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Guns don’t kill people, culture kills people

In the wake of the latest American mass murder shooting incident in Aurora, Colorado an interesting statistic has been retweeted on Twitter a lot today:

In one year, guns murdered

  • 35 people in Australia,
  • 39 in England & Wales,
  • 194 in Germany,
  • 200 in Canada, and
  • 9,484 in the USA.

Which when one accounts for population sizes becomes

  • 1 per 1,437,872 in England & Wales,
  • 1 per 614,506 people in Australia,
  • 1 per 421,647 in Germany,
  • 1 per 167,383 in Canada, and
  • 1 per 33,103 in the USA

Or put another way, the gun-related murder rate of the USA is 43 times that of England & Wales.

It’s easy, of course, to lay the blame for this at the virtual absence of any gun control at all in the USA – easy because it really doesn’t take Columbo to work out that if practically anybody and everybody in the country can buy a gun with the same ease that they can buy a car, when people get cross those guns are going to end up being used in anger.

Clearly it is not so simple; when one brings in the wild-card factoid of Switzerland, another country with a high rate of gun ownership having a gun murder rate of 1 per 172,414 – or similar to that of Canada – you can see that there is more to it than just the nature of the legislation.

The depressing fact is that it’s not just the lack of gun control which is responsible for the number of gun murders in the USA, it’s something more deep-rooted than that – it’s American culture itself which is responsible.

American culture is inherently violent; throughout the whole of the 20th and the 21st centuries, the expressions of American culture which have been exported beyond their shores have had violence at their heart – the classic gunfight and the bar-room brawl in the old-time West, the ‘Why I ordah…’ constant threat in any discussion in American popular culture where a differing point of view is expressed, the prevalence of shooting with guns or laser bolts as solutions to problems in most of the output of Hollywood, the US Government’s eagerness to send their soldiers off to war at the drop of a hat like throwing sweets at a pantomime, and – indeed – the fact that every single US election the military service record of the candidates always seems to be a signficant issue. Is there any other nation on Earth which cares about what its potential leaders got up to in whatever one’s favourite war is as much as the USA?

So yes indeed, clearly the USA needs to sort out its unhealthy obsession with guns, and get a grown-up attitude to the second amendment of your constitution by realising that the circumstances behind the intention of the Framers and the Amenders have long passed into history.

But more than that is needed; having gun control laws similar to the ones in the UK won’t cut the gun murder rate of the USA; violent people will just find other tools with which to commit murder, tools which it would be impossible to legislate against.

If the USA wants to cut its murder rate, it needs to do something more fundamental than just stop people getting a free gun in return for opening a bank account – it needs to look deep into its soul and culture at why so many of its citizens are so broken that their response to having a bad day is to go on a killing spree.

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