There is a sea of confusing data and statistics about gun violence on the web and in books. One side claims more guns make us safer and the other claims that more guns put us a greater risk. Things of course aren't exactly that simple. But we think the credible research indicates that sensible gun laws will definitely decrease gun violence in our communities.
THE BIG PICTURE
When confronting this massive amount of conflicting data, we believe in taking an approach that looks at the big picture, comparing data about levels of gun violence across the globe and also in our own country. We also believe the most credible analysis, done by the crimonologists and economists, points to a definite link between weak gun laws and higher levels of gun violence.
Take a look at some of these uncomplicated facts and it is clear, America has a serious problem with gun violence. And the way we have been dealing with it is clearly not working.
[Chart courtesy of the Washington Post]
The United States has by far the most gun deaths in the developed world, and has the highest levels of gun ownership in the world. This is not a complete coincidence.
While higher levels of gun ownership don't have a perfectly direct relationship to gun violence, there is a definite link. Click here to look at a chart ranking nations by frequency of gun murders. The United States is tenth on the list, preceded by: El Salvador, Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Swaziland, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Panama. In terms of gun violence, the United States looks like a third world country.
Firearms research from Harvard School of Public Health very clearly clarifies the link between high rates of gun ownership and homicide. Whether in the U.S. or any other developed country, more guns means more homicide. [Click here for more info.]
Storing a gun in the home is also associated with an increased risk of violent death. According to an analysis done by the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who have a gun in their home, have a greater risk of dying from a homicide in the home, and also a greater risk for dying from a homicide in general. Having a gun increases the risk of dying from a suicide among men. And persons [both male and female] with a gun in the home are at greater risk for dying from a suicide committed by a firearm than from dying from a suicide committed by a different method. [for AJE abstract click here.]
The Utah Department of Health states, "The availability of firearms in the home is associated with increased risk of suicide, domestic firearms homicide, and unintentional shooting death." And "For every one time a gun in a home was used for self-defense, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and eleven attempted or completed suicides." [Utah Department of Health, Violence and Injury Prevention Program, Firearms Injury Factsheet 2007]
Conservative media tends to downplay the risks of owning a firearm. While we understand that many people desire to own a gun (even some of us own guns), we believe all the reliable facts are important, so that people and families can make informed decisions about firearms' use and storage. We also understand the desire of certain media to point out a gun's potential for self-defense, but we believe these commendations should come with a thorough explanation of all the risks, and not downplay the credible figures and statistics from the medical community and our health departments.
The Link Between Weak Gun Laws and Higher Rates of Firearms Injury and Death
[Graphic from statehealthfacts.org]
There is no mistaking that states with more liberal gun laws like Utah, in general have higher rates of gun violence and death. And those with more sensible laws have lower levels of gun violence. The trend is somewhat complicated by other factors including drug use, gang problems, population density, poverty and general economics, etc. But the most credible sources point to an unmistakeable relationship.
The gun industry and many of our politicians are constantly denying, distracting and complicating this fact, sometimes very convincingly. They frequently cite the research of a very small minority of 'academics' whose work has been magnified in importance by their lobbyists and passionate but misinformed advocates. For more in depth research about the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence click here.