Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Obvious Solution to Gun Violence

I never cease to find it ironic that among the loudest voices calling for unlimited access to guns in America are the far conservatives who time and time again equate to conservative Christians.  People who, if they took the Gospel message seriously, would eschew violence and the guns that are so intertwined with violence in America.  Instead they demonstrate a level of hatred of others, extremism and paranoia that in and of themselves  suggest that just maybe these folks ought not to have ready access to guns.  Common sense ought to suggest that assault style weapons do not belong freely accessible to anyone who wants them.  What is likewise disturbing is the refusal of conservatives in particular to ever learn from the successful policies of other nations.  A piece in the Washington Post puts the problem of gun violence in perspective and reveals how simple it would be to reduce the gun related carnage in this country if only politicians had a shred of courage.  Here are excerpts:

Announcing Wednesday that he would send proposals on reducing gun violence in America to Congress, President Obama mentioned a number of sensible gun-control measures. But he also paid homage to the Washington conventional wisdom about the many and varied causes of this calamity — from mental health issues to school safety.

In fact, the problem is not complex, and the solution is blindingly obvious.

What we should be trying to understand is not one single event but why we have so many of them. The number of deaths by firearms in the United States was 32,000 last year. Around 11,000 were gun homicides.

To understand how staggeringly high this number is, compare it to the rate in other rich countries. England and Wales have about 50 gun homicides a year — 3 percent of our rate per 100,000 people. Many people believe that America is simply a more violent, individualistic society. But again, the data clarify. For most crimes — theft, burglary, robbery, assault — the United States is within the range of other advanced countries. The category in which the U.S. rate is magnitudes higher is gun homicides.

The U.S. gun homicide rate is 30 times that of France or Australia, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and 12 times higher than the average for other developed countries.

The data in social science are rarely this clear. They strongly suggest that we have so much more gun violence than other countries because we have far more permissive laws than others regarding the sale and possession of guns. With 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has 50 percent of the guns. 

There is clear evidence that tightening laws — even in highly individualistic countries with long traditions of gun ownership — can reduce gun violence. In Australia, after a 1996 ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons — a real ban, not like the one we enacted in 1994 with 600-plus exceptionsgun-related homicides dropped 59 percent over the next decade. The rate of suicide by firearm plummeted 65 percent. (Almost 20,000 Americans die each year using guns to commit suicide — a method that is much more successful than other forms of suicide.)

[W]hy not have government do something much simpler and that has proven successful: limit access to guns. And not another toothless ban, riddled with exceptions, which the gun lobby would use to “prove” that such bans don’t reduce violence. 

The problems that produced the Newtown massacre are not complex, nor are the solutions. We do not lack for answers.  What we lack in America today is courage.
 In the wake of the Newtown massacre last week, the Virginian Pilot is reporting that gun sales in Virginia have soared to record numbers.  It's a pretty safe bet that it is not the liberals and liberal minded Christians who are flocking to buy guns.  It's likely largely the "godly Christian" set and their equally mentally disturbed Tea Party cousins.

No comments: