Following the school shooting in Newtown, we were told repeatedly that this time our response would be different. There’s something about mass shootings that capture our attention more than the same number of people being killed in separate encounters. That the victims were children makes the situation impossible to ignore.
Over the last month we have encountered claims that the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment has changed throughout American history; that the 2nd Amendment was a mistake; that the Black Panthers influenced our current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment; that the citizen’s right to possess military style assault rifles was exactly what the founding fathers had in mind. We’ve even seen epic tirades (please watch the whole thing – I’ve never seen anything like this on “normal” TV).
Did you catch that? Over 11,000 gun murders last year in the United States. That’s over 30 murders every single day. That’s more than Newtown – every single day! But is the number accurate?
It turns out 2009 is the last year we have good data for and the numbers are consistent for that year at least.
In my efforts to find reliable and recent data on gun related deaths, I came upon a fascinating project to crowdsource the number of gun related deaths in the country on a rolling basis. Since 14 December 2012, there have been nearly 700 such deaths in the country – on track to be more than 10,000 yet again.
For the sake of comparison, Canada has averaged fewer than 200 gun homicides per year over the past decade (1/7th the US rate). In England and Wales, the figure is just over 50 (1/36th the US rate). In the US, almost as many people are gunned down in a single day as in a year in England.
And for all the military hawks out there, the total number of military fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan for all coalition troops since 2003 and 2001 respectively is 8,058. The number of people killed by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 was 2,977.
This is more than a mental health issue of lone gunmen. This is an epidemic.