Let’s begin with some corrections:
- Adam Lanza did not “blast his way through security doors.” According to the police investigation, Lanza shot out a window.
- According to official estimates, Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs) occur somewhere between 500,000 and more than a million times each year. The widely quotes figures are actually incorrect as they include only DGUs that involve the gun being fired resulting in an injury that required medical treatment. Authorities all agree that injuries account for only a small fraction of DGUs.
- When looking at the entire spectrum of criminal violence (assaults, aggravated assaults, manslaughter, non-negligent manslaughter and murder) firearms are involved in about 6.2% of the total. They do account for roughly three-fourths of all fatal injuries due to criminal activity, but just 5.4% of injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.
Now let’s look at population distribution. Yes, the average population density in the U.S. is lower than that of the UK. According to the World Bank date for 2017, the population density of the U.S. is actually slightly more than an eighth that of the UK.
The problem is the distribution of our population. According to the Office for National Statistics, the least densely populated district in the UK is Eden in Cumbria with 24 people per square kilometer. The least densely populated county in the continental U.S. county is Loving County in Texas with 0.04 people per square kilometer. Conversely, the most densely populated district in England is the borough of Islington with 15,817 people per square kilometer. In the U.S. we can really pack ’em in: New York County, more commonly known as Manhattan, has 69,468 people per square kilometer. There are actually five U.S counties with population densities higher than Islington.
While bears and wolves are a threat in relatively few counties, snakes, mountain lions, feral hogs and coyotes are a problem in many counties, including some that are fairly urbanized. Farmers and ranchers in many parts of the country will either carry a gun or have one nearby for dispatching varmints and there are certain areas of Alaska where a firearm is required for campers, backpackers and others wishing to rough it in unspoiled wilderness.
When it comes to defense against a criminal attack, police even in many densely populated areas are seldom able to arrive on-scene before the situation has been resolved in one way or the other. In many instances when simply displaying a defensive firearm is sufficient to end an assault, police aren’t even summoned. This is another factor in the difficulty of gauging the number of times there is a lawful defensive use of a gun.
Unlike many other countries, citizens in the U.S. have the right to use force in self-defense. Even at the time of the creation of the Bill of Rights, it was noted that we possessed a right a right to keep arms, an advantage that James Madison noted “Americans possess over the people of nearly every other nation.”
Then consider this: even by the lowest estimates, there are more gun owners in America than there are people in the United Kingdom. Estimates range from 80 to more than 100 million. About 40% of U.S. households have one or more guns. There are 16.3 million currently active concealed carry permits and twelve states don’t require a permit for their residents to carry a concealed handgun. Those twelve are among the 32 states that allow residents to openly carry a handgun.
Despite this, the U.S. homicide rate in 2014 was the lowest on record since 1958. The rate increased in 2015 and 2016 but is still well below the 50-year average, according to the FBI. Some of this decrease is due to improved treatment; over 80% of gunshot victims survive.
Admittedly, it is a common failure among gun rights advocates to seek shelter in the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment, while its meaning is crystal-clear, is possibly the most-misunderstood of the first ten Amendments.
The Second Amendment does not grant a right. It forbids the government from infringing on what the Founding Fathers considered to be a natural right that existed independently of the government.
However, resistance to the measures currently being proposed, which are the same measures that have been repeatedly proposed for the past few decades, should not be based on the preservation of the natural right. Instead, it should be based on real-world experience that tells us these measures not only won’t deliver the promised improvements in public safety, they can’t make good on those promises. In other words, opposition to these proposals should be based on the fact they are bad laws.
In addition, the U.S. homicide rate seems to rise and fall with little regard for firearms legislation. The chart below tracks the history of murder in the U.S. for 66 years. It doesn’t seem to matter if restrictions are added or removed.
Despite our country’s origins as a British colony, the United States 242 years later bears little resemblance to its progenitor. We are not you. We also are not Canada, Australia, or any member of the extended European Union.
As was true of comparisons of population densities, a facile comparison of the entire number of gun deaths doesn’t account for the huge difference in the causes of those deaths. White American males are by far the most likely to commit suicide as well as the most likely to use a gun. When it comes to homicides, the rate for blacks is nearly twelve times higher than it is for non-Hispanic whites. This is one of the reasons that a simplistic approach will fail to produce results. Lumping them all together under “gun violence” ignores the fact they are different problems that will require different actions.
Police in London have been trying to confront a growing problem with knife violence. The UK has passed some very strict laws restricting the sorts of knives that can be legally carried.
What nobody seems to understand is that the problem with a legislative approach to control the means of inflicting violence is that it doesn’t address the factors that caused the perpetrator to commit violence, regardless of the means used.
All of these things combine to make Mr. Lee’s comments largely irrelevant. It’s all well and good to view something from afar, but without understanding the necessary context, the observations are unproductive and don’t really advance the discussion.