We all know that the rate of gun deaths in the United States is very high: nearly 11,000 this year. In the last study done by the Centers For Disease Control, a total of 25,423 firearm homicides and 34,235 firearm suicides occurred among U.S. residents. That included over four thousand homicides among those aged 10-19, whose statistics was slightly higher than that of victims of all ages.
To further study the numbers, the U.S. was divided into regions (Midwest, Northeast, South, and West) as defined by the Census Bureau and further divided into metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The homicide rate for guns in the 50 largest MSAs collectively was a little more than 5 per 100,000 persons per year. Sixty-six of the MSAs had rates that exceeded the national rate of 4.2 (33 out of 50).
Topping the list of deadliest metro areas for gun deaths were New York (including northern New Jersey, all 5 boroughs of NYC and Newark, NJ), the Los Angeles area (including Long Beach, Santa Ana and Anaheim), the Chicago area (including Naperville and Joliet), Dallas/Fort Worth (including Arlington) and Philadelphia (including Camden and Wilmington). Together, those five MSAs totalled 6, 726 gun homicides in a one-year period. 2,250 of which involved victims aged 10-19. When the top 50 MSA’s rates are added together, they come to an astounding 17, 077.
Let’s compare that with the UK, where private firearms are strictly controlled. The rate of civilian firearm possession in the UK is 6.7 per 100 population. Annual deaths resulting from firearms in the UK in 2009 was 138: the UK is ranked 29th in that category while the U.S. is ranked number one with 688 times more murders! Yes, that’s right — we’re number one! The number of handgun homicides in the UK currently averages 2.5 per year. Think about that for a minute: in the UK an average of 2-3 people are murdered by handguns every year. We surpass that every day.
Yes, firearm possession in the UK, and Europe in general, is strictly regulated, guided by the Firearms Act 1968, the Council Directive of 18 June 1991 on Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons, and the Convention of 1 July 1969 on Reciprocal Recognition of Proofmarks on Small Arms. The private sale of and transfer of firearms is prohibited and a unique identifying mark is required on every firearm. The penalty for breaking gun laws is 6 months in prison. But for that kind of low mortality statistic, we can surely look to them for some guidance.
Do we have to be as strict as the UK to bring gun deaths under control in our country? No, of course not. That would be impossible for several reasons, not least of which is that it would be unconstitutional. But we can apply sensible, reasonable laws to enable the tracing of guns and ammunition. We can ban assault rifles (please don’t get semantic here, I think everyone understands what is meant by that) and high-capacity magazines. We can make gun shows require background checks — this is the 21st century and everyone has a computer now. It’s not difficult to do a quick check. We can ban anyone on the no-fly list from buying firearms. We can agree that something must be done and do it. Before more children pay with their lives.