The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Reading a follow-up story last week on the tragedy in Tucson in The Other Times headlined “Sadness aside, no shift seen on gun laws,” I was drawn to a comment from Congressman Mike Pence. When questioned about the prospects for new gun restrictions, he was quoted as replying, “I maintain that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes communities safer, not less safe.”
The assertion of the Indiana lawmaker, who until this month chaired the House Republican Conference and is considering running for president, was hardly remarkable; indeed, it was the kind of knee-jerk response from defenders of gun rights to which we’ve become all too accustomed after someone commits mass murder in this country.
Isn’t it time for some fresh thinking on this matter of life-and-death importance?
America has more firearms per capita than any other leading industrial democracy. So, if widespread firearm ownership does, in fact, make a country safer, ours should be among the safest. Right?
OK, you’ve already guessed the answer. But since it warrants relentless repetition so that even politicians like Mike Pence become receptive to new approaches to reducing firearm deaths, I’ll give it to you anyway. Here goes, courtesy of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which found that the U.S. firearm homicide rate per 100,000 people was:
• 5 times that of Canada.
•13 times that of Germany.
•19 times that of Australia.
•24 times that of Spain.
•44 times that of England and Wales.
The organization’s findings are reinforced by a study of firearm deaths from all causes, homicides, suicides and accidental deaths, that found that among 23 populous, high-income countries four in every five such deaths occurred in the United States.
“Compared with other high-income countries, homicide is a particular problem for the United States, largely due to firearm homicide,” concluded Erin G. Richardson and David Hemenway, the authors of the study published last year in the Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection and Critical Care.
Their study showed that the U.S. had an overall homicide rate nearly seven times higher than the other nations, reflecting a firearm homicide rate that was nearly 20 times higher. And, as we know, some who commit murder with a gun in America do so with a weapon they obtained legally, as apparently happened in Tucson.
Moreover, although the non-firearm suicide rate in America was only 40 percent as great as in the other nations, the study found that the firearm suicide rate in the U.S. was nearly six times higher, more than offsetting the lower number. And the accidental firearm death rate in the U.S. was 5 1/2 times higher than the rate in these other countries.
Surely such profoundly sobering statistics should be part of a national conversation about whether there’s safety in numbers where firearms are concerned.
Let the conversation begin.
Mr. Henry resides in Orient.