Nel's New Day

December 5, 2015

‘Seasonal’ Facts about Guns in the U.S.

‘Tis the season for more mass shootings although they seem to fit into every season. Although conservatives cut off funding for tracking gun violence several years ago, Mass Tracker is watching the prevalence of mass shootings, defined as a single shooting which kills or injures four or more people, including the assailant.

The killing spree in San Bernardino was the 353th mass shooting in 2015 on the 336th day of the year. At least 20 days of 2015 had four or more mass shootings in a single day.

shooting calendar

Sixty-two of these 353 shootings were at schools, bringing the total to 161 in the three years since the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre on December 14, 2012.

Overall, 12,223 people have been killed in gun “incidents”—not counting suicides and “accidental shootings”–this year in the U.S. Another 24,722 people have been deliberately injured by guns.

The number of per capita gun murders in the US in 2012–the most recent year for comparable statistics–was almost 30 times that in the UK, at 2.9 per 100,000 compared with just 0.1. Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK.

More people died from gunfire in the U.S. since 1968 than in all the wars fought by the U.S. The 1,516,863 gun-related deaths in that time period are nine percent more than the 1,396,733 million U.S. deaths in every conflict between the Revolutionary War and the Iraq war.

The number of deaths in mass shootings is up from last year, currently 447 people compared to the 383 people who died from gun violence in 2014. The number of injured has also gone up from 1,239 to 1,292—and the year isn’t over yet.

This year saw fewer days between mass shootings that killed at least four people. On average these occurred every 200 days between 1982 and 2011, increasing to 64 days.

At least half of the 12 deadliest shootings in the U.S. happened in the last eight years.

Five percent of the global population lives in the United States, but 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings occurs in this nation.

The U.S. has 4.4% of the world’s population, but 42% of civilian-owned guns.

States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence, and areas with more guns have more homicides. States with the lowest death rates from firearms–Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Hawaii—are the same states with the most restrictive laws. Death rate of 2.6 per 100,000 residents in Massachusetts is almost eight times less than the death rate from gun violence in Alaska. Other states without gun restrictions—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Wyoming—also have the highest number of gun deaths.

The United States spends more than a trillion dollars per year defending itself against terrorism which killed an average of 31 people a year between 2002 and 2011. During the same time, an average of 11,385 people died in the U.S. from gun “incidents” not related to suicides and “accidents.”

Australia took steps almost two decades ago to stem gun violence and now takes notice of the growing problem in the United States. Tim Fischer, former prime minister, is calling for travel warnings to the United States because of the increasing gun violence in the U.S. Australia’s firearm mortality rate is one per 100,000, ten times less that the U.S. statistic of 10 per 100,000.

A 1996 mass shooting in Australia that killed 35 people turned around the country’s gun legislation. The conservative-run government ran a mandatory buyback of 700,000 newly illegal guns and passed other laws controlling the purchase and ownership of guns and ammunition. People are prohibited from private sales, and each gun must be registered to its owner for a “genuine reason.” Self-defense is not one of those reasons. A person can be refused a license because of “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.”  Gun license applicants are required to take a safety course before owning a gun. New measures banned the sale and possession of all automatic and semiautomatic rifles and pump shotguns as well as making storage and inspection requirements. Laws created a 28-day waiting period gun purchases and a national gun registry.

Results of change in legislation:

  • Intentional gun deaths dropped by half in the first decade while the population increased by 14 percent.
  • During the following 11 years, gun related homicides dropped 59 percent with no increase in any other homicide related deaths.
  • In 2013, the 200 gun-related deaths, a rate of .87 per 100,000 people, was almost one-third of the 2.71 deaths per 100,000 residents in 1996 before the laws took effect.
  • Suicides fell 65 percent.
  • In the homicide rate of 1.1 per 100,000 in 2012, only ten percent involved a gun—below 50 victims annually during the past decade. Adjusting by population, that would mean about 750 victims in the U.S. instead of the existing 12,223 thus far this year. The U.S. rate of homicides is about four times that of Australia at 4.5 per 100,000.
  • Robberies occur at half the rate of the U.S. (58 compared to our country’s 113.1 per 100,000 in 2012). There has been no increase in home invasion.

Before the new legislation, Australia had 11 mass shootings killing at least five people each in the prior ten years; since the laws were enacted, Australia has had not one mass shooting like those.

People opposing gun restrictions in the U.S. take pride in their rugged individualism. This philosophy, however, is very similar to the Australian culture that also expounds “freedom and liberty.” The conservative man behind the shift in gun laws, then Prime Minister John Howard, was a good friend of George W. Bush, but he spoke up after the mass shooting in Aurora (CO) which left 12 dead and 70 injured:

“The Second Amendment, crafted in the immediate post-revolutionary years, is more than 200 years old and was designed to protect the right of local communities to raise and maintain militia for use against external threats (including the newly formed national government!). It bears no relationship at all to the circumstances of everyday life in America today. Yet there is a near religious fervour about protecting the right of Americans to have their guns—and plenty of them. It remains to be seen … how much carnage a society is willing to take.”

Even President Ronald Reagan supported gun restrictions.

After a mass shooting in the UK killing 18 people, including 16 children, a conservative party member decided that they must “take this as a warning that we are becoming like America and act before it is too late.” Gun-related offenses had surged in the early 2000s, but new laws began seven years of successive drops in gun crimes.

People need guns to be safe, cry the NRA supporters. The victim did not use a gun for defense in 99.2% of violent crimes in a country with 357 million guns in civilian hands, a 50-percent increase in the past two decades. And that’s just a guess because the government is not allowed to keep records.

An Atlanta study of 198 cases of unwanted entry into occupied single-family dwellings found that the invader was twice as likely to obtain the victim’s gun than to have the victim use a firearm in self-defense.

Conservatives claim that they want to control killings by reforming mental illness. In Germany, people under 25 who want to buy a gun must pass a psychiatric evaluation. Conservatives claim that it’s too easy for criminals to get guns—and they are right because many criminals purchase guns. In Italy, people wanting to possess a gun must pass a background check considering both criminal and mental health records. Conservatives reject these laws.

Australia was may have been successful in reducing gun violence not only because of the change in the laws but also because of a shift in culture. When the people acted on their shock of the Port Arthur massacre, they removed the ready availability of guns, and mentally troubled people were not constantly told that guns are the best way to address any grievances, whether against other people, organizations, or the government.

The U.S. culture rewards the man who killed people at Planned Parenthood because of the constant attention to false videos. Even so-called Muslim terrorists are following the U.S. culture that keeps guns in order to overturn the U.S. government. If Christians believe this, why shouldn’t Muslims? People–mostly males and mostly white–parade their guns, not for safety but as a demonstration that their “freedom” is far more important than human lives.

Research shows that gun restrictions save lives. The Constitution places limits on all rights when they threaten others—religion doesn’t allow human sacrifice, and free speech doesn’t permit incitement, conspiracy, and libel. The Supreme Court has declared that government can put reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. In all other areas, people in the U.S. are willing to exchange “pure” freedom for safety; guy ownership should be no different.

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