One thing is obvious from the start – we are NEVER going to be able to implement a rational solution to gun violence.
We can, of course, pass laws preventing (most of) the sale of assault-style weapons and semi-automatic handguns with magazines capable of holding, say, more than 7 or 8 cartridges. These would have to be federal laws, because many states have no inclination to do it themselves. Still and all, with the exception of the mass killer phenomenon, most gun deaths are caused by people with ordinary handguns, most of which would not fall under any ban we could conceivably get through Congress.
We could drastically improve identity checks for criminal histories and a history of mental instability, but that is, at best, a weak sieve, as many people buy guns before their first criminal act (often a murder with said handgun) and, since many thought disorders do not manifest themselves before late teen or young adult years, perhaps years after a person purchases a gun. And, as in the Newtown shootings, the murderer simply appropriated his mother’s guns (legally bought in a state with reputedly the strongest gun laws in the country), shot his mother, and took off for the elementary school for an as yet inexplicable reason.
Besides, I do not think the problem of gun violence in America can be cured solely by removing guns. There are reasons deeply ensconced within our culture, perhaps an combination of psychopathy, ideology, American mythologies, and fanatical belief in outlandish conspiracy theories that lead so many Americans to feel they must buy guns, often many guns, carry concealed (you can never tell when some teenager may refuse to turn down his car radio), or just love and worship guns and the empowerment they represent, that are behind the ‘gun culture’ of our country. There are a number of modern, western countries that also have very high per-capita gun ownership, though nowhere near ours, yet don’t suffer the pathology of the huge number of gun deaths that America is infamous for.
Number of guns per 100 people. All figures as of 2007
- United States – 88.8 (by far the highest ratio in the world)
- Switzerland – 45.7
- Finland – 32
- Sweden – 31.6
- Norway – 31.3
- France – 31.2
- Canada – 30.8
- Austria – 30.4
- Germany – 30.3
- Iceland – 30.3
- England and Wales – 6.2 (for comparison)
- Japan – 0.6 (at the bottom of the list)
Outside of a dozen or so countries involved in major conflict, war, and insurgency, the United States stands out for the sheer number of gun deaths per year. Including homicides, suicides, accidents, and undetermined, here is the above list with gun deaths per 100,000 people.
- United States – 9.0
- Switzerland – 3.5
- Finland – 3.6
- Sweden – 1.47
- Norway – 1.78
- France – 3.0
- Canada – 4,.78
- Austria – 2.94
- Germany – 1.1
- Iceland – 1.25
- England and Wales – 0.25 (for comparison)
- Japan – 0.07
So, while guns are easily available in great numbers (excepting in England and Japan) in the countries listed, their use as murder weapons is usually miniscule to our own rate. It is more than a bit disturbing to see Canada, which is culturally very similar to the U.S. yet used to have a miniscule gun murder rate despite widespread access to weapons, is beginning to emulate us.
What we are looking at is a two-pronged pattern. The first is sick elements that are firmly embedded in our cultural matrix that lead many people to want, even worship guns, and to use guns against their fellow men. The second is the incredible availability of guns for virtually anybody, no matter how dangerous or potentially dangerous, who wants one or two or twenty.
Since a large number of the gun “enthusiasts” are also far-right-wing believers in a liberal/international conspiracy to impose some kind of international tyranny on them, they see their armaments as the final bulwark against their irrational fear that democratic government is only a front for evil, even “satanic” forces bent on enslaving them. The very fact that any action, no matter how small, is taken to control the free flow of deadly weapons will simply confirm in their minds that their most paranoid and irrational fears are coming true. In the name of gun safety, we face a very real possibility of bringing these self-deluded conspiracists out of their bunkers, guns blazing at any target that they even remotely identify with the government.
At this point, I don’t see ANY way that the two sides will ever find a scintilla of common ground – indeed every effort by the gun control advocates will simply turn up the heat of rage and fear in the conspiracists.
Even as we are shocked and in mourning over the grotesque tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we must understand that it is going to happen again – and again -and again. Not to mention that more individual hand-gun murders, suicides, and accidental shootings (many of children and teens) happen each and every day in this country than the number of children and adults killed in Newtown.