I’ve never understood the point of gun-free zones, and of advertising them too. What are they other than an invitation to a shooter to take aim at a bunch of sitting ducks—or in the case of children, sitting ducklings?
I’m not a gun aficionado myself, but I support second amendment rights, with the usual safeguards to make it at least more difficult for the mentally ill or those with a violent record to obtain guns, and to attempt to assure their proper and safe storage. I know, of course, that anyone who wants to get them can get them, sooner or later, by hook or by crook—by bribing or convincing others to buy them for them or by stealing them (as I assume Lanza did from his mother), and that some people can get careless with storage in their homes.
And I’m not in favor of a bunch of children packing heat in a schoolroom, of course; that would be absurd.
But the knowledge that there are no guns at all in a school environment can only act as a siren song to a certain type of (fortunately rare) mind. Israel knows this, as do terrorists, who often target children. Israel is a country with a lot of guards and a lot of guns, but it is also a country with a very low murder rate outside of terrorism.
Israel is not the US; the US has special demographic and historic circumstances that give it a higher murder rate. But it’s not all that high—in fact, not quite as high as it’s cracked up to be, at least in comparison to other countries.
The ideal comparison isn’t actually between countries, because countries are so different in other ways, and those ways impact upon the murder rate so greatly that the best measure of the effect of a gun-control law is probably a country before and after that law is passed. And even that doesn’t tell you as much as you might think it does, because crime rates fluctuate over time based on other factors, many of them poorly understood.
But here’s a fascinating chart giving gun ownership statistics the world round as well as murder statistics (by firearm, and by firearm as a percentage of total murders) in each country. You can see that the US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, and a higher murder rate than most western European and other Western countries (which are also more homogeneous demographically than the US, as well as having different cultures and traditions), but that several of those countries (Switzerland, for example) have high rates of gun ownership and low rates of murder. You will also note that some countries, such as Australia, have high gun ownership rates but low rates of murder and that a low percentage of its murders are committed by firearm (unlike Switzerland, in which a high percentage of its relatively few murders are by firearm).
One caveat is that the rates of gun ownership are given as the number of guns per 100 people, and of course if each gun owner in a country tends to own a lot of weapons, that will skew the results higher but doesn’t necessarily reflect the number of people who actually own guns. In Switzerland the number is about 46, and in the US it’s approximately 89, the highest in the world (and by the way, you can see what a strange statistic it is, because I don’t think anyone believes that 89% of the US population is armed; it must reflect multiple-gun ownership).
But the US murder rate is by no means the highest in the world. And some of those that are very much higher (Belize, for example) have very low rates of gun ownership.
It’s a confusing picture, although I’m sure the number-crunchers can do better than I at making sense out of it. Or at least try. I haven’t the time right now to study it in depth; I’ll leave that to you.
But before I finish this post I’d like to draw your attention to the US statistics for firearms and murder as reported by the FBI. The year is 2009, the most recent one for which I can find a full report.
Looking at the murder rates from 2005-2009 categorized by weapon, you’ll see that, roughly, from year to year, about 2/3 of murders in US are committed with some sort of firearm, the vast majority of them handguns. And see how remarkably similar the stats are for the different regions of the US, too; I would have expected more regional variation.
Here’s a chart with a great deal of data in it. You can see that many more men are murdered than women (about 77% men) in the US. They constitute 81% of the felony victims who are murdered in the course of the commission of a separate felony by the perp (for example, robbery, or rape—and rape of course features more women murdered: 24 to 0, or 100%, so the absolute number of such deaths is quite low). Males constitute 73% of murder victims who are not killed in the course of the killer’s committing a separate felony (for example, in love triangles, bar brawls, and gang fights).
And what of mass public murders, the sort of crime that has occasioned this entire discussion today? They are exceptionally rare even in the US, accounting for less than one tenth of one percent of all murders. They engender tremendous horror, however, and can be used by anti-gun forces playing on that fear to further their agenda.