Following the horrific event at Sandy Hook elementary school, everyone seems to have an opinion on how to reduce gun violence. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have different “facts” as evidenced by Gari Basham’s letter “Wherever gun laws are most strict, armed crime rates are highest.”
There is simply no proof to support Basham’s claim.
According to FBI statistics for 2011, Louisiana, which has liberal gun laws, is the state with the highest rate of gun violence (10.16 gun murders per 100,000 people). On the other hand, Hawaii, with strict gun laws, has one of the lowest rates (0.07 gun murders per 100,000). And Illinois, which has the nation’s strictest gun laws, has a gun murder rate of 2.93 while Arizona has a gun murder rate of 3.53.
Studies by the National Research Council have shown that areas with a higher prevalance of guns have more gun homicides and more homicides in general. And the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has concluded that studies are “quite consistent … where there are higher levels of gun prevalence, homicide rates are substantially higher, primarily due to higher firearm homicide rates.”
This would seem to be supported by the fact that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world with 88.8 guns for every 100 people. (By comparison, Yemen ranks second with 54.8 per 100 and Switzerland is third with 45.7 guns per 100.) The U.S. also has the highest rate of gun homicides among advanced countries.
The impact of movies and video games on gun violence is less clear. Citizens of most advanced countries are exposed to many of the same movies and violent video games as our own citizens yet they are not motivated to commit gun violence.
As for the NRA belief that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the evidence seems to prove otherwise.
Columbine High had an armed resource officer. Virginia Tech University had an armed police force. At Fort Hood, the shooter was able to fire 214 rounds, killing 13 people and wounding 29 more despite on-base armed security. In Tucson, the shooter fired 33 rounds in 45 seconds and the lone person to arrive at the scene with a gun actually threatened to shoot those who had already disarmed him. In Aurora and Newtown the shooters wore body armor making it unlikely that anyone with a gun would have been able to stop them unless similarly equipped.
Certainly, the Second Amendment gives people the right to own arms. To many of us, the question is what kind of arms? We long ago made it illegal for the general public to own fully-automatic guns and other weapons such as hand grenades. Is it really so onerous to ban the sale of semi-automatic “tactical” rifles and large capacity magazines in the interest of public safety?
According to a recent Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans support President Obama’s proposals to end gun violence. That would hardly support Basham’s accusation that Obama is an “instransigent dictator.” Even a majority of NRA members support some of the president’s recommended measures.
Whether or not you support President Obama’s proposals, if we’re ever to solve gun violence, we must be able to debate the issues calmly and rationally. Perpetuating false information and finger-pointing only makes finding solutions more difficult.