While the evidence put forward that gun controls work is compelling, gun-control measures are unlikely to strengthen.
What’s it about?
New books look at guns, mass shootings and the victims from the angles of those both for and against stricter gun laws.
Why American’s Love Guns:
- There are over 30,000 gun deaths in America each year, two thirds suicides and one third murder.
- The murder rate per 100,000 citizens is 3.4, more than 5 times any other developed country.
- Many Americans believe firearms are the cornerstone of political liberty and that restricting them would cause more crime.
- There are already 300 million guns in private hands and congress consistently votes down even weak gun control measures.
- Many American’s disagree with their country’s gun culture but feel helpless to act.
- Pro-gun lobbies strongly influence the debate through lobbying of congress and the promotion of libertarian ideologies.
In “Another Day in the Death of America”, a journalist, Gary Younge, examines the most excruciating gun casualties of all: children and teenagers. The book recounts the stories of the ten young people, aged 19 or under, who were shot and killed on the arbitrarily selected date of Saturday November 23rd 2013.
The result is a sharp portrait of America, painted in blood. The victims are white, black and Latino (though mainly the latter two), from all over the country. For example: A nine-year-old shot by his mother’s vengeful ex-boyfriend. An eleven year-old shot in the head by a friend as they played with a rifle. A sixteen year old killed by a friend while goofing around with a pistol they had bought.
In “Rampage Nation”, Louis Klarevas, a security expert, looks at mass shootings, such as the school massacres at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. These types of attacks are the most well known and documented but they account for only a small number of firearm homicides.
All violent crimes, Mr Klarevas notes, are composed of a perpetrator, a target and a weapon. Preventing them involves removing at least one of those elements. But the perpetrators of gun massacres cannot be deterred (most already plan to die); anyone can be a target, and protecting everyone all the time is impossible. The only plausible strategy is to restrict sales of guns that rapidly fire large numbers of bullets.
Take Away Points and Context
- There is an unbridgeable gap in America between those who see guns morally unacceptable, devices of pointless tragedy and a public health issue, and those for which guns are bound up with ideas of political freedom.
- Many of the proposed reforms in favor of stricter gun control would require handing over power to government and public institutions, something many American’s are loath to do.
- While the evidence put forward that gun controls work is compelling, gun-control measures are unlikely to strengthen. The constitution’s Second Amendment begins with a clause about militias. In 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that it gives individuals the right to own guns.
By Gary Younge. Nation Books; 267 pages; $25.99.
Guardian Faber; £16.99.
By Louis Klarevas.Prometheus;
397 pages; $25.
By Cody Wilson. Gallery Books; 320 pages; $26.