Thursday, 17 January 2013

My take on the gun control debate

I infrequently dive into the political spectrum, and I know a lot of Americans still read my blog when I do post. Given this debate is so extreme and has even taken over the national news in Canada, I thought I'd offer up my thoughts.

In the latter half of last year, with the increased mass violence in the US, especially with the Sandy Hook shooting, I found myself thinking more and more "What the hell is going on down there?"

Since then, and despite being fed copious amounts of gun control debate, I've come to a conclusion. And surprisingly, my conclusion doesn't let me pick one side of the fence or the other.

That's because this entire debate is absolutely pointless.

As of right now, the debate is focusing on mass shootings and assault weapons and 100 round clips as a direct, knee jerk result of the spike in rampages in 2012. This is expected as the media and politicians thrive on shock value. Despite the tragedy that they are, preventing mass murders is nothing more than a drop in the bucket.

With 14,000 homicides annually and 10 - 12,000 of those estimated to be gun related, you could have a 30 victim rampage every month and it would only amount to 2.5% of all murders. If you could then wave a magic wand and remove every last assault weapon and all 30+ round clips from the country and prevent 100% of mass shootings, you would still have 13,640 people dead by the end of the year. And there isn't even a rampage every month now. Dollar for dollar, you're by far better off ignoring the mass shooting problem and throwing tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars more at trying to prevent drunk driving and diabetes.

The narrative in the US is way off mark. 14,000 homicides per year is 38 people violently killed every single day. That's the equivalent of 3 Aurora incidents. Every day. But everyday news doesn't make the news. The narrative would be on the right track if the major news networks had a "Homicides Today: ___" ticker fed by affiliate updates running in the bottom corner of the screen 24 hours per day.

There's something very wrong when a Western, developed nation is a huge outlier at 3-4 times the homicide rate of other Western, developed nations. I'm not entirely convinced it's the guns alone. There are stark socio-economic differences between the US and Europe that may cause this statistical rift, but Canada should be a much closer comparison by a significant degree:
  • 80%+ of Canadians live within a few hundred miles of the American border.
  • We consume massive amounts of American media.
  • I assume obtaining guns illegally isn't that much more difficult for people that want to commit crimes.
  • Even with the recent increase in minimum sentences for violent crime, we have extremely lax punishment for all types of felonies compared to the US.
So we're basically America-light of the North without the big prison stick, yet have a homicide rate 1/3 that of the United States. Granted, US rates have dropped by 50% since the ludicrously high rates in the 70s, 80s and 90s. There are only three obvious, significant differences I can think of between our countries:
  • Adequate access to mental healthcare.
  • A ridiculous difference in the number of legal guns.
  • The 2nd Amendment.
There may be some additional cultural factors that come into play that I can't really speak to living on the outside. Perpetually being at war, the alleged gun culture, the laughable "video games / music made me do it" arguments... I find there's a big missing link between any of those or other social dynamics and the willingness to actually pull the trigger on someone. I also think the US Constitution is one of the best social contracts ever written, and would never want changes made to it lightly or as the result of knee jerk, emotional responses if I were American.

But as long as everyone's focused on this smallest, niche part of the overall problem instead of honestly figuring out what that missing link is between factor and action, Americans are never going to solve this issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment