“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.
It sounds like common sense but doesn’t square with the facts. Where there are guns, people die by guns.
We represent only 4% of the world’s population, but account for a third of all firearm suicides. Gun deaths in the United States are more than double the average for all countries, including war-torn countries. The rate of firearm homicide in the United States is 26 times that of other high-income countries. Why these appalling statistics? Because guns are only common in America.
In the United States, women are 28 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries. American children between the ages of 0 and 14 are about 10 times more likely to die from firearms than children in other developed countries. More tragically, American children accidentally kill their siblings, their parents, their friends or themselves. This does not happen in other countries.
Why? Because of our weapons. It’s not that Americans are worse.
“I believe in Second Amendment rights” – another statement misrepresenting the facts. The Second Amendment does not prohibit gun control. It was written to prohibit the dismantling of militias soon after the independence of the 13 colonies. The militias had fought the first battles of the War of Independence. For 70 years after the Second Amendment was written, the right to bear arms meant states had the right to have militias.
In 2008, Judge Antonin Scalia introduced another interpretation that gun advocates seize upon to argue against gun control. He wrote the Supreme Court decision that individuals have the right to own firearms. But Scalia also said, “Like most rights, the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” He approved the “laws imposing conditions and restrictions on the commercial sale of arms”. It means gun control.
In the past, gun deaths in America were rare, including when the West was colonized, contrary to the impression created by movies and television. Didn’t people fight as fast as today? Weren’t there so many hotheads then? There was. And there were plenty of land disputes, but rarely gun deaths, even in the notorious family feuds. Why? Because few people owned handguns to kill people; they had shotguns to kill game for food. Hotheads fight; they did not take up arms to kill each other.
In 2016, a man stabbed 10 people at Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud. He didn’t kill anyone but got shot. Why didn’t he kill anyone? Because he had no weapon.
A few days ago, a Minneapolis police officer killed a black man, Amir Locke, while he was serving a no-knock warrant. Controversy over police treatment of black people aside, the point is this: The Minneapolis Police Department tried to justify the killing because the officer saw a gun in Amir’s hand. Without the gun, Amir might be alive today.
Guns kill people. Their presence kills. If there were no firearms in conflict, the number of intentional and unintentional deaths would drop dramatically. Our country’s terrible gun epidemic is perhaps more intractable than the COVID pandemic. Somehow we have to tackle it and control the beast.
— Jeanette Blonigen Clancy is a retired educator and writer on politics, culture and religion. She lives in Avon.