The most recent shooting tragedy, in which 20 young children were murdered at a school in Connecticut, has refocused the debate over gun control and violence in the U.S. While the outrage was almost universal, repeated comments from politicians and other leaders that “now was not the time” to do something about gun control, was also heard loudly. But it’s important to see the gun control issue within the context of the U.S. as a violent society.
According to Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home? Edelman exclaims “This slaughter of innocents happens because we protect guns before children and other human beings.”
Harry Bradford, and Howard Steven Friedman writing in the Huffington Post, and the Brady Campaign, and Washington Post provided detailed statistics regarding the firearms industry including the following:
- The firearms industry created $31 billion in economic activity in 2011.
- An estimated 270-300 million guns are owned by Americans
- An estimated 45 million Americans own handguns
- 87% of the children killed in the 23 wealthiest nations were American
- 80% of the gun deaths in the 23 wealthiest nations were American
- The U.S. ranks number 1 in the world in terms of guns owned per 100 people (at 88.8). In comparison, Canada is 114 and Sweden is 70.
- Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the advanced countries in the past 50 years took place in the United States.
- The rate of gun-related deaths per 100,000 individuals in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom is 0.1, 0.5, and 0.03, respectively. In the U.S., the overall rate is 2.98. And that overall rate doesn’t tell the full story. In some cities, the rates are five to ten times that number. The fatality rate in Los Angeles is 9.2, in Miami it’s 23.7 and in Detroit, Michigan the rate is a staggering 35.9 deaths per 100,000 residents. According to data assembled by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIJP), about 85 people in the U.S. are killed every day in firearm-related incidents.
- Of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the countries with the five highest homicide rates are, in order: Mexico (highest), Chile, Estonia, the United States and Turkey (fifth highest).
- On average in the U.S., 97,820 people are shot every year and approximately 268 every day.