Gun Violenceby Matthew Wakeman
Student at Summit High School
The United States has a tumultuous and torrid history with firearms and the Second Amendment that protects them. Half of all firearms in the world are owned by 4.5 percent of the global population, Americans, and this has seen a terrifying gap in gun violence compared to other developed nations.
Americans love guns. The BBC reported that the U.S. has more than 270 million firearms; that’s nine guns per every 10 Americans.
It is a uniquely American trait, who has more than twice as many guns per person as the next most gun-owning country Yemen, and three times as many as Canada. Yet Canada sees only a sixth of firearm homicides that the U.S. does, reporting 5.1 deaths per one million people compared to the U.S.' staggering 29.7, as reported by Javier Zarracina for Vox.
Though mass shootings are usually what comes to mind when speaking of gun violence in America, they only make up a small percentage of gun deaths.
The CDC reported that only 14 people were killed in 2014 due to mass shootings with greater than three fatalities. Yet, the CDC also reports that year 33,594 people died due to firearms.
The true issue of gun violence isn’t mass shootings. The CDC in 2014 found suicides accounted for more than 21,000 deaths, nearly double firearm homicides, and worst, suicide rates continue to grow.
In the last decade gun suicides have been on the rise. The CDC found that suicides have increased from 16,000 in 2006 to nearly 23,000 in 2016, and account for an increasing percentage of gun deaths as homicide rates continue to drop.
Matthew Miller, M.D., Sc.D., and David Hemenway, Ph.D. reported for the New England Journal of Medicine that between 2001 and 2005 the states in the U.S. with the highest rates of gun ownership saw nearly four times as many gun suicides compared to states with the lowest gun ownership rates. But these states had nearly identical rates of non firearm suicides.
Furthermore, the American Journal of Public Health found in a 2016 study that gun owners were more likely to commit suicide for men and women alike.
Over 60 percent of all gun violence is due to suicides. States with more guns see higher rates of suicides, and gun owners are more likely to commit suicide. Nations, like Australia, which have policies that limit gun ownership have seen massive decreases in gun related suicides.
America loves guns, but a life is a life, and when people are dying there must be a change made to fix it. America is vehemently protective of her right to bear arms, and should be, it is a right, but one that comes with an asterisk.
States like California, New York and Illinois who have policies to limit gun ownership see far lower rates of gun violence when compared to states without these policies, as Zara Matheson reported for the Martin Prosperity Institute.
Quinnipiac University in 2018 found 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks. And 89 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats agree that the mentally ill should not be able to own a firearm, a survey by Pew Research Center in 2017 found.
There are reforms that make sense, are effective, are popular with both parties and still guarantee the right to bear arms, but more importantly they will help to stop these unnecessary deaths that are so uniquely American.