Written by Richard Schiffman
The recent killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in a gated community in Florida has reignited the controversy over gun violence in America.
Whether the shooting was an act of self-defense, as Zimmerman’s lawyer claims, or murder plain and simple has been left to a jury to decide. But clearly it never would have happened if the possession of handguns were illegal, or severely restricted, as it is in Europe, where per-capita gun deaths are only one seventh of what they are in the U.S.
Gun fatalities have been on the rise– slowly but steadily every year since 2002, according to a National Institute of Justice survey. In 1975, 60 percent of the homicides in the U.S. were committed using a handgun. By 2005 that number had shot up to nearly 80 percent, with the rise in gang related gun killings even steeper.
This trend gives the lie to the NRA claim that easy access to guns does not pose a danger to Americans. It does. The more handguns there are out there, the more likely they will be used to commit a violent crime. Last year 31,593 Americans were killed by handguns. In addition, over 40 thousand were injured in nonlethal gun attacks, leaving some victims crippled for life.
Compare these appalling casualty figures to the slightly over 1000 U.S. Armed Service personnel and private contractors who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. Clearly we gun-toting Americans are our own worst enemies. The violence that we perpetrate on one another with handguns is more than 30 times as deadly than the attacks of Al Qaeda and the Taliban combined!
Not only that, but in ten states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington) you are more likely to be killed by a gun than in a car accident, according to an analysis just released by the advocacy group, the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
This is surprising given that 90 percent of U.S households have cars, whereas fewer than a third own guns, VPC’s Legislative Director Kristen Rand points out.
“Motor vehicles–unlike guns–are essential to the functioning of the entire U.S. economy,” Rand says, adding, “It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product.”
The reason that cars have been getting safer is precisely because they are regulated. And those regulations are getting stiffer every year.
Photo from bbcworldservice via flickr
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