This shocking and disturbing number is compiled from United States federal records and represents the total number of civilian gun murders, gun suicides and gun-murder suicides in the 50 states and protectorates from my arbitrary starting point of the Kennedy assassination 50 years ago. These records do NOT include accidental shootings, hunting accidents and legitimate police responses. Compounding the slaughter is the further recognized data that for every gun related death, there are an estimated ten woundings.
Any reasonable Canadian could only describe these numbers as carnage. Not in America. Even the Sandy Hook school slaughter has faded from public prominence except for its impact on those directly affected. Americans, it would seem, prefer to dwell on superficial positives such as the Mardi Gras and Super Bowl. For comparison, Britain, population 90 million, had 100 gun murders last year with the Canadian total also under 100. In my travels with disaster management teams from Alaska to the Gulf Coast these past 8 years, I have too often witnessed this waste of human life first hand.
It’s the most profound example I can provide of what separates Americans from us. Why is it tolerated? The answer lies in America’s history embedded in the second amendment to the American Constitution. Were it not for the farmer militia and its field and forest tactics in colonial times, America would have never been able to buy enough time to form its own national army. The right-tobear-arms amendment reflects this distrust of distant and central government and represented sound reasoning in its day. For comparison in today’s world, could the 83 million members of the Communist Party ruling China continue the brutal repression of the other 1.2 billion Chinese if the latter had access to weapons to defend themselves? The three problematic areas not envisioned in the writing of the Constitution include the dramatic advances in weapons technology, the exponential growth in the criminal element in a country still functioning in “wild west” mode and the failure of the screening processes to prevent criminal and mentally unstable individuals from acquiring this sophisticated automatic weaponry.
Sadly, the current political puffery offers no solution, not when the Vice-presidential committee head is trapped in the gun vernacular with statements “there is no silver bullet solution” and “we can’t shotgun an answer through the Congress” In fact, it would take a complex amendment to the Constitution requiring a two thirds majority in both Houses followed by a successful defense in the inevitable Supreme Court challenge from numerous sources. There are two reasons this will not happen. There are more guns in America than citizens and the majority are in the hands of responsible people adamantly opposed to being disarmed when the criminal and mentally unstable continue to hold enormous caches of automatic weapons. Recent media surveys show 46% of Americans own at least one gun and 50% of Americans are opposed to changing the Constitution for this reason. America did have an automatic weapons ban from 1994 to 2004 but the ban proved unworkable once it became obvious only the responsible citizens were following the law.
Eventually America’s public will wake to the fact each shooting has a $150,000 price tag for the emergency room triage and the next seven days in a critical care unit. That’s if the victim lives.The other hope is the current litigious tendency of the American public. It brought the tobacco companies to submission. Lawyers will eventually begin to follow the registration trail from manufacturer to perpetrator and when they find the negligence, they will pounce. These factors will generate the momentum but unless the political will guiding the system changes its perspective, the carnage will not abate.
Suicide by gun outnumbers murder by gun in a three to two ratio and since most murders are committed by unstable individuals, the flawed screening process must address the mental health issue at time of purchase in a more meaningful way. In a skewered perspective of priorities, it takes 4 weeks to acquire a marriage license in Mississippi, less than a single week for a gun. At a recent media scrum, the Vice President was asked how he planned to address the (FBI) claim 20% of weapons applications contained false statements (a felony in the U.S.). His disappointing answer was the United States had too many laws and insufficient policing resources to prosecute. In the interim, for Canadians travelling south, I can only caution choose your destination prudently.
Written by: Dr. David Carll