Guns in America – Part 2: Gun Cultures and Foreign Solutions

In Part 1, we saw that many people are very dangerous with guns, including some who accidentally shoot themselves or others in the face. In fact, hundreds of unintentional deaths happen every year due to guns, not to mention the thousands that are intentional. Being able to defend yourself against a large person who wants to hurt you is of course an important thing, but obviously this argument assumes that you’re a smaller person defending against a bigger person. However, anyone can own a gun, which makes it dangerous for everyone.

Guns in Other Countries

Oh, Canada

Canada is particularly useful to contrast with America because it is the most culturally similar nation to America, and yet totally different when it comes to guns. But as most of us know, no one disseminates their cultural ideals, values, and products, better than America. In this case, that means that there’s a growing number of guns illegally crossing the US border into Canada. This will only be exacerbated in the near future by the fact that 1300 jobs from the Canada Border Services Agency will soon be cut. According to Toronto police, two thirds of the guns they seize are smuggled from the US.

But even with American guns illegally making their way into Canada, we’re really talking about a fraction of Canadian gun owners compared to their gun-toting neighbours to the South. And despite the recent shootings that made headlines in Canada, crime rates across the country are actually declining. In fact, Canada hasn’t seen such low crime rates in 40 years:

A new Statistics Canada report released Tuesday claims that the overall crime rate in 2011 was down 6 per cent  from 2010 and was at it’s lowest point since 1972. Moreover, violent crime, which includes homicides, attempted murders and assault, was down 4 per cent — the fifth consecutive annual decline.

The report does note that Canada ‘s homicide rate rose 7 per cent in 2011 to 1.7 homicides per 100,000 population, but that the homicide rate has generally been declining since peaking in the mid-1970s.

Overall, the agency says Canadian police services reported almost 2 million Criminal Code (excluding traffic) incidents in 2011, about 110,000 fewer than in 2010.

There are many factors at work here – you can’t just say that the presence of a gun will cause someone to be killed by it. There are cultural and psychological components involved. But this needs to be said: The #1 predictor of whether or not someone will die from gun violence at any given time is if a gun is present. Because you can’t be shot if there’s no gun around. Canadians seem to understand this well.

A Part of the Culture

In comparatively safer countries, like Canada, the situation is simple. Guns are just not a significant part of life for civilians. The people who have guns are generally the police. And even then, police now tend to refrain from carrying guns, preferring to use non-lethal tazers instead.

In places where virtually no one owns a gun, no one fears guns; and when no one fears guns, no one buys guns for protection. This kind of self-fulfilling prophecy keeps gun ownership low. This is a stark contrast to the US, where even five years ago, American citizens owned 270 million of the world’s 875 million known guns, according to the Small Arms Survey of 2007, which was conducted by the Graduate Institute of International Studies, based in Geneva.

So when you look at the numbers of gun-related deaths among various countries, and gun ownership in the states, it seems to be that a more accurate and specific statement than “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is “guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people.” But let’s be realistic – I think the guns had something to do with it. Because Americans are not bad people, and they’re not killers. They just so happen to kill. A lot.

In fact, as Dan Gross mentioned when he came on the Colbert Report, there were more than twice as many people killed by gun violence on the day of the Aurora shooting that happened elsewhere in the country; it’s just that the media was focused on Aurora. This is why he started a petition on aptly named WeAreBetterThanThis.org.

What is the Answer?

Just how can America keep its gun violence rates low? The obvious thing would be to get rid of guns, but there are two main arguments against this. First, this is against the constitution, in which Americans are to have the right to bear arms. Second, as with many elicit products, guns would still be distributed, but they would essentially go underground, creating an even more dangerous system.

Considering that guns are now a part of the American cultural landscape, I believe that no Americans would have cared, if only history had been different and there was no written right to bear arms in the first place. I base this opinion on the fact that countries like Canada enjoy their lack of gun ownership – and, in turn, the lack of gun violence. But alas, Americans have become used to guns – and, in turn, the weekly news stories of things like domestic terrorism that help keep the fear up.

Obviously, getting rid of firearms is not a simple task.

The Aurora Shooting

The recent shooting at the Aurora movie theatre brought a lot of questions to mind, and a few well-thought out answers. One of these answers was to make prohibitions that would ensure the safety of people in the theatres for the future generations. I’m talking, of course, about the decision to ban costumes in movie theatres, as they did on July 20.

…because guns don’t kill people, costumes kill people…

I’m a little surprised they didn’t just go ahead and ban fire escapes, considering that was the killer’s entryway into the theatre. But then, this is America we’re talking about – the place where there’s a limit to how much toothpaste you can bring on a plane. And just like the former TSA administrator Kip Hawley said, that TSA regulations at airports aren’t effective at stopping terrorism, I don’t think banning the incidental things around the shooting are going to be particularly helpful. It may make it more difficult to conceal a gun, but it doesn’t actually solve the problem. Maybe soon we’ll see metal detectors in movie theatres? Who knows.

But that’s not even the most ridiculous thing you’re going to read today…

Fear and Stupidity

Only in America would they pass a law to start taxing residents for NOT owning a gun. You might want to read that again.

Thankfully, it seems only to apply to Vermont. Or, at least, for now. When you hear about high-profile events like the Aurora shooting, such as the rampage at Ford Hood, or the shooting in Tucson (in which Gabrielle Giffords was nearly killed), gun-toting Americans come up with a predictable response. “If only someone had a gun,” they believe, “things would have gone down better. This just shows that everyone should carry.” They fail to acknowledge, however, that someone did have a gun. The psycho had it, in each case.

The high crime rate is a sad fact of life in America; and violent crimes undercut the aspects of the US that make it such a great country. In fact, you can tell the character of the common American by just how much (and how many) people help others in the aftermath of such events. For example, many have been eager to help one uninsured victim who survived being shot in the face at the Aurora theatre pay for his medical bills, by donating online.

So for an absurdly brief moment after the Aurora shooting, the US talked about the gun debate. …And then they quickly said “screw it,” and began buying more guns:

Gun sales in Colorado have spiked since last week’s massacre, The Denver Post reports. Background checks jumped more than 41 percent since Friday’s shooting that left 12 dead and 58 injured during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at an Aurora movie theater. Over the weekend, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation approved background checks for 2,887 people who wanted to purchase a firearm, the Post said, an increase of 43 percent over the previous weekend.

“It’s been insane,” Jake Meyers, an employee at Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo in Parker, Colo. , told the paper. Spikes in gun sales are not uncommon in the aftermath of mass shootings like the one in Colorado. Following the January 2011 shooting that killed six and wounded more than a dozen others—including former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords—in Tucson , sales of handguns soared more than 60 percent in the state, according to FBI data. Similar spikes were seen after the massacres at Virginia Tech and Columbine.

What do you know? Another self-fulfilling prophecy. People buy guns because of such incidents, and people buy guns because there are so many people who buy guns. After all, you need to protect yourself, because there are a lot of dangerous people out there. I mean… just look at how many people there are with guns!

This kind of thinking turns out to be very good business for gun manufacturers. In fact, if I was a gun manufacturer, I’m sure I would make a killing.

But I’d really prefer just to make a living.

This entry was posted in Activism, Culture, Japan, Legal Issues, Psychology, Science, Social Psych and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Guns in America – Part 2: Gun Cultures and Foreign Solutions

  1. Michael Case says:

    I don’t think Americans will ever lose their gun culture, the only thing that the govt can really do is to make the sale of guns harder for civilian people. Stricter rules and governance over gun sales.

  2. I grew up in a country where guns is not really an issue because we do not need guns to feel safe. I hope things can be the same in the US.

  3. Douglas Snyde says:

    Canadian gun owner here. You are completely ignorant about the gun situation in Canada.

    Canada has one of the highest gun ownership rates in the world. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimated_number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country

    Two million Canadian citizens own gun licenses.

    We loosened our laws by scrapping our gun registry in 2012 because it was useless and homicide rates continued to decline.

    It is not difficult to obtain a long arm in Canada. Handguns are the most restricted. Gun ownership is very common in rural Canada.

    Please do not speak about the gun situations of other countries as your ignorance is profound..You can tout Japan as being a gun control utopia (with many cases of police labeling homicides as suicides and underreporting crime), and I can cite Switzerland which has very liberal laws and is nearly as safe as Japan: http://i.imgur.com/DZKEbb7.jpg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *