It’s not surprising that gun violence in the U.S. is much higher than in any other rich country in the world. There is just a huge number of firearms in the hand of American civilians, because it’s very easy to purchase a gun. New York journalist and author Stephen J. Dubner from Freakonomics.com was looking into this topic a bit further in one of his latest podcast episodes. He found out that the actual numbers of gun related homicides decreased and is currently at about 11,000. On top of the list are still 20,000 gun related suicides. Sadly, the amount of mass shootings with guns picked up over the years and we all see it in the news every time it happens. Not just in America, but all over the world. And still, it’s easy to blame America’s shootings on its loose gun laws.
For non-Americans it can be difficult to understand why Americans are not really willing to make any changes to gun control. It’s a part of the Second Amendment and grants everyone the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state. In other words it helped to balance striking power between the general population and the government back in the days. Americans are very proud of their freedom and the gun law is part of that freedom. Democrats and Republicans have slightly different opinions about gun control, but they agree on one thing: The freedom to own a gun in America is a constitutional right that should not be touched. And quite frankly, it would be very difficult to prevent bad people doing bad things, because they’ll always find a way to get a gun or other kind of weapon to do harm.
Armed to the Teeth
Compared to other countries in the world, American civilians are armed to their teeth with over 270 million guns in their hands. Looking at the numbers that’s almost one gun for every American. However, that doesn’t mean every American really owns a gun. It’s 47% of all households that report to own at least one gun. The reason why Americans purchase firearms are protection against crime, target shooting and hunting.
Guns Are Big Business in America
Guns are also big business in the US and the National Shooting Sports Foundation as well as the National Rifle Association (NRA) are lobbying for political campaigns against stricter gun laws. This 31 billion dollar industry (based on 2011 numbers) is doing everything possible to maintain American’s right to buy guns with very little or no need for permits and licenses. Sales are getting pushed by spreading fear about potential law changes that would make it more difficult to buy guns. There are also lots of statistics floating around that communicate guns are primarily used for protection and that other weapons like knives are also used in homicides.
Stand Your Ground Laws
270 million guns. That’s about 88 guns per 100 residents – a much higher gun ownership ratio than in countries like Yemen. For an expat coming to America, that can be quite scary, especially with “Stand Your Ground” laws in place in most US states. Stand Your Ground laws aka. Shoot First laws allow individuals to use deadly force to defend themselves, if it’s justified, to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. Unfortunately some people are under the misconception that they can shoot anybody who acts suspiciously on their property, if they feel threatened without facing any consequences. There are plenty of deadly examples where innocent people got shot because a home owner thought they were intruders like Brandon Zeth, who was fatally shot 5 times by a homeowner in Pennsylvania in January 2012 when he banged on the home’s door. Zeth thought he was in front of his girl friend’s house when he died. The homeowner thought he was an intruder.
It’s also likely that spouses will turn on each other with guns, if these are present in the household. Chances of that are more likely than having to defend yourself against an intruder. The list of examples is long.
On the other side of the debate are lots of real self-defense cases, where firearms saved people from being mugged, robbed or raped. A survey of felons revealed that 3 out of 5 felons wouldn’t break into a home when they knew the homeowner has a gun. Some assaults can also be prevented just by showing you’re armed.
Who Can Buy a Gun in the US?
Unfortunately literally everybody, no matter what mental state they’re in, can purchase a gun in America. Sometimes as easy as grocery shopping. However states like Connecticut have stricter rules in place and will perform a background check and require a permit before you can buy a gun. But still, some shooters that have made it into the news lived a very normal life before they became killers, so they wouldn’t have raised any red flags when buying a gun. Often times, the gun was already in the killers home, because it belonged to his parents and was easy accessible or it was inherited.
Expats just have to adapt to the presence of guns in the American society, because it’s not going to change anytime soon. Everybody needs to decide for themselves whether to buy a gun or to stay away from them. In regards of safety I wouldn’t see America as more dangerous to live in than in other countries with stricter laws. The amount of firearms in America don’t necessarily mean that it’s more dangerous to live there. The odds of being killed by a gun might be higher than in other countries, but so are the odds of being saved by somebody with a gun.
I just wish that kids wouldn’t be exposed to so many shooting activities here in the States, be it video games, paint ball, lasertech, etc. That was one thing that I noticed after moving to the US: Parents don’t seem to have any issues with letting their little kids play shooting games in arcades. I see so many Dads who are having a blast with their kids as young as 3 years old, shooting “bad guys” in video games with pretty realistic looking guns. Guns are just part of the American society.
I created this infographic with some more facts & figures about gun laws in America. If you would like to share your opinion or give me some feedback, please comment below.
Photo credit: Fotolia © Stephanie Frey