Monday, December 31, 2012

More intriguing facts about guns

I did an update in April with some positive gun stats, but in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, and seeing tons of articles now floating around, I thought I'd revisit the topic. When things like this happen - as they do, on a regular basis - I invariably see several posts or comments from friends that run along the lines of "The world is a terrible place." It's hard to argue with that when a crazy man murders 20 schoolchildren, because it's demonstrably true. However, it's more viable to argue with the similar sentiments of, "The world is getting worse," or "Things are worse than they've ever been," or "What is the world coming to," which I also see commonly. Those ideas are demonstrably untrue. The world may be a terrible place, but there's a lot of evidence that it used to be even worse. Here a chart from Kieran Healy, Associate Professor at Duke:
It shows two clear things: America has a much higher rate of assault deaths than other comparable countries, and that rate has been declining in the past 30 years. This decline mirrors the stats I had listed in my previous blog post, that 1 in 5 Americans now owns a gun (down from 1 in 3 in 1980) and that there are now guns in 1 in 3 households (down from 1 in 2 in 1973.)

Besides that decline, what else is good news? Well, that other countries have learned what we Americans have not yet come to terms with. Specifically, the UK and Australia both had shooting incidents happen, passed stricter laws, and then saw shootings decline. Precipitously.

Noelle Stevenson, an artist I follow on Tumblr, reposted this (it cites many sources, which you can track back from that link):
"'On March 13, 1995, in the small Scottish town of Dunblane, a forty-three-year-old man, Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school with four handguns and opened fire, methodically killing sixteen children and one adult teacher before killing himself. The unprecedented massacre of children led, within two years, to legislation that imposed a total ban on the private ownership of handguns in the United Kingdom. Today, no one in the United Kingdom can privately own a handgun or a semiautomatic weapon. There was not much hand wringing or heated debate over this legislation. It was discussed, and enacted, with overwhelming public support, in response to the mood of national shame and grief over the killings.' The New Yorker, "Guns and the Limits of Shame" … The U.K. had 14 firearm-related murders last year; the U.S. … had 9,369. In 2008, the U.K. only had 68 gun deaths total … that includes suicide and accident. It was around 30,000 in the U.S.
Not only do we have overwhelming evidence at the national level that fewer guns leads to fewer deaths (not just gun deaths, but a lower rate overall), we also have that information at the state level. Simply put, states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence. You can see a lot of interesting charts about this in this Washington Post article.

What is the Secret Peace viewpoint on more gun control? It'll happen eventually in this country. I think more gun control makes sense, and it's an area where the U.S. embarrassingly lags behind other developed nations. However, there is a trade-off that we shouldn't ignore, as sacrificing some of our freedoms to have whatever guns we want means also giving up the freedom of the possibility of armed rebellion against a theoretically tyrannical government, which is what the Founders wrote the whole Second Amendment for. But I think at this point the trade-off would be well worth it. A government would have to be extremely tyrannical for a very long number of years to come close to killing as many of its citizens as guns have in the United States.

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