For people who live in remote areas, land or sea, having a long rifle or shotgun, is simply the evolvement of weapons, where instead of throwing a rock or spear one can now shoot game more humanely and quickly, whether for protection or for food for our families. In the cities, urban living target shooters, the majority being hand gun users, take courses and earn the privilege of being licensed to have a weapon, as well as being registered as such. Most of these people are fairly responsible people. The problem in our societies is when the bad guys get a hold of a gun, or someone jealous, angry or mad has a gun or can get one. The gun is then not used to supply food for oneself, family and community nor for the enjoyment of basically playing darts using bullets, where instead of a dartboard one uses the silhouette of a human, while wearing headphones in a controlled environment and can fire away as much as they can afford, the gun instead is used to murder someone. But then as far as using a gun to do harm on another is but one way we assault and kill each other. In Canada and the United States, the majority of murders are by a firearm, most always a handgun. The next most popular way of ending someone else’s life is by using a knife, then fists and feet, blunt objects and other devious ways and methods. The use of firearms and weapons militarily, thus politically will not be included here. But on the bright side, the murder rate is actually going down, worldwide.
In most all countries in the developed world, the murder rates are between one and four per 100,000 of the population, with the lowest rates in Japan and Iceland, with nearly nil. Canada’s murder rate is below two per 100,000. The countries with the highest rates of murder include South Africa, Jamaica, Venezuela, Russia, Mexico and Columbia.
Over the last decade it is estimated that about half a million people have been murdered worldwide, each year, with 90% of these murders committed by males between the ages of 18 and 30. For women, globally, murder has become the leading cause of death in the workplace, with female victims most frequently killed by a former intimate partner or another family member, with 84% of all murders done by someone who is known to the victim. In America, workplace homicide is the fastest growing category of murder.
In 2010 Brazil was right up there at the top, as is its population, with about 40,000 murders. The rest include; India, one of the world’s largest populations, with about 30,000 murders, South Africa, 20,000, Russia, 16,000, Mexico, 15,000, United States, 13,000, Jamaica, 1,600, France, 1000, Canada, 580 and Chile with 200 murders.
America alone has over 45 million citizens owning nearly 200 million firearms, including over 66 million handguns, with 25% of Americans owning a firearm. It is estimated that firearms actually available in the States is well over 220 million. So how is this working out for them? And comparatively as possible, what about murder by gun in Canada?
In the past year there were 12,996 murders in the United States, nearly 68% of these, 8,775, were caused by firearms. There are no current numbers for Florida on gun murders and Illinois’ murder stats are incomplete. The nation’s capital, Washington, District of Columbia, has the highest murder rate in the country with sixteen murders per 100,000 people. DC also leads the country in firearms per robberies. Since September 11, 2001, and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in New York City, America has had over 140,000 people murdered, far overshadowing the combined deaths of military personal in both Afghanistan and Iraq, which today stands at 6,113 deaths and over 45,000 wounded after nearly ten years of conflict. In comparison, Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan from Feb. 2002 to June 2011 has caused the deaths of 156 military personal. Over the same time frame there were over 5,000 people murdered in Canada.
Of the States, the most murders overall by firearms happen in California with over 1,800 in 2010, followed by Texas, 1,246 and New York with 860. California also leads America in murder by handgun, followed by Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Georgia. Oddly the most assaults by firearms, is not in California or Texas but in Tennessee, followed by South Carolina, Missouri, District of Columbia and Arkansas. The States with the least gun murders are Vermont, Wyoming, South and North Dakota and New Hampshire. Sadly, with penitentiaries replacing the cotton fields, the leading cause of death for African-American males, 15 to 34 years old, is murder.
Nearly 70% of the total murders committed in the United States are murder by gun while in Canada, 30% of all murders are by firearms, with 7.7 million firearms registered to nearly a million gun-license holders. As far as registration of firearms laws and the murder rate, they have nothing to do with each other. Whether a country forces registration of firearms by it’s citizens or not, does not affect the murder rate. It’s like what was brought up during the most excellent film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, Prohibition, when the United States enacted, since repealed, the 18th amendment to their constitution that prohibited the selling and drinking of alcohol, which did not take care of the abuse of alcohol and that, “Trying to legislate morality does not work”.
In Canada, from 2002 – 2009, 1,466 guns were used in homicides, of these, 133 were registered, 360 were not registered and over 65%, 973 guns, listed as unknown origin, not recovered or serial numbers were removed. In 2002 there were 40 murders by rifle (long gun) by 2009 it had dropped 27% to 29 deaths by rifle. The total number of murders in 2009 was 610 with 179 homicides by firearms, 69% (112) of them involved a handgun, the weapon of choice for gang-related violence. In 2010 homicides dropped to 554.
In 2009/2010 there were 263 murder cases before the Criminal Courts of Canada, only half (131) were found guilty, with the median length of a murder conviction being five years and an attempted murder conviction averaging four and a half years.
Despite enormous and incredible improvements in forensics the percentage of murders solved has dropped. In the United States, in 1960, 90% of murders were solved. By 2007 that figure had dropped to 61%, with the biggest reasons being a lack of witness participation and the number of investigators on the case.
It’s encouraging that murders by firearms and crime overall is dropping. If we could tackle the problems associated with gang violence we would be well on our way to seeing far less murders by guns. But unfortunately we are a culture that glorifies violence and far too often, a culture that shows disrespect to authority. We will forever scream about our rights but ignore anything to do with responsibility. We sensationalize violence, especially when it has something to do with shooting and/or explosives and has sufficient blood splatter. Meanwhile there are many other ways we are killing ourselves.
For example, suicide in the United States, which we do not glorify nor think, is sexy, outnumbers homicide by 2 to 1. Worldwide, at least 10-20 million people attempt to kill themselves, with over one million successful in their attempt, with over 60% of all suicides happening in Asia. Suicide is the 13th leading cause of death worldwide, and the leading cause of death among teenagers and adults under 25 years old. The reasons are varied but are all related to why we will hang ourselves and/or shoot a person with a gun, stab them with a knife or just beat them with our fists and are the causes which we should be focussed on, such as despair, mental disorders, depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism and drug abuse, with the two things most associated with suicide being depression and alcohol abuse. Over 30% of all suicides is because of an intimate partner problem, with over 30% of the world populations admitting they have said at least once, that they were going to take their own life. In fact, depression will soon be the 2nd leading cause of disability behind heart disease in the world.
Violence to ourselves or to others is all about not handling pressures and misfortunes in our lives, such as financial difficulties and interpersonal relationships. I don’t believe guns will ever go away, nor will suicide, but we can cut them down as to the problems, hardship, heartache, expense and loss that they bring to our society. But we can’t wait for the authorities to take care of the problem, and it must start at the community level, with our children and in our homes, and most importantly we must rediscover empathy. We have got to rethink the long held story that has been told to us that we are by nature, aggressive, materialistic, utilitarian and self-interested, when in reality we are by nature an empathic species, with empathy being a word based on the meanings of affection, passion and feeling and defined as the projection of one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand the person better; the ability to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings. And only then can we begin to hope for a better tomorrow.
Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition of American English, Simon & Schuster, Inc, 1988.
Rifkin, Jeremy, The Empathic Civilization, Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin Group(USA) Inc, New York, 2009.