By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
The United States continues to be peculiar in handing out powerful magazine-fed firearms to almost anyone who wants one and not requiring background checks on private purchases even if these are made at gun shows. 80% of civilian-owned firearms world-wide are in the US, and only Yemen vaguely competes with us for rates of firearm ownership; Yemen is a violent mess with Shiite insurgencies, al-Qaeda taking over cities from time to time, tribal feuding, southern separatism and US drone strikes. And even it has fewer guns per person than the USA.
It has gotten to the point where the increasing epidemic of mass shootings now threatens the US military, the most powerful military in the world. Reporters covering the San Bernadino shootings are saying that earlier criticism of the militarization of the US police was misplaced because they need military-style equipment to take on very well-armed domestic terrorists.
The US is downright weird compared to civilized Western Europe or Australia (which enacted gun control after a mass shooting in 1996 and there have been no further such incidents).
— Kieran Healy (@kjhealy) October 1, 2015
In 2013-2014 (the twelve months beginning in March), there were 29 fatalities from gun-related crimes in England and Wales (equivalent to 144 because UK is smaller than US).
Number of Murders by
Percentage of all Murders that were committed by firearms in US: 68%
Suicides in US 2013: 41,149
Gun Suicides in US, 2013: 21,175
Percentage of all murders in England and Wales that were committed by firearm: 5.4 percent.
Number of suicides in England and Wales, 2011: 4871 (equivalent to about 25,818 in US or 31% lower)
Number of suicides by firearam in England and Wales, 2011: 84
For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.
The US has the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest murder rate in the developed world.
It seems pretty clear, as well, that many US suicides would not occur if firearms were not omnipresent.
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There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):
In the case of Britain, firearms murders are 53 times fewer than in the US per capita. [Don’t bother with flawed citations of Switzerland or Israel, where most citizens are the equivalent of military reservists.]
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) December 2, 2015
Do hunters really need semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons? Is that how they roll in deer season? The US public doesn’t think so.
PS this is a revised version of an older column; if they keep refusing to legislate rationally and go on causing these massacres, I can keep writing a similar column.