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A rant (kind of)

I was going to conclude my first attempt at flying story today but I have been sidetracked by a comment on Karmyn’s blog. The comment was in reference to a post Karmyn wrote about her son getting his first gun. Just a second, I’ll go get it for you… Ok, in part it said "Look at societies that have outlawed use or ownership of guns.  They have greater problems with guns than we do."

Now I stress that this almost rant is not about the gun debate, for the simple reason that it’s your decision (not mention your right) as to whether you own a gun or not. I’m fine with that and I would never try to change anyone’s mind either way. We in Australia have a completely different mindset to the people in America (not better or worse, just different), and what works for us probably wouldn’t work for them. Bear in mind that we never had a war of independence or a civil war.

What I do have a problem with however, is the number of times I see the statement "Look at societies that have outlawed use or ownership of guns.  They have greater problems with guns than we do." used as a justification for allowing unfettered access to guns. Not only is it factually incorrect, but there are plenty of valid arguments that could be put forward, all of which are better than "they have gun control and they’re worse than us". To make such a statement is not only ill informed, it is offensive to those of us who live in countries with strict gun controls, and are proud of our low gun death statistics.

So that you don’t have to go googling to see what the statistics are, below is a cut and paste of the Centre for Disease Control (bizarrely, this is the Gov. agency vested with responsibility) report on the matter:

Gun Deaths – United States Tops The

The United States leads the world’s richest nations in
gun deaths — murders, suicides, and accidental deaths due
to guns – according to a study published April 17, 1998 by
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the
International Journal of Epidemiology.

The U.S. was first at 14.24 gun deaths per 100,000
people. Two other countries in the Americas came next.
Brazil was second with 12.95, followed by Mexico with

Japan had the lowest rate, at 0.05 gun deaths per
100,000 (1 per 2 million people). The police in Japan
actively raid homes of those suspected of having

The 36 countries in the study were the richest in the
World Bank’s 1994 World Development Report, having the
highest GNP per capita income.

The United States accounted for 45 percent of the 88,649
gun deaths reported in the study, the first comprehensive
international scrutiny of gun-related deaths.

The gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in 1994 by
country were as follows:

  • U.S.A. 14.24
  • Brazil 12.95
  • Mexico 12.69
  • Estonia 12.26
  • Argentina 8.93
  • Northern Ireland 6.63
  • Finland 6.46
  • Switzerland 5.31
  • France 5.15
  • Canada 4.31
  • Norway 3.82
  • Austria 3.70
  • Portugal 3.20
  • Israel 2.91
  • Belgium 2.90
  • Australia 2.65
  • Slovenia 2.60
  • Italy 2.44
  • New Zealand 2.38
  • Denmark 2.09
  • Sweden 1.92
  • Kuwait 1.84
  • Greece 1.29
  • Germany 1.24
  • Hungary 1.11
  • Ireland 0.97
  • Spain 0.78
  • Netherlands 0.70
  • Scotland 0.54
  • England and Wales 0.41
  • Taiwan 0.37
  • Singapore 0.21
  • Mauritius 0.19
  • Hong Kong 0.14
  • South Korea 0.12
  • Japan 0.05

I’m not asking that anyone change their views on gun ownership, as I said it’s your business, I’m just asking that you leave us out of the argument. Incidentally, I’m pretty sure all except the top 5 on that list have stricter gun controls than America, but I know the ones I’ve highlighted do.

The Full article from MedicineNet.com
An interesting and dispassionate article from the Harvard Magazine.

Once again I stress I’m not putting forward an opinion one way or the other, it’s simply not my business. I also accept that there would be well written, valid articles out there that  would be contra to the ones I linked to, it’s just that these links give insight into why I think the way I do. However I have no interest in trying to change the way you think.


30 Responses

  1. WT, thank you for the informative post. I missed Karmyn’s original post. Mention guns (even quietly and dispassionately) in the US, and a you elict a maelstrom of responses. Even though you are not trying to change our minds about the issue of gun control, I cannot help but think if people thought about your statistics that minds would be changed. However, I know better.

  2. Thought provoking post. I am appalled at the rate at which gun crime in the UK is rising. I grew up in the country where all the lads had pellet guns (shooting rabbits back in the 50’s was encouraged). I always felt this was OK as kids were taught to respect guns. I think I would like to see tougher laws here because I feel it’s beginning to get out of hand. However I also realise that most licenced gun holders are responsible and its the illegal guns that are the main problem and so stricter laws will not prevent this. Not sure what the answer is!

  3. In reference to chrisb I’m always curious about the lack of statistics quoted around the statement that, to paraphrase it, it is the illegal guns that kill the most.

    Here in the US it’s said quite often, but never with a shred of supporting evidence, merely repeated with passionate fervor. Perhaps there is evidence to support it in the UK?

    When I hear it said here, I dismiss the statement as ‘religious’ – more about the determination to believe than about facts. When everyone legally has a weapon, you have to believe that your own weapon won’t be a killer.

  4. Very well said, WT.

  5. Wow, I had no idea one little picture of a child with his first bb-gun would receive a comment like that. I have 3 boys, we have had bb-guns in our house yet none of us own any real guns. . . well, ok my dad has one but he was a police officer for some years.

    I just don’t see bb-guns and scary guns in the same group, but then again i’m wierd.

    Thanx for all your research on the info. I always figured what you said was true, but never took the time to look.

  6. I really like that last article. I wish that some of the changes that were discussed in that article would become reality here in the US.
    I knew a kid in my hometown that was killed by another kid that thought his dad’s gun wasn’t loaded.

    This was a great informative post,thank you WT!
    It just makes me sad as I am afraid that the US will never see the changes in gun restrictions/laws that it needs.

  7. It’s always impressive to me when someone can take a subject this emotionally charged and present the facts in an objective manner. Very nice job, willowtree, far better than most could or would do.

    As an ICU trauma nurse in a metropolitan area for two years I have no objectiivty about guns whatsoever. The US has a real problem on its hands.

  8. I would be interested in a study that included
    GUNS per Capita
    Guns deaths per Capita

    That would NOT make any death by a gun more acceptable, but it might indicate the percentage of people who own guns responsibly.

    Unfortunately the right to bear arms was given before anyone ever realized how out of control people would become. drugs, insanity, etc. World is a different place.

  9. I agree, well-written, insightful, informative. I learned alot. Thanks!

  10. I missed Karmyn’s original post, and by the time I read it the comments were too hot for me.

    My husband grew up around guns; I didn’t. No one I grew up with or am related to has ever been shot. My husband has seen four people get killed, and witnessed his cousin sustain permenant brain damage from being shot in the head. Say what you want about the right to bear arms -that bullet didn’t come from a musket c. 1776, and his cousin sure would be able to function better if he didn’t have a bullet from a semi-automatic lodged in his brain.

    There are other, deeper sociological reasons why he’s seen more gun violence than I have, but I’m just referring to the availability of guns in the US. As I think you laid out pretty clearly with those stats, more guns = more dead people.

    I know you only presented facts here – I’m responsible for the opinion in my comment.

  11. Thank you, WT, for the interesting post. I’ve seen those statistics before, and it can be quite scary. I’ve seen both sides of the issue, living in both Canada and the U.S. Here in the south, lots of folks have guns, and you’re strange if you don’t own one. Up in Canada, the only people I knew that had guns usually had rifles for hunting. My uncle, though, hunted with a bow. I guess I’ve just always thought that if you need 30 rounds of ammo to kill a deer, you might want to take up fishing.

  12. Just flying by and can’t begin to read all the sadistics on this. All I wanted to say was thanks for the visits during my sick week. Am headed back to bed.

  13. Woohoo! USA! USA! We’re number one! We’re number one!

  14. CaptainSmack – Now that’s what I like to see! A positive attitude!

    Pamela – Ask and you shall receive. Ownership per capita vs deaths

  15. Go, WT, Go! That was a good one.

  16. egads… how about a chart ha ha haa.

    That is a hard read.
    I only saw stats on US ???

  17. Pamela – You asked for “a study that included GUNS per Capita and Guns deaths per Capita”. That’s what the report is. You didn’t mention other countries. There may be something out there that is what you’re looking for, you’ll know it when you find it.

  18. ya know i pretty much agree with most of what your sayin…and i admire that you can put it out there that way without being well ya know anyway what i think is intersting is that i don’t believe some of the countries with stats that would match or even excede the u.s. are listed. and even if they weren’t i don’t think they would list it honestly… no im not picking a fight honest just a thought. im trying to think of the specific country that im thinking about it’s in africa i think.. anyway that was an excellant post WT

  19. You know I disagree with you on this subject, but I’m sure you’d be disappointed if I didn’t throw SOMETHING into the ring.

    I got this email today:

    (A) The number of doctors in the U.S. Is 700,000
    (B) Accidental deaths caused by physicians per year are 120,000
    (C) Accidental deaths per physician is 17.14%
    Statistics courtesy of the U.S. Dept. Of Health & Human Services

    (A) The number of gun owners in the U.S. Is 80,000,000 (yes that’s 80million)
    (B) The number of accidental gun deaths per year, ll age groups, is 1,500
    (C) The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.001875% Statistics courtesy of the FBI

    So statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.
    Remember, guns don’t kill people, doctors do.


    Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!

    Out of concern for the public at large, I have withheld statistics on lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention.

    (I couldn’t verify the numbers anywhere, but it’s probably more accurate than not.)

    Some numbers that were verified:

    Firearm Safety In America 2007

    The number of privately owned guns in the U.S. is at an all-time high, and rises by about 4.5 million per year.1 Meanwhile, the nation’s violent crime rate has decreased 38% since 1991 and is now near a 30-year low.2 Below, statistics from 1981 forward are from the National Center for Health Statistics,3 while those prior to 1981 are from the National Safety Council.4 The NCHS’ annual numbers, rates and trends of common accidents and selected other causes of death, for the U.S., each state, and the District of Columbia, are available on the NRA-ILA website in spreadsheet format.5

    • Firearm accident deaths have been decreasing for decades. Since 1930, their annual number has decreased 80%, while the U.S. population has more than doubled and the number of firearms has quintupled. Among children, such deaths have decreased 89% since 1975.

    • Firearm accident deaths are at an all-time annual low, nationally and among children, while the U.S. population is at an all-time high. In 2004, there were 649 such deaths nationally, including 63 among children. Today, the odds are a million to one against a child in the U.S. dying from a firearm accident.

    • The firearm accident death rate is at an all-time annual low, 0.2 per 100,000 population, down 94% since the all-time high in 1904.

    • Firearms are involved in 0.6% of accidental deaths nationally. Most accidental deaths involve, or are due to, motor vehicles (39%), poisoning (18%), falls (16%), suffocation (5%), drowning (3%), fires (3%), medical mistakes (2%), environmental factors (1%), and bicycles and tricycles (1%). Among children: motor vehicles (45%), suffocation (18%), drowning (14%), fires (9%), bicycles and tricycles (2%), poisoning (2%), falls (2%), environmental factors (2%), and medical mistakes (1%).

    Education decreases accidents. Voluntary firearms safety training, not government intrusion, has decreased firearms accidents. NRA firearm safety programs are conducted by more than 51,000 NRA Certified Instructors nationwide. Youngsters learn firearm safety in NRA programs offered through civic groups such as the Boy Scouts, Jaycees, the American Legion, and schools.6 NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe® program teaches children pre-K through 6th grade that if they see a firearm without supervision, they should “STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave The Area. Tell An Adult.” Since 1988, the program has been used by 25,000 schools, civic groups, and law enforcement agencies to reach more than 20 million children.7

    Anti-gunners’ lies about children and guns. Brady Campaign’s then-president, Michael Barnes, and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) claimed that 12 children die from gun accidents every day. President Bill Clinton campaigned for so-called “triggerlock” and “smart” gun laws, and likely 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have claimed that 13 children are killed with guns every day. The HELP (Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan) Network (which is dedicated to “changing society’s attitude toward guns so that it becomes socially unacceptable for private citizens to have handguns”) put the figure at “an average of 9 children” daily. Other “gun control” advocates have varyingly claimed 14 per day (or 5,000 yearly or one every 90 seconds). Some count anyone under the age of 24 as a “child,” to get even higher numbers.9 In fact, on average there is one firearm-related death among children per day, including one accidental death every 6.5 days. Anti-gunners add the relatively small number of firearm-related deaths among children to the much larger number of deaths among juveniles and young adults, and dishonestly call the total “children.”

    “Gun control” supporters point to a study claiming that so-called “Child Access Prevention” (CAP) laws (which make it a crime, under some circumstances, to leave a gun accessible to a child who obtains and misuses it), imposed in 12 states between 1989-1993, decreased fatal firearm accidents among children.10 The study was produced by people from the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, a group active in the HELP Network. The study’s flaws: Firearm accident deaths among children began declining in the mid-1970s, not in 1989, when “CAP” laws were first imposed. Also, such accidents have decreased nationwide, not only in “CAP” states. And, also in 1989, NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program® was introduced nationwide.

    1. See BATFE, “Annual Firearm Manufacturers and Export Reports” (www.atf.gov/firearms/stats/index.htm).

    2. FBI, Crime in the United States 2005 (www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/) and BJS (http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline/).

    3. See http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars or wonder.cdc.gov.

    4. Available at http://www.nsc.org/.

    5. See http://www.nraila.org/Issues .

    6. For more on NRA training programs, visit http://www.nrahq.org (click “Education and Training”) or call 703-267-1500.

    7. For more on the Eddie Eagle program, visit http://www.nrahq.org/safety/eddie/ or call 800-231-0752.

    8. Pete Shields, quoted in The New Yorker, “A Reporter At Large: Handguns,” July 26, 1976.

    9. NRA-ILA “Not 12 Per Day” fact sheet, http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=21

    10. Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 1, 1997.

  20. WT, I would have been unable to write this so matter of fact – I didn’t comment on the post that inspired this because I couldn’t be nice about it. I’m passionately against guns and think they should be controlled even more strictly than they are now.

  21. Kila – Very interesting, do you have the statistics on how many lives are saved by doctors vs those saved by guns?

    Taking it point by point:
    1) Yes the violent crime rate has decreased, but that statistic is for all violent crime, which includes spousal abuse, aggravated assault and violence where guns aren’t involved. It conveniently overlooks the pertinent stats, homicide by firearm.

    2-5)All these points related to accidental death by firearms, the issue isn’t people killing themselves or someone else accidentally, that’s relatively minor. The issue is people killing someone else on purpose.

    6-8)These are just diatribe.

    But again, you are entitled to your opinion and I respect that. It would be a lot easier if we could just say “only sensible people can have guns”

    ToB – It seems the pro-gun lobby are the ones who are most often aggressively defensive, anti-gun lobbyists tend to be a bit more rational (not always, but generally). It is more common to find passionate comments defending guns in an anti-gun forum than vice versa, a bit like religion really.
    However, I do understand that they feel put upon by all the anti-gun talk, I just wish they’d understand we don’t feel safe with them around.

  22. Ah, but how could we determine who or what is “sensible”? 😉

    It’s already against the law for felons to own guns, but that doesn’t stop most of them. So, here we are.

  23. HOORAY! I was gone this weekend, so didn’t read any or my comments until just about 30 min. ago and was quite startled at that comment – because in my mind, I thought, “Hmmm….Japan has outlawed guns and I didn’t think they had any problems.” (and then I started thinking about Germany and Sweden too) AND lo and behold – you took care of that question with the lovely chart and YES – all those places I thought of were very low on the scale.

    When I wrote my post, I was a bit worried about it being a Hot Topic – and it turned out to be.

    One of Kila’s statistics is about the # of “accidental” deaths – does this include the purposeful ones too?

  24. We need much stricter laws concerning guns in the U.S. That is the bottom line.

  25. Kila – I think your last comment put forward the anti-gun argument rather succinctly.

  26. I’m rather excited, Willow, that you took such a forceful stand on this subject, and for once, I am in total agreement with you.

  27. nice post, wt. enidd is with you all the way.

  28. Oh Canada. I’m baaaack in my home and native land. Some time last week Vancouver had it’s most deadliest shooting and it made me sick to my stomach. Two people shot execution style in the head and six more seriously injured. It was a targeted attack and this appears to be gang related. That happened approx. 10 minutes from my home.

    Before guns everything was so much less complicated. I could whack someone from 10 feet with my hockey stick and/or hit them in the eyes with my windshield de-ice spray. Now I am totally defenseless.

    I honestly have nothing intelligent to say to back up my beliefs on this issue as I have been travelling and can’t remember sleeping and/or bathing.. but I will say when people start talking about their right to bear arms and that guns don’t kill, people do… I just want to say, “I can see your lips moving but all I hear is blah blah blah”.

    Was that the longest sentence ever? Someone shoot me. Har.

  29. Thats a bit unfair with Northern Ireland at # 6, only farmers are allowed guns there so you can highlight them too, the 38 years of terrorism should exempt them from this list.

  30. I’m always amazed, so many strong opinions and so little real understanding. But most of all I’d like to address this statement by rotten correspondence:

    “Unfortunately the right to bear arms was given before anyone ever realized how out of control people would become. drugs, insanity, etc. World is a different place.”

    The right to bear arms was not “given” to Americans by our government. Rather, it is acknowledged by our founding fathers as a god given right. The bill of rights is not a constitutional gift to the people from our government. It is an agreement that people (all people) have certain rights of birth that can not be infringed upon by the central federal government. At the time our founders were struggling to incorporate the original states into an agreement with a central government. The general populace were very wary of this after just throwing off the yoke of King George and only agreed to this after being placated with the assurance of the very core essence that would become the American free spirit. The belief that all men were created with certain inalienable rights….
    So, as far as America goes, all the stated statistics (whether one wishes to argue their validity or not) must take a back seat to the very raw fact that one does have the right to self defense. Another aspect of this often goes overlooked. A huge part of the founding of our country had to do with personal freedom and liberty. An anchor to these ideals is that a people should govern themselves and not bare their existence or right to exist to a large bureaucratic state. One of the first things that most countries do when they roll towards socialistic or centralist governing systems is relieve the general citizenry of arms. There is a reason for this.
    Our founders left the right to arm untouched as a deterrent to future government gone awry. And it remains that way today. The federalist papers gives good account of this should one choose to study them. The belief that it is not only a right but a responsibility of social groups to shirk off oppressive government by force is a firm idea here. Now I’ll bring a hot name into the discussion and point out that one of the first things done by Hitler after assuming power in Germany was to disarm the citizens “for their own safety”. Why? I think the answer’s self evident eh?
    Do we honestly believe there was not drug use, insanity etc. in the world of the 1700’s? Actually, I would venture the opinion, that per capita those things were roughly equivalent to today. As would be the crime and violence statistics. One finds the nature of man very consistent through the centuries. Only now our mass media and vast improvements in technology give us the knowledge of an entire race at the few brief keystrokes required to do a “Google” search.
    I see folks promoting gun control to control crime. It is not the guns doing crime people. A gun is but a tool, the same as a hammer or steak knife. Any of which could be used to take a life or several lives if the wielder of such wishes. What needs reform in this country is our judicial system that keeps regurgitating violent criminals into the general populace. If you want to check into statistics you should check out how many gun crimes are committed by repeat violent offenders in this country versus others. You may get quite an eye opener.
    I apologize for this lengthy post as I stumbled in here quite by accident and probably didn’t have the “right” to take up so much of these readers time. I just wanted to expound a little different view than I saw so adamantly expreseed here.

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