Popular Economics Weekly
“Australia is not like the U.S.” said commentator Michael Pascoe in the Sydney Morning Herald in response to President Obama’s remarks on the Umpqua Community College killings by a deranged killer, whose mother kept at least 7 guns at home, in addition to the 8 guns plus ammunition carried by the shooter in the slaughter of college students and a teacher.
"We know that other countries in response to one mass shooting have managed to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings," said President Obama. "Friends of ours, allies of ours, Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.”
We happened to be in Australia while this happened, where the minimum wage for full-time, working adults is more than $16Aus per hour and Australian’s have created a health care system that pays for all normal health care costs (as opposed to catastrophic events), though hospital care is free for every Australian citizen.
In fact, the US now has a gun homicide rate 370 times that of Australia's. “Unlike the US,” said Pascoe, “we collectively decided to have a decent social safety net, the concept of a living wage and make good education freely available. Most of us are wary of those with extreme views of any kind.”
Our gun problem of course extends beyond mass violence, says the LA Times. In 2014 alone, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 11,208 people shot to death, 33,636 injured by gunfire and 21,175 who killed themselves with a gun. That's a total of 66,019 people who were killed or injured by a gun, which comes out to 1,269 per week, 180 a day or 7.5 per hour.
Current Australian gun laws were passed after 35 were killed and 23 wounded in 1996. There hasn’t been a mass shooting in Australia since. At the heart of the new laws was a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, or about one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia. The country’s new gun laws prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase, as well as a 28-day waiting period while backgrounds were checked. (Self-defense did not count.) In the wake of the tragedy, polls showed public support for these measures at upwards of 90 percent.
“The US is too immature a society to be allowed to play with guns,” said Pasco. “It has never shed its Wild West mythology. Americans still use their courts to kill people, which sends a message in its own way.”
What would cause the mother of the Umpqua college killer to have what can only be called a fanatical devotion to guns? "I keep all my mags full. I keep two full mags in my Glock case. And the ARs & AKs all have loaded mags. No one will be 'dropping' by my house uninvited without (acknowledgment)," the mother, wrote in her Tweety Bird tweet several years earlier, according to a CNN account.
It has been known for years by those who research gun violence that more gun killings occur in households owning guns. A new survey in the Annals of Internal Medicine narrows down some of the causal relationship between guns and death by finding conclusively that having a gun in your home makes you more likely to successfully attempt suicide. The authors of the survey also found with a lesser degree of certainty that people with guns in their home are more likely to be the victims of a homicide.
According to data gleaned from State and Justice departments for the period between 2001-2011, there have, in fact, been many, many more Americans killed by gun violence than by terrorism. During that 10-year period, some 130,347 have lost their lives to gun violence, compared to the approximately 3,000 Americans killed in acts of terrorism.
“It's all fodder for the deranged fanatics of the American gun lobby, with a bible in one hand and an assault rifle in the other”, concludes Pascoe. “It's fuel for the paranoid interpretation of a line in the constitution that is a blatant anachronism.” We have to be a very sick society to have allowed this to happen. We are so good at preventing foreign terrorists from attacking us, but not protecting Americans from domestic terrorists. Then we should understand that gun violence itself is an act of terror. And those that support unrestricted use and purchase of guns are the sponsors of domestic terrorism.
Harlan Green © 2015
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