Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More thoughts on guns and the Tucson massacre

The United States of A-Massacre?
Guns, A follow-up

My recent commentary on guns in the wake of the recent shootings brought many responses; some angry, some thought provoking. Several who wrote thought I was attacking the Second Amendment. Others felt I was picking on the political right. One person, in response to the weekend mass murder in Tucson, stated, “He could have done the same thing with a stick of dynamite.” Many defended their right to carry a weapon, either concealed (with a proper permit) or not. The responses led me to do additional research that revealed the following data. I draw no conclusions, but report the data.

Definition: the term mass murder or massacre is defined as the taking the life of three or more people during the same incident.

Mark Kopta, a professor of Psychology at the University of Evansville, IN has studied mass murders. In a paper presented to the Midwestern Psychological Association in Chicago in 2009, he reported that between 1930 and 1970 a total of three mass murders were reported in America. Three more followed in the 1970s. The 1980s had a total of 10, the 1990s 17, and before the close of the first decade of the new millennium there had been more than 25 mass killings. Six occurred in 2008 and within the first four months of 2009 there had been eight.

I then Googled Mass Murders by year going back 20 years and discovered the following PARTIAL results:

1991: Austin TX, four killed, Killeen, TX 23 killed, 20 wounded.
1992: Olivehurst, CA, four killed, 9 wounded.
1993: Palatine, TX, seven killed. San Francisco, CA, 9 killed, 6 wounded.
1997: Jonesboro, AR, 5 killed, 11 wounded
1999: Ft. Worth, TX, 7 killed, 7 wounded, Honolulu, HI, 7 killed, 1 wounded, Atlanta, GA, 13 killed, Littleton, CO 15 killed, 26 wounded.

2000: Wakefield, MA, 7 killed, Wichita, KS, 5 killed.
2002: Washington DC Beltway area: 11 killed, six wounded.
2003: Meridian, MS, seven killed, eight wounded.
2004: Fresno, CA, nine killed, two wounded, McKinney, TX, five killed.
2005: Red Lake, MN, nine killed, Brookfield, WI, eight killed.
2006: Santa Barbara, CA, seven killed, Indianapolis, IN, seven killed
2007: Blacksburg, VA, 33 killed, Salt Lake City, UT, six killed, Amish School, PA, six killed.

2008: Henderson, KY, six killed, one wounded, Kirkwood, MO, seven killed, one wounded, Chicago, IL, 5 killed, one wounded, Covina, CA, 10 killed, three wounded, Omaha, NB, nine killed, four wounded, Dekalb, IL, five killed, 18 wounded
2009: Upstate, NY, 19 killed, Ft. Hood, TX, 13 killed, 30 wounded
2010: St. Louis, MO, four killed, five wounded, Appomattox, VA, eight killed, Manchester, CT: nine killed, two wounded, Kennesaw, GA, three killed, two wounded, Huntsville, AL, three killed, two wounded.
2011: Tucson, AZ: six killed, 14 wounded.

With the exception of six of the above who were stabbed to death, all others were shot.

Guns per capita: The following countries have fewer than ten guns per 100 people: Nigeria, China, India, Philippines, Iran, U.K., Columbia, Brazil, Ukraine, and Russia. Only three countries have more than 40 guns per 100 people. They are: Switzerland (46 guns per 100 people – the government supplies the weapons for their citizen militia), Yemen (61 guns per 100 people) and the United States which has 90 guns per 100 people!

There are about 82 people killed by guns in the U.S. every day and 547 people per day wounded. Only Mexico, Estonia, and Brazil have a higher firearm-related death rate than does the U.S.

The United States has had four presidents assassinated by guns (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy) two injured but not killed (Roosevelt and Reagan), and at least 20 known assassination attempts on sitting, former, or presidents elect. Our neighbors to the south have had two presidents assassinated (Abraham Gonzales in 1913 and Venustiano Carranza in 1920) and our neighbors to the north have never had a presidential assassination.

Guns have been part of America’s culture since the U.S. became a country. Militias of the early U.S. stood in lieu of a standing army. As the country’s population expanded westward guns were used to provide food, keep the peace, and settle disputes. But we are no longer under the direct threat of invasion from another country – at least not an invasion that would be repelled by handguns. And the only game-related shooting takes place while shooting the bull during shopping for dinner. Disputes are still sometimes settled with weapons, especially in poor inner-city ghettos, but as a rule the law settles disputes. Perhaps it is time to reexamine our gun culture to see whether or not changes need to be made.

Postscript: In my previous poston this topic I might have left the impression that political vitriol was somehow responsible for the shooting in Tucson. The converse of such a statement would suggest that if only vitriol were removed from politics, such incidents would not happen. Of course that is folly.

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