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The U.S. and its Love Affair with Weapons December 19, 2012

Posted by tackettmedia in politics.
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2 comments

A couple of days ago, I read in a Swiss paper (online, of course) an article commenting on the massacre in Newtown and examining the prevalence of weapons among civilians in the United States.

I am trying here to summarize the article in English.

Per 20 Minuten about 650 million guns are owned by civilians across the world. Of those, approximately 270 million are owned by civilians in the United States. The paper lists as its source the Small Arms Survey.

Here are some other statistics I copied from the Small Arms Survey:

• Civilians own approximately 650 million firearms worldwide, roughly 75 per cent of the known total. Civilians in the United States own some 270 million of these.

• There are at least 875 million combined civilian, law enforcement, and military firearms in the world today.

• This is equal to roughly one gun for every seven people worldwide (without the United States, the figure drops to about one gun for every ten people).

• These figures do not include older, pre-automatic small arms still maintained by armed forces or craft-produced civilian guns.

• Nearly 79 million civilian firearms are known to be registered with authorities, roughly 9 per cent of the suspected civilian total.

• The rising availability of handguns has transformed urban weapons ownership, while semi- or fully automatic rifles have transformed possession in urban and rural settings.

• Organized destruction projects have eliminated at least 8.5 million small arms since 1991, three-quarters of which came from armed services. An unknown number are also lost through accidental wastage.

20 Minuten then continues to say that, according to a list put together by the UK paper Guardian, India has the next largest contingent of guns in ownership of civilians. Indian civilians own 46 million guns.

Therefore, with 88.8 guns per every 100 persons, the United States is the most armed population of any country.

(Of course, all these numbers are based on estimates).

However, if you compare countries by the lethal use of weapons at a per capita rate, the United States does not lead the list. Here is what 20 Minutes reports:

  • Honduras has the most murders with 68.43 killings per 100,000 people;
  • El Salvador is next with 39.9 murders per 100,000 people;
  • Jamaica follows closely (39.4); and
  • Venezuela is listed fourth (38.97).

The United States is ranked 28th with 2.97 lethal shootings per 100,000 people.

Therefore, the authors of the article in 20 Minuten comment, the high prevalence of weapons in the United States is surely a contributing factor when examining the amount of massacres in the past few years, but it is not the only explanation. They further explain that with 30.8 guns per 100 people, civilians in Canada are also well-armed. However, Canada only sees 0.51 lethal shootings per 100,000 people.

Next, the article talks about the efficiency of the weapons that are permitted to be purchased by the civilian population in the United States, namely semi-automatic guns. The reporters mention that this is the main discussion surrounding gun control.

If you have read my past blog entry, you know that I also believe some sort of ammunition control should be among any discussion of gun control. Is it doable? I don’t know. But with today’s technology, I sure hope that there would be some measures that allowed for a discussion about where and how ammunition can be purchased, what type of ammunition is permitted to manufacture at home and for which purpose, etc.

But back to the 20 Minuten article. It ends by changing the direction and examines the lack of general health insurance for all people, which contributes to the fact that many people with mental health issues do not get the treatment they need.

As announced in my previous blog entry, I’ve been asking questions around mental health issues for quite some time. I am not satisfied with any answers I have been given. Yet, I will not go into my views on mental health today. It deserves its own (or multiple) entry.