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Not-so-Fun Facts: Death and Firearms

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

{* Update 12/09/21 ~ See this informative video just put out today, essentially a condensed history of gun ownership and gun control in the U.S.:


Was on my property today putting up a cedar wall when one of my neighbors (couldn’t tell which one) started firing his gun. And fire he did, for nearly an hour. And his gun was loud. Very loud. AK-47? Glock 17? Then I thought to myself, why do I have to put up with the sound of his gun? Why can his freedom to fire his gun infringe on my right to have some peace and quiet, which is my version of pursuing happiness? What would be the difference between his shooting his gun and my playing, say, polka music really loud on the deck of my house, which he would be forced to listen to? No difference, practically speaking. So, I thought, he should get a silencer. That would allow him to shoot his gun to his heart’s content and me to enjoy my silence. But were I to suggest such a thing, he’d rant on about his “right to shoot guns.” Okay. So maybe I should just exercise my unalienable right to play polka. Loud. Really loudly. Any time I want. See how he likes it.

Out of a well of deep frustration, both because of my neighbor and because of the recent school shooting in Michigan, apparently aided and abetted by the disturbed kid’s parents, I compiled some statistics about firearms and gun-related deaths. I compared the USA to 14 other countries (the UK includes 4 countries) around the world, chosen at random, but with some eye towards countries that folks here might be familiar with.

Not-so-fun Fact #1

Total annual reported gun deaths:

United Kingdom (2016) 107

France (2016) 1,611

Japan (2018) 9

Russia (2013) 1,283

India (2014) 3,655

Canada (2018) 695

Israel (2018) 113

Germany (2018) 815

Spain (2017) 282

Finland (2018) 146

Mexico (2017) 23,344

Total of all 14 countries: 32,060 (87 deaths/day)

USA (2019) 39,682 (105 deaths/day)

Not-so-fun Fact #2

Total number of gun deaths in school shootings (including perpetrators):

United Kingdom (all time) 17

France (all time) 2

Japan (all time) 0

Russia (since 2014) 3

India (all time) 1

Canada (since 1884) 19

Israel (since 1974) 6

Germany (since 1913) 8

Spain (all time) 1

Finland (since 1989) 3

Mexico (all time) 10

Total of all 14 countries: 70

USA (since 1999) 304 (113 in 2018 alone)

Are we just angrier than the rest of the world, or more short tempered, or more violent in general? Or is there perhaps some other reason for America’s catastrophically high numbers?

Not-so-fun Fact #3

Number of registered privately owned firearms (and guns per 100 population):

United Kingdom (2018) 3,260,609 (5.03)

France (2020) 13,584,407 (20.02)

Japan (2019) 310,400 (0.25)

Russia (2017) 17,620,000 (12.3)

India (2017) 71,101,000 (5.3)

Canada (2017) 12,708,000 (34.7)

Israel (2017) 557,000 (6.7)

Germany (2018) 26,100,000 (32.47)

Spain (2017) 3,464,000 (7.50)

Finland (2017) 1,793,000 (32.4)

Mexico (2017) 1,680,900 (12.9)

Total of all 14 countries: 152,179,316 (15.3 avg.)

USA (2019) 393,000,000 (120.5+)

I wonder if our three facts are in any way related? Our beloved Republic, turns out, owns more than twice the number of guns as compared to all other 14 countries combined. As the Washington Post reported a couple of years back, "In 2017, Americans made up 4 percent of the world's population but owned 46 percent of the entire global stock of civilian firearms" (June 19, 2018). Think we Americans might have an obsession with guns?

Gun advocates like to say that gun violence in America is due to a mental illness problem, which, if you think about it for half a minute, is deeply insulting, not least because it makes us look like a nation of crazies. But are we really that much crazier than the rest of the world? Of course not. We’re just that much more violent. Why? Because of our love affair with guns, an obsession that is both shameful and insane, not to mention lethal, because it allows us to solve our many problems and express our anger and petty jealousies and realize our homicidal delusions with the simple pull of a double-action trigger. And just because it’s a collective insanity that we have apparently accepted as a nation doesn’t make it any less insane. On the contrary, it makes all that more crazy. We live in the most violent country in the developed world by a wide, wide margin, and it’s a deeply shameful stain on our national character. The simple truth is, we kill each other so much more often than the other 14 countries on this list simply because we can. Are the Japanese, who introduced us to the martial arts, or are immediate neighbors to the north, who club baby seals to death for their fur, more innately peaceful people? Or is it that killing large numbers of people is harder when all you’ve got are your fists. Or a knife. Or a club.

No rational argument in the world would convince any rational human being on the planet that gun ownership should be as easy as doling out some cash at an unregistered firearms sale, or argue that owning more guns translates to more overall security. The numbers simply don’t lie, in spite of the bumper sticker on a truck just now that had a picture of an AK-47 and the words, “The one right that guarantees all the others.” More accurately, “The one right that threatens all the others.” If you have to have a gun to secure your rights, you live in the wrong country, my friend. Move to Russia.

Gun lovers, of course, will bark out the old raw that guns don’t kill people. Yeah, but guns don’t fire themselves. People do. And guns allow people to kill people more quickly, more often, and with more lethal precision. There’s no getting around it: we are a culture that glorifies violence in our movies, legislates it in our laws (we’re not only the only country in the developed world that has capital punishment but also the one with the highest number of abortions – not very developed, I’d say), and shuns any good sense when it comes to reasonable gun control measures. And much of this madness, in a deep and pathetic irony, is aided and abetted by the church in the name of a person’s almost unfettered right to bear arms (or get an abortion for other than non-emergency reasons). I’m reminded of a line in the Woody Allen movie Hannah and her Sisters, intoned by Max von Sydow, "If Jesus came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he wouldn’t stop throwing up."

Here’s one fun fact that you may have missed in all the cacophony surrounding this debate. A study by Boston University’s School of Public Health in 2020 and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, confirmed what many other studies have found:

A new School of Public Health study sheds new light on the opinions and practices of US gun owners, casting doubt on the way gun owners have been portrayed in policy discussions and media, and even how they perceive themselves.

The survey results, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, show that the majority of gun owners support many gun violence prevention policies, including background checks, permit requirements, and prohibitions for individuals with domestic violence restraining orders. But most of these gun owners report that they do not make their support public because they are alienated by the rhetoric of gun violence prevention advocates.

“Most people think gun violence prevention is a contentious issue, but our survey reveals that gun owners overwhelmingly support policies such as universal background checks and red flag laws,” says study co-author Claire Boine, a research scholar in the Department of Community Health Sciences.

Look, I’m not interested in getting rid of all guns (just like I’m not advocating stopping all abortions). What I’d like to do, instead, is ship all irresponsible gun owners out of the country to some deserted island to fend for themselves and leave the rest of us alone to live in relative freedom to pursue our happiness. What would you call such an island? "The Isle of Death" perhaps? Or something more subtle like "The Republic of Nihilism"? Or maybe just plain “Hell” would do.

In the meantime, alas, they all mostly do live on an island together. Unfortunately, the rest of us, including responsible gun owners like myself, share it with them. It’s called the United States of America.

And no, the majority of us isn't leaving, so go shoot your guns somewhere else. Or, at the very least, join the majority of gun owners (not to mention the vast majority of American citizens) who support gun control. Contact your senators and representatives and vote for sensible and effective gun legislation, because we aren't going to lose the obscene number of guns we already have nor are the gun-worshipping nut jobs leaving anytime soon. But we can still make the best of a bad situation and turn this home of ours into a more pleasant, and much safer, place to live and raise our kids.

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3 comentarios

Michael Bruner
Michael Bruner
09 dic 2021

Thanks for the comments, Peter. I agree, as I say in the blog, that most gun owners, including myself, are responsible folks. But the fact that we as a culture have an obsession with guns is uncontested, seen most obviously in the sheer number of guns we own. And there's no getting around the fact that we experience more violence than any other developed country in the world by a long shot, not because we have more immigrants or because we're inherently more violent people, but because we own that many more guns.

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PS. I would ask your neighbor to let you know when he is shooting as you often walk the area with your children. And ask if you can shoot his rifle. You can bond with respect and not have to play Polka loud. Nobody wants that.

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While I agree with most of your comments. The majority of US Gun owners are respectful and responsible people. I suggest you take a deep dive into those numbers and where they come from. It's not rural America. Most of those numbers come from Cities like Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, LA, Baltimore, etc. Look at the culture of those individuals that do not value life. Also many shootings are caused by early released criminals from our poor justice system that allows them back on the streets. Our system does a very poor job of keeping violent criminals in jail. To include many illegal immigrants. Even with all the purchase restrictions. Criminals get guns on the black market. Not…

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