Who's to blame for the rise in gun crime?
Sadly, hardly a day passes now when we don’t hear, read or see stories of gun related tragedies. Every which way we turn it’s impossible not to be confronted by the reality of gun crime and the deaths attributed to such lethal weapons. But, who has ultimate accountability for the incomprehensible and life-altering impact guns are having on our communities and society?
Can it be blamed on a mix of failings in the various legislations set, gun owners themselves, gun sellers and how readily available firearms are or public health services? The media for potentially aiding the possible sycophantic and egocentric motivations of some of culprits behind the incidents by glorifying the atrocities 24/7? The lines are extremely blurred. Whilst the opinions and debates continue to rage strong about where the fault lies and the divides in onus sit, the abominations don’t abate. If history to date is anything to go by then this is an extensive downward spiral that continues to snowball out of control at top notch speed, with innocent victims getting embroiled in this societal devastation as it throttles ahead at full steam.
We can all reel off shocking massacres which have stuck with us and remain impossible to fathom. Including Dunblane, where 16 innocent schoolchildren and their teacher were attacked in 1996 in Scotland, or when two pupils murdered 13 and injured 21 people at Columbine High School in 1999. Utoya Island in Norway where Anders Behring Breivik mercilessly killed 77 people and injured 117 in 2011, before taking his own life. Oregon and the world is still faltering to digest one of the most recent mass tragedies Christopher Harper-Mercer was behind.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, America has 4.4 per cent of the world’s population and almost half civilian-owned guns around the world . In 2013 guns were the second biggest cause of death (33,636) in America according to The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preceded solely by breast cancer (41,325).
A landmark study by Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins in 1999 revolutionised thinking around crime and violence in America . They revealed that despite perceptions, America’s crime rates are in fact comparable to other similar nations. It is when it comes to lethal violence, particularly homicide, the US surpasses other Western nations. According to Zimring and Hawkins the presence of firearms makes a situation more likely to turn deadly. They found, "A preference for crimes of personal force and the willingness and ability to use guns in robbery make similar levels of property crime fifty-four times as deadly in New York City as in London." Zimring and Hawkins looked at 20 developed countries' overall crime rate and rates of violent death. They found virtually no connection between the two, indicating that a country's level of violent death wasn't determined by its overall crime levels.
Would adjusting the gun laws help? On October 1st 2015 after the Oregon shooting, President Barack Obama claimed that “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.” However to date it is difficult to prove the implied causality that gun laws lead to fewer or greater gun crimes or gun deaths .
The CDC publishes figures on firearm deaths and the death rates, a news report compiled by USA Today which drew upon its official statistics listed several reasons besides gun laws that particular states might have high rates of gun deaths, including suicide. It transpired many of these states also have higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment and possibly more rural areas that make getting to a hospital to save someone’s life difficult. However the report also noted weaker gun laws were common among the states with higher gun death rates: “In fact, none of the states with the most gun violence require permits to purchase rifles, shotguns, or handguns. Gun owners are also not required to register their weapons in any of these states. Meanwhile, many of the states with the least gun violence require a permit or other form of identification to buy a gun,” reporter Thomas C. Frohlich wrote.
The responsibility for gun crimes and deaths, who it ultimately lies with, and how it can best be addressed, continues to be highly controversial and debatable. Largely undoubtedly because the responsibility transcends so many sectors and encompasses many societal spectrums, but whilst the war with guns wages on our communities continue to be depressingly torn apart by their impact. One certainty is consistently evident, a dramatic and impactful solution is critical to cease this crisis and time really is of the essence.