The U.S and Firearms

Every year, between 36,000 and 40,175 Americans are killed by guns (depending on which statistics one accepts), an average of at least one hundred a day. Thirty-seven percent of U.S households own one or more firearms. Among western democracies, we lead the world in gun ownership and deaths per capita.

I compared us to our northern neighbor, Canada, and our ally, the UK in rates of gun ownership and deaths. The estimated number of civilian firearms per 100 people for the UK is 8.3. The number for Canada is 34.7. For the U.S., it’s 120.5—in the U.S., we have more guns than people. Guns deaths per 100,000 people in the UK is .23. In Canada, it’s 2.00. The U.S.? 12.21.

The consistent ratio between gun ownership and gun deaths holds throughout the world—the more guns, the more people who die by guns. To reduce the number of gun deaths in our country, we must reduce the number of guns.

Defenders of the U.S. gun culture argue that the Second Amendment to the Constitution enshrines the right of Americans to own firearms. That amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” My reading of that text is that the right to keep and bear arms is contingent on the needs for a militia. I don’t believe the original drafters intended to grant gun ownership to any and all with no limits.

Gun culture supporters argue that firearms have always been part of American daily life, ever since we required them on our own frontier in pioneer days. My answer is that it’s time we change our culture. Better that than losing 40,000 lives every year to gunfire.

4 thoughts on “The U.S and Firearms”

  1. Tom, I agree with you that there are far too many guns in the United States, and I cannot understand why anyone should need a high-capacity semi-automatic weapon or armor-piercing ammunition. I do, however, question some of your statistics. In 2017 there were 23,854 gun related suicides in the United States, 14,542 homicides by gun, 486 accidental gun deaths, 553 fatal shootings by law enforcement, and 338 other gun deaths of an undetermined nature. Fully a quarter of murders did not involve a firearm nor did half of the suicides. The easy availability of firearms here undoubtedly contributes to one’s choice of how to murder or commit suicide. I know that firearm deaths in western European countries are far rarer than here, but I do not know how other statistical indices compare. Perhaps, after all their organized bloodletting in the 20th Century, they are ready to give the grim reaper a rest.

    Sad to say, the nation’s blacks, though only 13% of the population, commit almost half of all homicides. That skews stats for the rest of the population. Some of our mid-western states have murder rates not that much different from their European cousins. I do not blame the blacks for this situation. 245 years of chattel slavery followed by suppression and segregation have created chaos in the Black community, and the rest of us are now paying the penalty for our sins.

    As for the gun problem, It would be great to reduce the number of guns on the streets, but I cannot conceive of a practical way to do that over the short term. Can you?




    1. Sandy, the important ratio in the question of gun deaths is that which shows, in every country on earth, that the more guns there are, the more gun deaths there are. The only way for for us to reduce the number of deaths we suffer from firearms is to reduce the number of firearms in the U.S.


      1. Tom, your analysis is probably correct. The more guns, the more death by guns. Given the incredible number of firearms in the United States, how do we go about significantly reducing that number?


  2. We ban assault weapons, require red flag laws, ban weapons that fire great quantities of ammo, insist on gun licenses, limit sales to one firearm per family, and ultimately ban weapon sales except for specified purposes (e.g., hunting). For a model of how to do it, all we have to do is look at the U.K. and Canada.


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