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?