By Kaufmann | July 22, 2012 1 Comment »
The terrifying massacre during the midnight opening of the Batman movie in Aurora, near Denver, is another reminder that guns kill. It is also another reminder of the failure of U.S. politicians to act on it. Unfortunately, those gruesome reminders are frequent in the U.S., making the impotence of politicians to act even more self-evident. Most of the industrialized and emerging countries of the world, and their citizens, understand that guns, and semi-automatic assault weapons, do kill, of course. They have acted on it.
I have written about the topic before, such as here on gun killings in U.S. Universities, and here another blog entry among others showing a table with data on the extent of gun ownership and on gun homicides in the U.S. compared with other countries. So at this juncture let me just point to selected data provided by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and offer one thought on political capture…
Their website reminds us that since 1968, when Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, over one million people have been killed with guns in the United States. Annually, on average, almost 100,000 people in the United States are shot or killed with a gun. Well over 30,000 people died from gun violence. In other industrialized countries, a very tiny fraction of those killed in the U.S. die by gunshots, since guns are not ubiquitous there. And the U.S. firearm homicide rate is about 20 times higher than in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates. Not surprisingly, then, among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States.
Further, research shows that 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur had no guns been present. And keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of homicide by a factor of 3, so it is not surprising that guns are more likely to raise the risk of injury than to confer protection. In fact, every year there are only about 200 legally justified self-defense homicides by private citizens.
In short, there is substantial evidence that removing guns saves lives, because guns kill people. It is of interest that the rates of assault with knives and guns in the United States are similar, yet there are five times as many deaths from guns. And so many of those lethal guns can be obtained in the U.S. without a background check to screen out criminals or the mentally ill. Almost one-half of gun acquisitions occur in the secondary market, and sales between individuals do not require a background check. And particularly lethal ‘assault weapons’ (semi-automatic firearms), with no known civilian use benefit whatsoever (to the contrary), used to be subject to a ban in the U.S. – but such ban was lifted in 2004.
Police working on the Aurora movie massacre have said that James Holmes, the alleged gunman, had three weapons: a Remington shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P assault rifle, and a Glock 40-caliber handgun. The semiautomatic assault rifle, which is a civilian version of the military’s M-16, can fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute, is designed to hold large ammunition clips. Apparently the killer purchased thousands of ammunition rounds over the internet.
Those are just some of the stark facts.
Yet again, there is a failure of leadership on this issue. Most of the U.S. politicians, including the presidential candidates, are keeping mum about gun control. At most they are expressing shock and regret about (yet another) ‘senseless’ killing spree, this time in Aurora, and trying to provide comfort to the grieving families.
Money in politics, and the capture of politicians by the undue influence of special interests, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), goes on unabated. The few politicians who dare to even speak about the fact that guns kill people, and that stricter gun control laws are needed in the U.S, such as U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed by a deranged gunman, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a longtime advocate of stricter gun restrictions, are painfully aware of the fact that those politicians that speak up are targeted at re-election time by the NRA. Money speaks so loudly that virtually all politicians and leaders are silent on the issue.
The rest of the world looks on at this obsession with guns, and the perverse influence of money in politics, in disbelief.