Can More Guns Lead to Less Deaths?

By Matthieu Ricard on September 07, 2012

Another tragic mass killing took place in the United States in Colorado. It caused the death of 12 people and wounded 58 others. It happened only 17 miles away from the Columbine High School where 12 students were shot dead by two other students in 1999.

These kinds of incidents should make the American people think again about their laws that do not limit or regulate properly the sales of guns, including automatic and war weapons. In some states, anyone who does not have a criminal record can step into a number of gun stores and buy a whole arsenal of deadly weapons. Instead of moving towards an increase in regulation, the tendency in some states, such as Texas, is to actually decrease these regulations and thus further facilitate the acquisition of weapons. The National Rifle Association has 4.3 million members that make it one of the most effective lobbyists in Washington.

According to a 2011 Gallup Poll, a record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States (other than by police and other authorized people). Additionally, support for the broader concept of making gun laws stricter is at its lowest (43%). Forty-four percent prefer that gun laws be kept as they are now, while 11% favor less strict laws.

Among the politicians a few, most notably New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reacted to the Aurora massacre by stressing the need to improve gun control: ‟Soothing words are nice, but maybe it's time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”

After the shooting in the movie theater at Aurora in Colorado, people grieved, stressed the need for communities to work together, for justice to be done, etc. However, very few among those interviewed on radio and TV programs raised the point that, with guns flooding the place and getting easily into the hands of crazed people, such dramas are bound to happen again and again.

What is amazing is that the demand for guns has increased 43% in the week following the ‟Batman” shooting! Far from being disgusted with the causes of the bloodbath, ordinary American people from Colorado rushed to arm themselves. There was also an increase in the number of people who want to learn how to shoot. The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, declared that there was no need to change the laws.

A gun shop owner in downtown Denver, Colorado, told the BBC Radio: ‟It is true that we have seen a big jump in sales. I was not surprised; we expected that. People tend to take more responsibility for their own protection.” The gun seller seems to believe that the more arms there are, the more we will be safe, and he added, ‟You see terrible incidents happen in gun free zones, not in places where everybody is armed. I think it would have been better if there had been more people bearing arms in the cinema. They could have shot down the aggressor.” Back to the Wild West!

As CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria wrote: ‟The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases — I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally — but because it has more guns. The map below shows the average number of firearms per 100 people. Most of the world is shaded light green (countries where there are between zero and 10 guns per 100 citizens). In dark brown, you have the countries with more than 70 guns per 100 people. The U.S. is the only country in that category. In fact, the last nationwide Small Arms Survey showed there are 88 guns for every 100 Americans. Yemen is second at 54. Serbia and Iraq are among the other countries in the top 10. Thus the United States hosts 5% percent of the world's population and 50% percent of the guns.

James Holmes, the killer, bought $2,000 worth of deadly weapons at a local shop and 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the Internet. That is easy to do. One click away! If having more weapons is such a good thing for public safety, one wonders why in Western Europe where weapons sale to private citizens is highly restricted, there are on average 10 times fewer deaths by firearms than in the United States. The U.S has 10 times more homicides per 100,000 people than India and 20 times as many as Australia and England.