Today there was a massacre in the USA, but it won’t be reported on the evening news. There will be no candle lit vigil, no minute’s silence, no lowering of the flag to half-mast. The fact is today is no different from any other day. More than eighty four people are killed by guns in the USA every single day; that’s seven times the death toll of the shootings at the cinema in Aurora, and fourteen times the number shot and killed at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin two weeks later. While these two events received extensive media coverage, gun related deaths are so common in the States that they have become “just one of those things”- tragic, but supposedly unavoidable.

It is estimated that there are approximately 11,000 murders (of a total 31,000 deaths) by firearms per year in the US, compared with just 68 in the UK. Even when population size is accounted for, the number of gun related murders in the US is 40x higher. Whilst we may like to kid ourselves that this difference is down to the fact that we’re calmer, less violent and more sweet natured than our American counterparts, the real reason is pretty obvious: the difference in the law. For two people with the same intention the availability of weapons makes all the difference; it would’ve taken considerably more effort for Colonel Mustard to kill Dr. Black with the candlestick in the kitchen than it did Miss Scarlett with the revolver. The accessibility of arms also makes crimes of passion that much more dangerous; depending on which side of the pond you live on, getting into a heated argument with your spouse could mean the difference between getting hit with a plate or a bullet.

Another facet of the debate which has largely been ignored by the media in the aftermath of the recent shootings is the high number of people who don’t use guns to kill others, but instead to kill themselves. According to a 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 55% of gun related deaths in the U.S. are actually suicides. No, you didn’t read that figure incorrectly. I too had to check, double, triple and quadruple check the sources; 55% of people killed by guns in the United States of America did it to themselves, whether intentionally or not. A common argument peddled by pro-gun activists is that, without guns, people would just find other ways of taking their own lives. Pardon the pun but this theory is easily shot down when you compare the statistics: over 90% of attempted suicides involving guns are successful, while only 34% of jumps from high places and only 2% of drug overdoses end in fatalities.

You’d think that the mass shootings such as those in Aurora would make a nation re-evaluate its relationship with weapons, and it did, but not in the way you’d expect. In the week after the shootings applications for the background checks needed to buy a gun legally rose by 43% in Colorado, the state where the incident took place. Gun sales in Washington, Florida, California and Georgia also soared, with residents fearing that tougher legislation would be put in place. It seems Americans needn’t be so worried though as the response from politicians and lawmakers has been fairly feeble; President Obama has called for more thorough background checks to regulate gun sales to “mentally unbalanced individuals” however, he also stated that updating legislation to impose tighter restrictions would not be on the agenda. Even if it was, it is unlikely that such amendments would go through in the presence of powerful lobbies such as the National Rifle Association not to mention the millions of Americans who see the right to bear arms as their constitutional right enshrined in the second amendment. The response from Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was equally flimsy with the politician saying that he did not believe America needed any new gun laws either.

There is by no means a clear solution to the gun crisis in the States, but the worst thing that the Americans can do is nothing. To put it into perspective there were more than 31,000 gun related deaths in a single year in the U.S. – that’s more than the number of students there are on the University Park, Jubilee, Sutton Bonington and Kings Meadow campuses combined. Burying their heads in the sand, many Americans believe that carrying a gun actually makes you safer, but the simple fact is, just like if you carry a knife you’re more likely to get stabbed, if you carry a gun you’re more likely to get shot.

Ramsha Jamal

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  1. Rob
    August 24, 2012 at 09:14 — Reply

    Here’s the opportunity you missed because of your slant: “Another facet of the debate which has largely been ignored by the media in the aftermath of the recent shootings is the high number of [American gun owners] who don’t use guns to kill others.”

  2. Spencer60
    August 24, 2012 at 13:18 — Reply

    This article is seriously flawed in several ways.

    First of all, you are looking at the wrong statistics.

    Trying to pass off ‘gun deaths’ as a useful metric is a cheap ploy used by the gun control industry on a daily basis.

    Of course there will be fewer ‘gun deaths’ in the UK. The government confiscated all privately owned firearms (although I’m guessing most of the criminals didn’t turn theirs in).

    Firearms are used far more often to prevent violent crime than they are to cause it.

    The US Dept of Justice estimated that firearms were used defensively at least 800,000 times a year in the US.

    The high estimate was over 3 million times a year, with well over 99% not requiring any shots to be fired.

    The author mentions 80 deaths a day in the US, but fails to mention that the vast majority (about 80%) are justifiable homicides.

    Justifiable homicides are either police or armed citizens using a legal firearm to protect themselves from a deadly attack.

    Instead of these junk statistics, you need to be comparing overall rates of violent crime in the two countries.

    What you will find is that Britain, with a about 20% of the population of the US has about 50% of the overall crime level of the US.

    That is, on a per capita basis, the UK has an overall crime rate almost 5 times that of the US.

    Let’s narrow it down to violent crimes…

    If you look at the number of assault victims in each country, you’ll find that in the UK you are twice as likely to be assaulted than in the US.

    Why? Well for one thing, thugs in the UK don’t have to worry about armed victims resisting.

    Since confiscating its citizens firearms, the UK has seen violent crime increase several-fold.

    As for the last authors last statement, carrying a legal firearm doesn’t make you ‘safer’, anymore than having a fire extinguisher in your car makes you ‘safer’.

    Safety is based on the overall standards of a society, and a lot of luck.

    Being prepared for contingencies is a different matter.

    A fire extinguisher allows you to try and contain a fire until the fire department arrives.

    A firearm allows you try do the same. It gives you the additional option to resist an armed attacker in a meaningful way.

    Look at the recent mass killings around the world. A single, legally armed citizen could have stopped any one of those.

    The disarmed victims that were there however… All they could do was die.

  3. Montana Libertarian
    August 24, 2012 at 14:10 — Reply

    The lamentations of our American gun culture voiced by those in other nations never ceases to amaze me.

    In 1775 the Brits marched on the American villages of Lexington and Concord, intending to seize the arms of the Americans; unarmed colonials, they knew, would be much easier to dominate, regulate and control. The Brits failed that day. They were met with deadly gunfire and repulsed, suffering significant casualties. The ensuing conflict, a very bloody shooting war, went on for eight years.

    We threw off the British yoke in a violent, armed revolution. Our birth as a nation, and therefore our national culture, was midwifed by ordinary men with their own, personal firearms in their hands. One of them was a forefather of mine.

    Those men then established a nation where the citizens are sovereign, not the government. The sovereign authority in any nation holds ultimate power, and that power must, of necessity, include the power of deadly force. The government must be subservient to us. The reverse cannot be tolerated. We will not allow the government to assert a monopoly on deadly force.

    In a nation of 312 million, tragic incidents orchestrated by severely deranged and exceptionally rare individuals will inevitably occur more often than would be the case in a nation of lesser population. That cost would have to be born in any case. We will not surrender our sovereignty on account of it.

    Our sovereignty is truly dependent on our inherent right to possess and bear arms.

  4. Joe
    August 24, 2012 at 20:09 — Reply

    Ah, the usual deception and distortion by the gun control crowd.

    The UK’s violent crime rate is ~4x higher than the US.

    People have been killing people long before guns were invented. Guns are the equalizer. Gun control disarms only the law abiding and serves them as sheep for the slaughter.

  5. Hmmm
    August 26, 2012 at 18:48 — Reply

    1) Montana Libertarian. If you believe that the private citizens of the USA could match the firepower of the government, you’re deranged. There is no way on Earth that this idealized myth of ordinary Americans being able to hold their gov to account through firearms could ever happen today. Maybe in 1776 the citizens could plausibly defend themselves against the US military, but that time has long gone. There’s something hilariously ironic in the idea that gun advocates, people who are generally GOP voters and who also affirm such high military spending, have made their second amendment essentially useless today thanks to such high military spending making it a futile gesture. In short, you wouldn’t stand a chance.

    2) There is also a problem with this idea that guns are equalizers. The problem is the Aurora case, a case in which a gun in the hands of a good citizen would have made no difference whatsoever. The gunman was wearing full body armour. What’s the solution to this? The perpetrator of a massacre will always have advanced knowledge of said massacre, and therefore be able to plan – body armour etc. The people who happen to be there at the time do not have this prior warning to get suited up. The ‘gun in the right hands’ concept therefore does not apply. Unless it extends to body armour in the right hands, in which case enjoy walking around in full kevlar, you free free citizens.

    3) Really, the main problem is that a large portion of American society needs to just grow up, put down the Ayn Rand, and believing you’re Clint Eastwood. A man isn’t an island, you don’t always know what the fuck you’re talking about, and libertarianism, as essentially anarcho-capitalism with a shiny new face so that idiot Ron Paul supporters entertain it as an idea, is the silliest, most shallow, fo-college radicalism there is. Come on guys, let’s put down the guns, stop being so insecure regarding your masculinity, and work together. It’s nice.

  6. J
    August 27, 2012 at 13:23 — Reply


    3) Wow, bordering on poetry.

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