But most of the arguments I see fail to take into account the big picture, and while I won't pretend to be bringing up every issue possible, let me share a few thoughts that I believe should be part of the discussion:
1) The U.S. is ranked #1 in the number of people owning guns. But it is NOT ranked #1 in the number of homicides or gun homicides. Many countries with fewer guns per person have FAR higher homicide and gun homicide rates.
2) France is ranked #12 in the rate of gun ownership and Germany is ranked #15, while the UK is ranked #88. Yet the number of homicides by any method is LOWER in France and Germany than in the UK. So the number of guns is not dictating the homicide rate. The U.S. total homicide rate is about 5.1 per 100,000 people; the UK is 1.15; Germany is 0.8; and France is 0.7.
So SOMETHING else is going on in the U.S. to drive murderous violence.
3) The number of gun homicides in these countries per 100,000 is:
- U.S. -- 3.6, or 71% of our total homicides.
- U.K. -- .06, or 5% of their total homicides.
- France -- .22, or 31% of their total homicides.
- Germany -- .2, or 25% of their total homicides.
As expected, gun ownership in these countries DOES increase the use of guns in homicides, because it's a pretty reliable way to do the job. But again, the presence of guns doesn't seem to dictate how many people are dying; just HOW they are dying.
In fact, despite our #1 rate for gun ownership, the U.S. isn't even in the top 100 countries for homicide rates. So you really can't correlate the two. So the next question comes up: is it poverty?
I don't know what level poverty plays, because while I imagine it plays a role, I don't think it's the full story. Germany, the UK, and the US all have similar poverty rates (around 15%) while France is listed at around 6% (just reporting the stats). So this wouldn't explain why the US has 4-5 times the homicide rate.
However, I always remember the theories that Daniel Quinn shares in books like The Story of B and Ishmael. He talked about how increased population in a given area leads to crime, and if you look at the poorest large cities in America, 5 of them (as of this writing) are in the top 10 murder cities in the U.S. So ... population density and poverty coming together. (And Detroit, which tops the poverty rate of large cities in the U.S., is the king of overall violent crime.)
So does that hold up to countries with the highest murder rates? Honduras has the highest (91.6 per 100,000) and has a 65% poverty level, but they're 127 on the population density list.
El Salvador has the next highest number of murders (69.2). They have a 36.5% poverty level. (Detroit's was 44% in 2009.) They are #46 on the density list.
The Ivory Coast is next in the murder line at 56.9. They have a 42% poverty level but are just #133 on the density list.
Meanwhile, Haiti, which has an 80% national poverty level and is #32 on the density list, has a murder rate only slightly above the U.S. at 6.9. So while I believe poverty and population must play some role, is it possible ... just possible ... that there are cultural differences related to violence, and that you can't simply blame the presence of guns?
Europe and Asia, for instance, have apparently developed cultures with low levels of murder (3.5 and 3.1 per 100,000 respectively), while most of Africa, South America, and Central America have extremely high murder rates. If America is a melting pot of all these cultures, how can you compare the murder rates with gun ownership when that statistical linkage fails within Europe's own borders???
If we took the murder rates of Central America (28.5) and South America (20.0) and Africa (17.0) and Europe (3.5) and Asia (3.1) and added these all up adjusted for the population of each culture in the United States (and assuming no adjustment for America's own culture), you would actually EXPECT a U.S. murder rate of perhaps 8.8 per 100,000.
(Based on: 63.4% "white / non-Hispanic"; 16.7% Hispanic; 13.1% African-American; and 5% Asian.)
Instead, we have a murder rate of 5.1.
Maybe this lower rate is BECAUSE we have a lot of guns. Maybe it's because we have a lot of space. (We're one of the least densely populated countries even though we have densely populated cities.) Maybe it's because of our wealth. (We are NOT the wealthiest per GDP, but we're in the top 20.) Maybe it's because we make great movies or because we have great music. Maybe it's because of our tax system or because of our legal system or in spite of our legal system. In short ... maybe it's because AMERICA AND ITS CULTURE ARE UNIQUE. And as a result, you can't just say, "Get rid of the guns and your problems will be solved."
Of course there are all sorts of "murder," and some of them are financial or freedom-oriented. You'll find different types of murder occurring in different places or cultures. For instance, a 2009 Global Economic Crime Survey showed Russia with the highest percentage of people reporting fraud in their organizations (71%). Canada was not far behind (56%, position #4). The UK, despite their low murder rate, was #7 at 43%. So ... different cultures, different crimes.
And let's not even get started on other forms of corporate destruction in the world -- NOT by all corporations, but certainly by some.
An interesting aside to all of this: at least looking at the 4 countries above, death by drug use (and perhaps, by association, drug use in general) correlates much better with gun homicide rates than gun ownership does. Two sources here and here show the U.S. and U.K. with much higher "death by drug use" rates than Germany and France. And the first is a surprisingly close correlation to gun homicide rates. Maybe rather than blaming gun ownership, we need to look at why we're using so many drugs and who's bringing them into the country. Oh, and let's be clear that I'm not referring to just illicit drugs here. More than half of drug deaths each year come from pain killers.
4) Finally, let's remember the Constitution. A damn inconvenience for those who want to get rid of guns in the U.S., mainly because it says that our right to keep and bear arms "shall not be infringed." Infringe = "encroach, limit, or undermine." Therefore, in my opinion, ANY law that limits guns in ANY way is unconstitutional by definition and should not be upheld.
This doesn't mean that we can't amend the Constitution to allow for these laws, but as it stands today, the Constitution very clearly bars these laws. "But the Founding Fathers didn't know what kind of guns would be developed." That's ok -- that's why they allowed us to amend the Constitution should the need arise. As long as enough people agreed.
But if you can simply make laws to bypass the Constitution "on this one" because it's emotionally charged, then you're on the proverbial slippery slope of losing all your rights. I would much rather people consciously choose, as a nation, that they want to amend their founding document to allow or disallow something. This is the national contract on which we're all supposed to be able to plan our lives. And like any contract, if it's broken without repercussion, then we are in no place to plan our lives. We're at the mercy of those who decide things on their own whim. And for myself, it's not how I prefer to live.