The Problem is Guns

The problem is guns. Too lethal. Too many. Too easy to get. To claim the problem lies elsewhere is either a willful refusal to accept reality, or an attempt to shift blame due to individual political or cultural beliefs based on an America that no longer exists, if it ever did.

The gun violence death rate in the United States is 4.43 deaths per 100,000 people. With a current population of about 329 million people, that works out to 14,574 people per year dying due to gun violence. Or about 1 person every 36 minutes.

4.43 deaths per 100,000 people. To put that in perspective, Afghanistan’s rate is 3.96. Iraq’s is 3.54. More people die of gun violence in the United States than in Afghanistan and Iraq (excluding armed conflict casualties), two countries that have been unstable for decades.

More telling is the other extreme. Let’s look at other “civilized” countries. India, 0.73; Canada, 0.47; United Kingdom, 0.06; South Korea, 0.05; Japan, 0.04. We have ten times as many deaths by gun violence as Canada!

The gun-loving (gun-humping?) segment of the population, and their apologists, have spent the past few days theorizing the problem could be anything but guns. Video games. Mental health. Bad parenting.

No. The problem is guns.

Americans spend $110 per person on video games per year. Japan spend $150. South Korea spends $125. Both of their gun violence rates are more than 100 times lower than in the United States.

17% of Americans suffer from mental health or substance abuse disorders. Canada is at 15%. Japan 12%. South Korea 11%. If the U.S. had the same ratio of gun violence deaths to mental illness as South Korea, our gun violence death rate would be at .078, not 4.43.

Bad parenting? That argument contends that not only do American parents suck, but they suck ten times more than Canadian parents. So the self-proclaimed greatest country in the world has somehow sent men to the moon, invented the internet, and mapped the human genome all while having parents ten times worse than our closest country? Some people really believe that?

It’s nonsense.

There’s one relevant statistic in which the United States leads the rest of the world: number of guns. For every 100 people in the U.S. there are 120 guns. More than one gun per person! The next closest country is Yemen with 52.8.

With so many guns, and so few laws restricting who can get guns, it’s no surprise that a large number of guns end up in the wrong hands.

Yes, it’s true that a gun can’t kill people. But people with guns kill people. That’s why we give soldiers guns. We don’t send guns to war. We don’t send soldiers to war. We send soldiers with guns to war. And we do that because the gun is a killing machine. It only makes sense that the more killing machines in existence, the greater likelihood some of those killing machines are going to be used to kill other humans.

Guns are a stain on the United States. Until we do something to reduce the number of guns, and curb gun violence, we will never be as great as we could be.

But as we work to find a solution to America’s gun problem, we should be careful about from whom we seek advice, and whose ideas we consider. Organizations like the NRA, who do the bidding of gun manufacturers, while hiding behind the Second Amendment, and exploiting the vulnerable feelings of white males, are largely responsible for the problem. Their opposition to every single gun control measure is ridiculous. Had they embraced sensible restrictions decades ago we could have curbed the number of guns in this country, made sure ridiculously lethal guns and ammunition weren’t available, and prevented those guns from falling into the wrong hands.

Instead, the NRA has convinced an entire segment of the population that any gun control measure is unconstitutional, despite the Supreme Court ruling in the Heller case, in which Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

Thanks to organizations like the NRA, and spineless politicians who refuse to admit that the world is full of gray rather than the simple black and white they sell to their constituents, the toothpaste is already out of the tube when it comes to the number of guns in America. Cleaning up the mess is going to take the kind of bold, courageous action not usually associated with Congress.

But to do nothing is to admit that unfettered gun ownership is more important than 14,000 lives each year.

3,000 people died on 9/11, and the country spent trillions of dollars, passed hundreds of laws, and created a new cabinet-level department to make sure it never happened again.

Gun violence kills almost 5 times as many people as 9/11 every single year. Yet we do nothing.

The problem is guns.

But we can solve the problem.

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