The “I’ll-give-up-my-gun-when-they-pull-it-from-my-cold-dead-fingers” crowd knows why we all must be armed. Threats are everywhere. Enemies abound. From inside and out. There are the Islamo-fascists, poised to invade our fair shores with bulging vests of dynamite and cries of “Allahu Akbar” on their cracked lips. Hovering somewhere over the horizon, just a phone call away, are Big Government’s black ops helicopters, filled with freedom-squashing socialists, ready to parachute drop into small town America and herald the New World Order via compulsory healthcare and gun confiscation. Our borders are a sieve, allowing criminal elements and immigrants (often conflated to be the same) to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting, over-indulgent, decadent, and clearly unprepared America. Bad Men roam our schools and malls and movie theaters armed to the teeth, weighted down with purpose and ammunition, seeking that final blaze of glory, long denied, but no longer, and the only thing between them and the Citizens is the Good Guy, armed and ready to save the day. Fear, dreams, and desire, but mostly fear is the driver.
Fear is very human in manifestation, very animal in origin. It can motivate us to overcome or swallow us in the Unknown. The world did not change with the attacks of 9/11. It changed with our response to the attacks. We had choices; we made decisions. They were ours and only ours to make. What is this fear that drives some to arm? What is the reality?
Factcheck.org has a very timely piece on gun rhetoric versus gun facts. The 2010 gun-related murder rate was 3.59 per 100,000. That is the lowest it has been since 1981, but still translates into 11,000 gun murders per year. Looking at United Nations worldwide data on homicides and gun-related murders can provide some context.
This chart shows our murder rate as compared to much of the rest of the developed world. Excepting Greenland (what is going on in that sub-60,000 population country is for someone else to contemplate), our numbers are only trailing a number of ex-Soviet Union republics.
When we turn to gun-related murders it gets more interesting.
These are gun-related murder rates (x/100) and clearly some data is missing, Where is Russia (or Greenland, for that matter) in this mix? No data currently available, apparently. Regardless of that, look at our standing compared to many of our friends: the UK, France, Japan, Australia, etc. It does seem clear that there is a bit of the old Wild West going on in America.
To provide a more complete picture, look at gun-related homicides worldwide:
Clearly we doing much better that Jamaica, El Salvador and South Africa, sandwiched right there between Barbados and Uruguay. Comforting, and, as they say, everything is relative.
So why is our gun-related murder rate so high (as compared to other developed nations)? Could this chart help explain:
At a rate of almost 90 firearms per 100 people, our gun ownership is far higher than any other country’s.
While this rate is climbing, the average number of households owning guns is decreasing. It seems that the weapons are becoming concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer mainly adult males. Fear drives much of this as sales spike post any mass shooting or with the possibility of a Democratic president (or legislative majority) considering the passage of gun legislation. The weapons industry – whether the lobbyists, pundits, gun magazines, or armaments manufacturers – play on these fears. Sales are booming and firearms manufacturing has doubled in 10 years with the targeting of a new generation and new markets. It is true that while we are buying more and more guns, our murder rate has declined. But our gun-related non-fatal injuries from assault are on the rise as is our suicide rate by firearms. Study after study shows that easy availability of guns contributes to high suicide rates. An average of 22 veterans a day are taking their lives.
As has been reported, the same day of the Newtown shooting where 26 people (including 20 children) were killed, 22 children were slashed by a knife-wielding assailant in China. None died. There is a story, just in that.
The ugly reality is that we are the kings of lethality. The old saw about bringing a knife to a gun fight is certainly true, but why pack a six-shooter when you can easily bring a Remington 12-gauge tactical shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic .223cal rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, and a 15 round Glock .40cal handgun (Aurora Colorado theater shooter) or a Bushmaster .223cal model XM15-E2S rifle with 30 round clips, a 15 round Glock 10 mm handgun and a Sig-Sauer P226 9mm handgun (Sandy Hook Elementary School killer)? Why indeed.
The fear-mongers are easy to find: on television, in print, on the Internet, especially on the Internet. But they are minority, in reality a very small minority. After all, even if all of the NRA members — the numbers of which vary greatly depending upon whom you believe, but is reliably estimated to be around 3.1 million — shared Wayne LaPierre’s reactionary, fearful views, that is still far less than the 314 million citizens of this country. How is it that this shrill, irrational 1% have been allowed to control the conversation and in so doing manipulate us, the other 99%?
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As the principal of Clayhaus Photography, Jeff Clay specializes in fine-art landscape, architecture, and travel images. He also does portrait and event photography as a partner in Perfect Light Studios. Finally, with a background in information technology and project management, and as sole proprietor of Clayhaus Consulting, he works with non-profits and small businesses to help implement Internet and social media campaigns. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife, Bonnie and their three wild and crazy retrievers.