Is the current cost in blood worth the benefit in bullets?

Illustration: Monica Burns
Illustration: Monica Burns
Illustration: Monica Burns

To begin with, I must say that I’m biased on this issue. Gun control in the United States is literally a matter of life and death, and as such, my admiration of objective journalism is trumped by my desire to inspire passion and create change. Now, it should also be said that I’m no tofu-eating, PETA-sticker owning kid from the Bay Area; I am, in fact, a gun-toting, proud Texan, and might occasionally be caught around St Andrews sporting ‘camo’ long johns under my Levi’s. I’m the owner of a bolt-action rifle, and I’ve grown up hunting and shooting with my dad on a fairly regular basis.

That being said, I agree wholeheartedly with the mantra of the NRA: guns don’t kill people. Of course they don’t. People with guns kill people. It follows that in the most heavily armed society in the world, more people will be killing people. A 2007 study from the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies reported that in the United States, there are ninety guns for every one hundred citizens. India rings in with the second highest civilian gun count, with roughly four guns per one hundred citizens. In per-capita terms of firearm ownership, perhaps a fairer representation, the study places Yemen in the number two spot, with sixty-one guns per one hundred people. Clearly, the US is an outlier.

It should therefore be of no surprise that its firearm homicide rate is also in a category of its own; according to UN and national data from 2009, gun-related homicide in the US is fifteen times higher than other wealthy nations (Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom).

David Hemenway, Harvard professor of Health Policy and author of “Private Guns, Public Health,” found in a study that a child in the alleged land of the free is eight times more likely to commit suicide with a firearm and thirteen times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide than children in the other “First World” countries. How free is that?

In studies throughout the past decade, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found strong correlations between availability of guns and homicide. This holds true not only in international comparison, but also in comparison along state lines, controlling for factors such as poverty, urbanisation, alcohol consumption, genders and age groups. Essentially, countries and states with tighter laws and fewer guns have less firearm related homicide. The relationship between the availability of something and its use seems somewhat obvious; a nation with more guns is more likely to use guns than a nation without them, for example. The gun lobby talks a lot about freedom. The peculiar thing about freedoms is that some of them limit others. In such an instance, it becomes necessary to pick and choose which freedoms we value more as a society.

Given that there is a correlation between availability of firearms and their use in homicides, the freedom to possess almost any type of firearm tramples on a different freedom. Some claim the right and freedom to bear arms, but what about other ‘inalienable rights,’ written about in the Declaration of Independence? Whatever happened to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’?

Those gunned down in schools and universities, movie theatres, places of worship, public squares, supermarkets, and homes across the nations surely found their rights and freedoms limited in a severe way. Did the children lying dead and bloody in the classrooms of Sandy Hook Elementary not have their freedoms trampled on? They, along with the masses murdered at Virginia Tech, Columbine, and Aurora had the ultimate freedoms taken away from them. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, between 2006 and 2010 alone, 47,856 people were killed in the US by firearms. That’s more than twelve times the amount of people killed in 9/11, in only half a decade.

How many more should die? How much more blood must be spilled before we decide to value the right to life more than the right to own high-powered weapons? Freedom is almost never free. Is the current cost in blood worth the benefit in bullets?


  1. You have bought into the lame stream media. Congratulations, you’ve become a liberal robot. I hope that you understand what the number one killer in human history is…and that is government. I, unlike you, put trust in my fellow human to act accordingly. You, on the other hand, put trust in the government. If you would but consult with history, you would recognise that you are supporting an institution that is far more responsible for killings than my neighbor with a gun.

  2. Congratulations, Heather. You’ve managed to look incredibly ignorant. Pro tip: If you use the term ‘lame-stream media’, you alienate about 70% of your audience.

  3. I don’t see where his views indicate more “trust in government”. BTW, the number one killer is time not government. I bet religion even beats out government. What really is worrisome are paranoid gun owners…….

  4. Government is like any tool. It can be used for good, or it can be used for bad. There are great examples of where government has improved the general wellbeing of the people, and there are great examples of where government has harmed and oppressed the people. In the United States, government is said to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Of course, that is not always the exact case. However, given that in the United States, like in many contemporary democracies, since government is defined as such, the government’s actions in the form of legislation might be viewed as a tangible manifestation of the collective will of the people. So to argue purely against government in and of itself is to argue against the collective, organized, self-improving will of a civil society. It seems you might be better off attacking “bad” government, rather than any government at all. If only we could fully “put our trust in our fellow human” to always do the right thing, there would be no need for government. Unfortunately, we have more than three times the victims of 9/11 die every year in the United States as a result of loose gun policies, which highlights the lethally idealistic nature of your assertion.

    Now, as you mentioned, some governments can and have become tyrannical. However, it would be short-sighted to see tyranny as only being able to come from the government; it’s a difference of seeing in black and white, or seeing in color. Tyranny, or a limitation of freedoms, can come from more than one direction. My argument is precisely against this limitation of freedoms. With hundreds of thousands of Americans dead as a cause of gun violence, I wish that we protect the future generations from this tyranny, and as such, preserve their freedom.

    • Comparing government to guns is semantically idiotic. They are separate concepts, and any attempt at rivaling one against the other is just . . . well, it doesn’t mean anything. You’re an idiot I guess.

    • Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I’m ignorant. Classic liberal elitist thinking they have the answers to every question.

      • But they do have the answers to every question. They wave their wands and everything improves by the overwhelming aura of tolerance and justice. How could they exercise any power if, as you would desire, they didn’t have any to begin with? You clearly are pretty ignorant…

  5. Feckless liberals are always so concerned with their progressive futures that they never look at our past. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao….do these names mean nothing to you, Ali and J.H.? All of them were government leaders (and atheists, but that’s a different argument). Moral of the story? We cannot always trust government. Is it so wrong to want to take precautions? Stay armed. Stay free.

    • Is a “precaution” that causes the death of over 10,000 Americans annually really a precaution? What freedom do we protect by allowing death to grip so many? Learn to see tyranny in more than one color, and you will understand that a government with policies that cause its people to be killed is no different than one that kills them directly.

        • Heather, you are the most ridiculous internet person I have come across. I somewhat fail to see your point. I agree with you, government has killed an incredible amount of people. But does that fact somehow contradict the fact that gun killings would dramatically decrease if people didn’t have guns?

        • Heather, the argument you offer is invalid, but for perhaps different reasons than others have been arguing for

          Consider this: The United States has the third largest standing army in the world; it is first in terms of how many tanks and aircraft it has; and it has an excessive amount of nuclear power. Currently, drones are legally able to survey civilians in the United States, and, very controversially, may be used to kill Americans on U.S. soil if they are suspected of terrorism. People like to knock us Americans around a bit here since “we’re number 1” but we really shouldn’t doubt that the U.S. Government have an excessive amount of power at their disposal.

          The population being armed with weapons (even fully automatic firearms) is not really going to be a match against this military capacity if the U.S. were to fall into some hypothetical state of chaos. Other safegaurds exist in American policial structure to prevent the government from abusing its power or to prevent us from falling into a political climate where genocide or tyranny could happen. If you can offer a different reason for holding fire-arms other than protection from government (maybe defense from criminals who also hold fire-arms, use as a tool for recreational hunting, etc.) that might better suit your argument.

          P.S., I actually voted for Romney, so I don’t think I’m a “liberal robot”


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