The debate on gun control – A flashback

The day after the January 8, 2011 shooting rampage, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) exemplified the resistance to new gun control measures in remarks made on Fox News. The first-term Senator’s argument is contained in his assertion that, “… weapons don’t kill people; it’s the individual that kills.”

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) announced her plan to introduce legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines that allow multiple firing of weapons without pause. The alleged shooter in the Tucson tragedy fired 31 rounds before pausing to reload, using a high-capacity magazine attached to a Glock pistol.

Gun Control – Facts on Firearms

In the midst of fiery opinion and rapid response, there are some cut-and-dried reports that speak directly to the issue of firearms and violence.

A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997 looked at the correlation between firearms and deaths of children in 26 industrialized countries, where such records are maintained. The findings directly consider the use of a firearm; there is no debate regarding weapon versus the wielder of weapon. The results are unequivocal. Firearms result in deaths.

U.S. Firearm-Related Deaths Are Highest Among Industrialized Nations

The United States ranked at the top of the list in comparison to the other 25 civilized countries. Here are the key results as revealed in the CDC report:

The firearm-related homicide rate in the United States was nearly 16 times higher than that in all of the other countries combined
The firearm-related suicide rate was nearly 11 times higher
The unintentional firearm-related death rate was nine times higher
The overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children aged less than 15 years was nearly 12 times higher than among children in the other 25 countries combined
Only Finland came near to matching the percentage of firearm-related deaths in the U.S. Interestingly, five countries had absolutely no firearm-related deaths among children, and another five countries reported unintentional firearm-related deaths (no homicides or suicides).

These findings show a clear correlation between the use of firearms and violent deaths, such as the January 8 killings in Arizona. The time frame of the report encompassed the so-called Brady bill and the now-expired assault weapons ban, signed into law in 1993 and 1994 respectively. These results are reinforced by a later study which found that 71 percent of homicides in the U.S. were executed with a firearm. (Krug, Powell, & Dahlberg, 1998)

Firearm-Related Violence in Arizona from 1986-2004

During a ten- year span that began in 1986, firearm-related deaths in the state of Arizona were fifty-five percent higher than the national rate. This statistic was reported by the state’s Assistant Registrar of Vital Statistics.

Surprisingly, nearly 60 percent of these weapons were used in suicides among Arizonans; firearms were involved in 36 percent of the homicides. Death by fire-arms paralleled the number of vehicular mortalities in the state during the decade studied.

In the midst of fiery opinion and rapid response, there are some cut-and-dried reports that speak directly to the issue of firearms and violence.

Less than ten years later, these figures had not changed much. In the 2004 report on firearm-related deaths, 57 percent of suicides involved the use of a firearm and nearly 38 percent of homicides were carried out with a weapon. There was slight decrease in suicides using a firearm and gun-related homicides rose by two points.

The Weapon or the Person?

It is logically challenging if not fallacious to split the weapon from the user, as Sen. Paul claims. A firearm does not have an independent will that allows it to discharge its rounds without the intervention of a human being.

What cannot be denied is the sheer number of violent deaths that occur when a weapon is in the hands of a human being.

Related Stories

NZ PM Ardern fails to understand US in terms of gun policy
New Zealand to debate on change in gun laws

Paul Linus