By Alan Bean
America has a gun problem, but gun control legislation is too weak a fix; we need a 12-step program.
Since the tragic shootings in Newtown CT, we have been buried in a welter of statistics. Support for gun control is rising, we are told, but the polls vary as to the extent of the shift. We are reminded that 60% of men but only 39% of women favor gun rights over gun control, and that Republicans (72%) are more likely than Democrats (32%) to place the priority on gun rights.
Those inclined to dig deeper into the figures recently compiled by the Pew Research Center will discover that support for both gun rights and gay marriage has been advancing in recent years, a sign that libertarian arguments are impacting a wide range of issues.
The Pew study also shows that whites are twice as likely as African Americans or Latinos to value gun rights over gun control. Moreover, white opinion changed radically in the wake of the election of Barack Obama. In 2007, 37% of white Americans valued gun rights over gun control; the figure is now 57%. White opinion on the gun issue flip-flopped in the space of four years.
Americans are far more likely to own guns than anyone else on the planet. Here in the USA, 88.8 out of 100 people own at least one gun, that’s almost one firearm per person. In Canada, the rate is 30.8, in Germany its 30.3, and in France its 31.2. But in most of the world, the rate of gun ownership is exceedingly low: (Mexico 15, Australia 15, Denmark 12, Israel, 7.3, England 6.2, Afghanistan 4.6, the Netherlands 3.9, Romania .7). In North America, Americans own guns at three times the rate of Canadians and six times the rate of Mexicans.
Americans are also far more likely to use firearms to kill people. In the United States the homicide by firearm rate is 3.2 per 100,000 per year. In the rest of the developed world, the rate varies between 0.0 in Japan (where only 11 homicides were recorded last year) and Belgium at 0.7. In Canada, the rate is 0.5, less than one-sixth the American rate. (more…)