Gun Violence In America Is An Example Of The Worst Form Of Insanity

May 31st, 2022 by Tom Lynch

Beginning in 1959, and as it has every year since, the Gallup organization polled Americans with this question: “Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?”  When Gallup asked that question in 1959, 60% of Americans said “Yes.” Thirty-two years later, in 1991, the “Yes” group had decreased to 43%, and thirty years after that, in 2021, only 19% of Americans were still saying “Yes.” A whopping 80% now said “No.”

Since 1959, when Gallup also reported 78% of American saying laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, the decline in support for banning guns has been inversely proportional to the 63-year steady, linear rise in gun violence. The result is what we have today. Gun violence has become a cancer eating away the heart and soul of our society.

It may interest you to know that the proposition reflected in Gallup’s question precisely mirrors the law in the UK. No one is allowed to own a gun except “police and other authorized persons.” Exceptions are made for hunting and target shooting, but these are highly regulated and controlled by government. There is very little handgun violence in the UK. To this, you may say, “Without guns, people will just find another way to kill.” To which I reply, “I’d rather try to outrun a knife than a bullet.”

Last week, immediately following the massacre of 19 little children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a British reporter asked Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz why the US suffers a seemingly intractable and growing slaughter of innocents through mass shootings. The reporter pointed out America is the only highly developed country in the world where this occurs. So, why America? Rather than attempting to address, much less answer, the question, Cruz launched into platitudes about what a great country America is. When the reporter continually pressed him for an answer (US reporters should take this as a learning experience), the Senator, after trying the platitude thing again, simply avoided the reporter and hurriedly left the area.

I viewed this exchange as an important one. It highlighted the societal dichotomy we face. The US dwarfs the 28 most economically developed countries in the 38-member OECD* in deaths by firearms. In our country, 98 people die by firearms every single day. In those other 28 OECD countries, with a combined population more than twice that of America (712 million vs. 331 million), that number is 19.

Thinking about the British reporter’s question to Senator Cruz, I decided to dive into the actual statistics to compare our gun violence experience with that of the 28 OECD countries cited above as a whole. The year I’m using as a benchmark is 2015, because a number of peer reviewed and credible studies were done that year. I assure you, as I will note below, the situation has only gotten worse in the succeeding six+ years.

2015 (Rates per 100,000 persons)

All Homicides
US – 5.6
Other 28 countries – 0.7

Homicides by firearm
US – 4.1
Other 28 countries – 0.2

Non-firearm homicide
US – 1.5
Other 28 countries – 0.6

Accidental firearm death
US – 0.2
Other 28 countries – 0.0

Firearm death rate
US – 11.2
Other 28 countries – 1.0

Total deaths by firearm
US – 35,769
Other 28 countries – 6,965

US – 331 Million
Other 28 countries – 712.3 Million

Not only is our firearm death rate nearly 25 times higher than our OECD companions, our total homicide rate is eight times higher. We are a violent country.

And what about the mass shootings that, like a knife to the heart, horrify us every time one happens?

The FBI found an increase in active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2020. There were three such incidents in 2000; by 2020, that figure had increased to 40. There have been 27 thus far in 2022.

In 2020, the FBI reports, 513 people died in mass shooting incidents. In that year, according to the CDC, 45,222 of our neighbors died by firearms. Note how that is nearly 6,000 more than we reported above for 2015.

The number of deaths from mass shootings is paltry compared to the number of total deaths by firearms nationally (0.011%).

So, now, in the face of all this mayhem, we hear that our elected legislators may be willing to take some action at an unknown time in the future regarding gun control. We know Americans support this.

Politico/Morning Consult poll published last Wednesday showed “huge support” for gun regulations in that 88% of voters strongly or somewhat strongly support background checks on all gun sales, while only 8% strongly or somewhat strongly oppose such checks. That’s a net approval of +80.

Preventing gun sales to people who have been reported to police as dangerous by a mental health provider is supported by 84% of voters while only 9% oppose it, a net approval of +75. I’m forced to wonder about those 9%ers.

A national database for gun sales gets 75% approval and 18% disapproval, a net approval rate of +57.

Banning assault style weapons like the AR-15 has an approval rate of 67% while only 25% disapprove. That’s a net approval of +42.

And fifty-four percent of voters approve of arming teachers with concealed weapons, while only 34% oppose it, a net approval of +20. Wait—armed teachers. Think about that for a moment. I can just see Sister Mary Stellan, my 2nd grade teacher, packing heat.

These numbers may lead to some kind of legislation. However, as long as we have more guns (393.1 million) in this country than there are people (331 million), do you really believe things will improve significantly?

Among US states, the rate of firearm deaths varies widely. In 2020, Mississippi had the highest firearm death rate in the nation, 28.6 per 100,000 Mississippians, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as opposed to 0.2 in our OECD comparison (I continue to ask, “What goes on in Mississippi?”). New England states fared better, and Massachusetts, where I live, had the second-lowest rate of gun deaths in 2020 at 3.7 per 100,000, trailing only Hawaii at 3.4. However, the Massachusetts rate was still 5.3 times higher than the combined rate of gun deaths in the other 28 countries.

To put a period on this: At less than half the population, the US has 83.7% of all the deaths by firearms in the 29 most highly developed OECD member countries. If our firearm death rate mirrored that of just an average OECD country, deaths by firearm in America would drop 96%. At 45,222 deaths in 2020, that would be 43,413 folks who would still be with us.

I can only conclude that what the NRA paid-in-full Congress is thinking about doing maybe at some point in the possible near term is nothing more than nibbling at the edges of a monstrous problem, and they’re nibbling in ever so tiny bites.

This is insane.


*The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, founded by the US and it allies shortly after the close of the Second World War. Its members are the most economically developed countries.


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