizen, meant one needed to protect oneself. This spilled over into the early 20th century as well. This is basically the point that Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” makes, the US is a violent place, and the nostalgic time of peace and quiet never existed. Thus, this is very much a recent memory of many Americans and it is hard to simply erase this cycle of violence and way of thinking and responding to it. These things are tied deeply into the psyche of many Americans. Certainly, the need to protect oneself today (in an age when gun violence is actually on the decline) is probably more of perception, but the historical memory of a very violent time is certainly there. If we are to truly address this issue, we must understand US history and culture and why we think and assume the way we do.

    5. With that said, many American gun owners are going to feel under attack and blamed for these types of tragedies, when in fact these are good people, with good motives, and who are horribly terrified by this event (ignore the few voices fanning flames). If we are going to make solid headway, and I believe we can, we need to have a national conversation. If Europeans want to help in that dialog (and I believe they have some things to offer here) they need to be careful not to demonize and straw man the many decent Americans who rightfully need guns, and even those who need some convincing on restricting gun access. They need to avoid sensationalizing the event and the issue of guns, and understand that while they may not agree, those who want to retain gun rights are not obtuse nuts. On the flip side, those who are serious about gun rights need to be able to make some compromises with the rest of America that is rightfully frightened.

    I think something will get done. The good news is that gun violence is actually on the decline, and gun ownership was also on the decline until recently. Those changes will not happen over night, nor will they be accomplished by the politicians. It will most likely come through a grass roots movement of concerned citizens, like most massive shifts in American policy and culture.

    1. Thank you for the article. I affirm your thoughts and sentiment. The only possible addition I would make are two: 1) I would add ‘enjoyment’ to the legitimate reason to own and shoot. I am a match target shooter who really enjoys putting holes in paper at long range. 2) You touched on the cultural issue (rural and city differences) but I would add that some grew up with guns and have a very different perspective from those who have little or no personal experience with the presence of guns. I do not immediately think of a gun as a weapon though I know it can be used to inflict harm and can be dangerous in the wrong hands. In my culture, when I pack up my gun to go target shooting I think of my gun as a tool or device with which I am going to have a good time.

      1. David, I totally agree. Responsible citizens should have access to guns for sport and hobby type interests. And also I do agree with you on the cultural divide.

        I did want to stress to Europeans that there are very real, important, and benign reasons that most Americans own guns.

        I think it is very positive that the NRA announced that they would be making an announcement today about how they want to pursue and be a part of making sure that this type of thing never happens again. It seems they are willing to make some compromises and back off their past rhetoric. What is also interesting is that NRA membership is only 4 million people. A drop in the bucket, and more proof that most American’s are not gun crazed nuts.

        If the NRA is getting involved, I do believe we will see some significant and effective changes.

        We do need to be talking about mental health issues as well.

  4. Hi,

    I’d just like to make a comment on your use of statistics. It’s not enough to find two numbers and divide one by the other, there has to be meaning too. I’m not challenging the accuracy of the numbers, something else. It’s the number 13.

    What significance does that number have? Each child owns 13 guns, or, does each child has 13 guns pointing at them? You could have reported the guns per total capita but that would have been less headline grabbing I suppose. Another problem is that the number 13 could be improved by American parents having more children, which of course is not the point.

    Just saying.

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