Why we choose to use guns on each other with such appalling frequency is the question
By Jim Kempton
After the string of mass shootings over the last year, guns are once again at the forefront of the American debate. There has been a lot of talk these last few weeks about background checks at gun shows, Second Amendment restrictions and “Big Brother” taking our right to bear arms.
To hear one side tell the story, if we don’t take all the guns away, every school, theater and political rally will be the scene of a mass shooting. To hear the other side, if we don’t have armor piercing bullets that can take out a police officer wearing a Kevlar vest, we will have redcoats marching to take our muskets from the Lexington arsenal. The issue is certainly a divided one. There are those who think a gun is like sex—better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. There are those who think Dick Cheney’s aim is the smoking gun of evidence to the contrary.
First there is the question: what kind of arms are we talking about? Semi-automatics, full automatics, assault rifles with 100 round clips, grenade launchers? We debate these particulars as if they were the only topics in the discussion, as if taking away any restriction on assault rifles would lead to confiscation of all weapons including Swiss Army knives.
Everyone wants to draw a line in the sand on gun restrictions—or the lack thereof. But what is the limit we will all accept? A mortar on our rooftop? A howitzer in the back yard? An Abrams tank at the driveway? Shoot (pardon the phrase) with a KMB2 .120 caliber (a weapon used in the British Army), I could not only hit a deer at two miles, I could take out the whole herd with one shot. What about a nuclear missile silo on the front porch—just so anyone who contemplates a drive-by shooting on your street knows they won’t get far? In my book, if you need a hundred-round clip to bring down a deer, you shouldn’t be allowed a hunting license.
Some throw blame at gang shootings. But they are actually only a small part of our murder by gun problem. More than 25% of our gun murders are between husbands, wives and lovers. The truth is both sides are unwilling to see what the reality of American gun use truly is.
Last year there were over 11,000 people killed by guns in the USA. In England there were 47. In Japan there were 14. Given a per capita rate for these countries, that means we are 50-times as murderous with guns as the Brits, 100-times as deadly with our arms as Japan— or Germany, Norway, Hong Kong, Canada, Switzerland, South Korea, Australia, Chile, Romania—and, believe it or not, Uzbekistan. Overall, we are 15 times as gun homicidal as the rest of the first world. Doesn’t that make you think that regardless of our gun laws or restrictions or freedoms or rights or greatness as a nation—doesn’t it seem like something is wrong with how we deal with this issue?
Jim Kempton grew up owning gun and hunting and has lived in several war zones. The murder rate through Americans’ gun use is a complex and mystifying dilemma to him, but one he hopes we will debate calmly and deliberately.