Given the recent spate of shootings of police officers and by police officers, my mind continues to go back to the following article that I wrote about six months ago:
After yet another school shooting, I just had to ask. What’s the most effective way to limit gun violence? I am an analyst by nature, education and vocation. I am also driven by logic and reason. So I couldn’t help pulling together some numbers when the question came to me. For the most part, it’s just numbers and facts. The numbers are what they are. So bear with me and tag along if you’re interested…
To ensure that I don’t get shot by some random mentally-unbalanced person who is having a bad day, a government will generally use one of two approaches. One is to allow me to carry a gun. I can then attempt to determine when that person is about to shoot me and try to shoot him first. The other approach is to attempt to prevent either one of us from having a gun. By definition, one of those two approaches has to be better than the other.
The approach in the U.S. is the former as relatively
completely unrestricted gun ownership is considered an important constitutional right. The U.S. has 89 guns per 100 residents, by far the highest rate of gun ownership of any country in the world. Serbia is the next closest at 56 and most other countries range from near zero up to 30 guns per 100 residents. In 2005, the U.S. had a firearm-related death rate of just over 10 people per 100,000 residents, about 10% lower than Mexico which is in a virtual civil war with drug cartels.
Most other developed countries use the latter approach, with nationwide laws that restrict ownership of certain types of guns, require registration, etc. Based on a simple average (because I’m too lazy to do a population-weighted average) of the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, and France, the firearm-related death rate is in those countries is about 1.3 people per 100,000 residents or about 13% of the rate in the U.S.
Using this data, I can confidently forecast that barring dramatic changes, the U.S. will continue to have approximately 8.7 people per 100,000 residents die from firearms each year over and above the number that would die in similar developed countries—that’s 27,840 additional people per year based on the U.S. population of 320 million.
I know that correlation is not causation. The fact that guns are present does not by definition mean they are the cause. But what are the more logical, reasonable alternatives? Does the U.S. has eight times as many mentally ill, angry or evil people per capita as other developed countries?
Freedom can take different forms. Allowing anyone and everyone to have as many guns as they want of any type is one form of freedom. Living your life in peace with your family, without worrying about being in the wrong place when a disgruntled student, employee, shopper or former spouse cuts loose with an assault rifle, is another form of freedom.
I know the choice I would make. And when yet another inevitable shooting takes place, I’ll pause for a moment and feel sad for this year’s 27,840 unlucky U.S. residents who were born in a country where the ideology of unrestricted access to guns was considered more important than their lives.
Note: Unfortunately, I haven’t retained the data sources, but it came from credible, publicly available sources.