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What is America’s problem with guns?

Today, over thirty people will have been killed by gunshot in the US. That isn’t due to some mass shooting – the likes of which happen all too often – but a simple average. Last year, approximately 14,000 people were killed by gunshot, which amounts to around 38 people per day. From Sandy Hook to a poorly instructed nine year old – people in America die all too easily from guns. Another perhaps even more shocking statistic is that since Sandy Hook – December 14th 2012 – more people have been shot dead in the US than died in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pearl Harbor combined.
Yet the situation is more complex than that. One could easily say that if you take away the guns, the means to shoot people is removed, leading to fewer deaths. But things are sadly not that simple. While taking America’s guns away would likely contribute to a reduction in gun crime, the problem is more societal than that. One only has to draw comparisons with Europe to see why.
Switzerland and Iceland are two countries that have more guns than people, like the US. Every person in Switzerland goes through military service and receives a weapon that they then keep. Yet public shootings in Switzerland are incredibly low. In fact, only 0.52 people per 100,000 – think of this as one person in 200,000 – gets killed by a firearm in a homicide every year. The population of Switzerland, incidentally, is about eight million. The US, on the other hand, loses about 3.6 people per 100,000 – so seven people per 200,000. The population of the US, meanwhile, is about 315 million.
This isn’t counting suicides – which account for approximately twice as many deaths than homicide – unidentified deaths, or accidental ones. In fact, accidental deaths in the US per 100,000 are the same as the homicide rate in Iceland – 0.3 per 100,000. Iceland loses just a single person on average to gun violence every year from its population of about 325,000 – and as stated above, there are more guns than people in Iceland.
The problems that lead to so many deaths, then, must be greater than merely the presence of firearms. America has often been criticised for its attitude towards firearms: flippant and careless. The diner where the nine year old girl recently shot her shooting instructor – albeit accidentally – was called ‘Bullets n Burgers’. This is evidential of a disregard for the danger firearms can present. The presence of the Castle Doctrine – a law that permits homeowners to shoot and kill intruders – has contributed to many accidental deaths by firearm as people think a friend or relative in their home is actually an intruder. It has also been shown that owning a firearm puts your own family more at risk than anyone else.
One also must consider the actions of US law enforcement organisations, which have shot and killed over 5,000 people since 9/11 – just over 400 a year. Publicised cases like Ferguson are regrettably only drops in the ocean, as police shoot multiple people without need every month. Compared to other nations with armed police like Australia and Germany, who have not had 25 shootings in a year from police, this is astronomically large. In fact, the Los Angeles Police Department fired more bullets in 2013 than the entire German police force. Does crime in Los Angeles really necessitate such ‘legal’ violence?
The most compelling evidence, however, comes from the statistical evidence. A study called ‘The Geography of Gun Deaths’ performed statistical analysis of data on the background of all those who died from gun violence in America. The results demonstrate that those who suffer from the violence are typically those who are impoverished and among the poorest in the US. Detroit, for example, the first city in the US to declare bankruptcy, is also one of the cities with the highest rates of gun crime.
This data offers two conclusions as to what America’s problem with guns is. Firstly, the right wing, southern states – the ones that have the loosest gun laws – are generally the ones with the highest rates of gun crime. But this is also affected by the fact that these Southern states are also among the poorest – the more affluent, predominantly white, northern states suffer a lot less. Gun crime is evidently as much a societal issue as a political one. Removing guns from the USA will not resolve the problem entirely – the complete solution lies in the emancipation of the working classes and the relief of those in poverty.

30/09/2014

About Author

oliverhughes Aspiring writer and accidental journalist Oliver is an English Literature student usually found making bitter remarks about society, people, and the world in general. Still adjusting to the dark media hub from his previous position atop a golden throne as president of the Creative Writing Society. Locally renowned as a music snob but still has no shame in singing ‘Call Me Maybe’ at the LCR.



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