Guns in America

Several times over the years I’ve blogged here about the uniquely American phenomenon of gun deaths. I have pointed out that throughout the world the ratio between guns and population predicts with singular accuracy the number of gun deaths in a society. We Americans have more guns per person than any other western democracy—we have more guns than people. And predictably, therefore, we have more gun deaths per capita.

According to Igor Volsky  at Guns Down America, 9,436+ Americans have already died from guns in 2021, a disproportionate number of Black and Brown people among them. We’ve had mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia withing the last month. According to the Los Angeles Times, the latter attack was the seventh mass killing this year in the U.S.

This morning I read of yet another mass killing. At least nine people are shot and two are dead following shootings in Virginia Beach, Virginia, last night.

Data I’ve recently come across supports the judgment that our lax gun controls are causing people to die. According to BradyPac, no background check is required for 40 percent of guns are sold or transferred in the U.S. And a loophole in our current background check system allowed a mass shooter in Charleston, South Carolina to purchase the gun that he used to take nine innocent lives.

The number of guns to gun-deaths ratio applies to localities within the U.S. States with fewer guns— California, Illinois, Iowa and much of the Northeast—have fewer guns and fewer gun deaths.

A bloc of legislators, mostly Republicans, have successfully stopped anti-gun legislation at various levels of government throughout the U.S. They are supported substantially by donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) which opposes any gun control. The main reason that members of Congress feel comfortable blocking gun control is that most Americans don’t feel strongly enough about the issue to change their votes because of it. If Americans stopped voting for opponents of gun control, gun-control laws would pass very quickly. In other words, the country’s level of gun violence is as high as it is because many Americans have decided that they are comfortable with it. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times put it, “Normal includes mass shootings. Take that in.”

So many Americans I’ve talked to believe that guns are an intrinsic part of American culture and therefore we should be allowed to have as many guns as we want. My judgment is that that argument is both foolish and fatal. Last year, 19,379 Americans died by gun shot. The numbers since the beginning of 2021 suggest that the number of gun deaths in 2021 will be much higher. Isn’t it time that we changed our thinking and saved lives?

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