• December 11, 2019

GUEST VIEW: Restricting Guns Won’t Solve Gun Violence - Odessa American: Guest Columns

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GUEST VIEW: Restricting Guns Won’t Solve Gun Violence

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Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2019 5:30 am

Banning firearms and taking guns and ammunition off store shelves may have great virtue-signaling value, but they aren’t serious solutions to gun violence.

Even if American gun restrictions rivaled those of European countries, the U.S. would still lead the industrial world in gun-related homicides.

Why? Because Americans are generally more inclined to commit murder.

According to an American Journal of Medicine report, Americans commit murder without firearms at rates much higher than many other developed nations: 5.7 times the rate of Britons, 3.5 times the rate of Germans and 4.25 times the rate of the French and Italians.

Of the 22 “high income” countries included in the study, only one country had more non-firearm homicides per capita than the United States — Czechoslovakia.

Contrary to the claims of the gun control lobby, the correlation between the number of firearms and gun homicides is weak and possibly negative.

Since 1993, the number of firearms in the United States has more than doubled, rising from 192 million to 393 million. On a per-capita basis, they’ve increased from 0.74 to 1.29. Yet by 2017, firearm-related homicides in the United States had declined by 53 percent.

Data from other nations doesn’t suggest a positive correlation either. Mexico has one-tenth the number of guns per capita but has a gun homicide rate more than three times that of the United States.

Iceland and Finland have among the highest rates of private gun ownership in Europe, but Iceland has not had a gun-related murder since 2007 and Finland’s gun homicide rate is comparable to the rest of Europe.

If the availability of firearms alone accounted for firearm-related murders, such murders would have spiked in the United States over the past two decades, Mexico’s gun murder rate would be a fraction of ours, and Iceland and Finland would have the highest gun homicide rates in Europe.

So why are Americans committing more murders than citizens of other industrialized countries?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System suggests that gang activity, substance abuse and mental illness are significant drivers.

Thirty-five percent of gun murders in the United States are attributable to criminal activity. Not surprisingly, the United States leads most industrialized nations in organized crime and gang activity, according to the World Economic Forum. The only European country surpassing the United States in organized crime is Italy. Countries with higher firearm homicide rates than the United States — such as Mexico and El Salvador — also have more significant organized crime problems.

An additional 25 percent of U.S. gun homicides are attributable to mental illness or substance abuse. Fifteen percent of murders are committed by those with substance abuse problems, while 9.7 percent are committed by those suffering from mental illness. The significance of mental illness is likely understated, however, as 51 percent of those with substance abuse problems also meet the criteria for mental illness. A significant part of those who turn to drugs do so to “self-medicate” for untreated mental illness.

The United States leads the industrial world in both mental illness and substance abuse. U.S. lifetime prevalence for these illnesses is among the highest in the world at 47.4 percent. Germany has a rate of 25.2 percent, Italy 18.1 percent, Japan 18 percent, France 37.9 percent, Netherlands 31.7 percent and Spain 19.4 percent.

If we’re to make meaningful progress in reducing gun homicides, we need to start addressing these underlying causes of violent behavior.

Demonizing the gun industry, the NRA and the gun-owning public and restricting gun sales may be politically advantageous, but these things won’t reduce gun violence and may well exacerbate it.

It’s time to end the incessant debate over the number of firearms and advance serious solutions to gun violence. It’s time to put American lives before politics.

Odessa, TX

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