October 9, 2017
By – Thomas Penney
The recent shooting in Las Vegas has been met with the usual responses. They include, but are not limited to, don’t politicize this tragedy, if we ban guns they’ll just find another way, and look how well gun control is working in Chicago. They get a lot of use, given that the United States has seen a mass shooting (more than one person shot in a given incident) on 273 separate occasions in 2017 alone.
Given that, it would not seem a far leap to think that the nation with one of the highest rates of gun ownership would put two and two together and realize that 265 million registered firearms is too many. That figure doesn’t even account for the number of unregistered firearms acquired through quasi-legal means like the internet and gun show loopholes. Gun ownership has become as American as car ownership.
So, the question is why. Why do American’s clamour to own guns in a way that other nations simply do not? To begin, let us look at what some gun owners say. Jason Pargin, better known as David Wong, formerly of Cracked.com said on the website’s flagship show, The Cracked Podcast that gun ownership is not about wanting to use them. The mentality is closer to that of people who buy classic cars with no intention of ever driving them regularly. He says that it is a kind of psychological comfort that gun owners get from owning them.
This presents an interesting situation. Pargin’s claims are demonstrably untrue, given the mass shooting statistics we cited earlier, and the fact that gun deaths are higher in the United States than any other developed country. Ten times more likely in fact. Americans own guns at a rate of roughly 112 per 100 people. That’s more guns than people. People do not own anything else in America at the rate they own guns. That is not a collection; that becomes an armoury.
There isn’t much of a cognitive leap to make here. People are inherently violent, both towards themselves and others. More guns lead to more death by guns. In May of last year, the Boston University Medical Journal found that among adult males, suicide rates increase 3.3 per 100,000 for each ten percent increase in gun ownership. Surely, you think, suicidal people will find an alternative method. That is in fact false. Australia has found, after its crackdown in the 1990’s on rapid-fire weapons, that suicide rates fell and never meaningfully increased again. The theory is, obviously, that lack of access to guns leads to a decrease in suicides. This is backed up by the findings of a 1978 study of suicide survivors. The researchers found that a staggering 94% of the people who were unsuccessful in their first attempt never tried again. The United Kingdom saw a similar decline in suicides after gas ovens were replaced by electric alternatives.
Similar statistics exist about homicides related to guns. After the crackdown, Australians became 72 percent less likely to not be killed by way of a firearm. What does this mean for America? That gun ownership is a danger to public health. There is no other way to describe the relationship between the two. Owning guns, and as many guns, as the US does, means more homicides, more suicides, and of course more shootings.
photo by Augustas Didžgalvis