My Turn: The deadly truth about guns

Published 12:19 am Monday, June 20, 2016

By Nancy Gaines

I am angry.  I think I have been angry for a long time.  It is the same anger that has haunted me each time an event such as what happened in Orlando occurs.  Over and over again, incidents such as the one in Orlando bring me to one conclusion.

Guns kill.

I’ve heard the mantra that “guns don’t kill, people kill.” True, but we do not have to give them the weapons with which to kill. We may not be able to change people’s prejudices, resolve their anger, cure their mental illness, resolve jealousy, or ramp down religious fervor. But we CAN control the weapons they use to kill other people in their blind rages, jealous rampages, violent protests, and religious jihads.

Twenty years ago, April 28, 1996, a lone man pulled out two automatic rifles and opened fire in a restaurant, killing 35 people and wounding 23. In response to this horrible tragedy, the government of Australia convinced each state in Australia to join in creating highly restrictive gun control.

In the 20 years since there have been no more mass shootings in Australia. How many mass shootings have there been in the United States since 1996? It’s according to how you define mass shooting, but let’s say shootings where 10 or more people die.

Ten. There have been 10 mass shootings, including Orlando, since 1996 with 200 people dead. Shall I list them?

Columbine High School massacre. Littleton, Colo., 4/20/1999. 15 dead.

Red Lake massacre. Red Lake, Minn., 3/21/2005.  10 dead.

Virginia Tech massacre. Blacksburg, Va., 4/16/2007. 33 dead.

Binghamton shootings. Binghamton, N.Y. 4/3/2009. 14 dead.

Fort Hood massacre. Fort Hood, Texas. 11/5/2009 2009. 13 dead.

Aurora theater shooting. Aurora, Colo., 7/20/201212 dead

Newtown school shooting. Newtown, Conn., 12/14/2012 2012. 28 dead.

Washington Navy Yard shooting. Washington, D.C., 9/16/2013. 12 dead.

San Bernardino mass shooting. San Bernardino, Calif., 12/2/2015. 14 dead.

And now there is Orlando, with 49 dead and many more wounded.

Beyond this there is the average of 31 people that, according to the CDC, are killed each day with guns and the average of 56 per day that kill themselves.

Anecdotally, I’ve asked friends who carry how often they have had to use their gun to defend themselves. None of them has ever had to use the gun they carry. According to statistics compiled by the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice firearms are used for self-defense in less than 1 percent of attempted or completed violent crimes, despite the massive number of guns owned in this country.  According to FBI statistics of the 12,253 murders committed in 2013, 8454 were committed using firearms; that’s 69 percent. In 2011, according to FBI statistics, 67.7 percent of all murders, 41.3 percent of robberies and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults were conducted with guns. In 2012, again using FBI statistics, there were only 259 defensive justifiable homicides out of 12,888 murders by firearms. That’s 2 percent.  Guns are killing far more people than they are defending.

Again, I know “guns don’t kill, people kill.” But again I say, we do not have to make it easy for them. Oh, yes, if you really want a gun you can get a gun.  You can go steal one of the 300,000,000 guns we know are owned by US citizens. If we owned fewer guns there would be fewer to steal or illegally divert to criminal activity.

Of the countries that we consider world leaders, the United States has the least restrictive gun regulations and the most gun related homicides. In 2013 the United States had 3.8 gun related homicides per 100,000 people. Australia in 2014, with 18 years of gun restriction, had only 1 per 100,000 people.  Japan, which has some of the strictest gun regulations in the world, had .3 in 2011. Great Britain, with more restrictive regulations than the US, had 1 per 100,000 in 2013. Based on the most recently available statistics Germany had .9 per 100,000, Greece 1.1, Italy .8, Spain .7, Austria .5, France 1.2, Switzerland .5.  All countries that have taken the step to restrict gun ownership.

We say we want to lead the world, to make America strong again, to be the power we use to be. Then we need to learn to not hide from the truth that other countries have recognized. Guns kill.

Finally, you say that your right to own guns is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Well, yes, it is.  But the Constitution once did not let women vote, and allowed the ownership of people as slaves. When we realized those things were wrong we changed the Constitution. We can change it again in the face of the overwhelming evidence that unrestricted gun ownership is a plague upon our nation.

So, while we are teaching people not to hate, let’s take away the weapons of hate. When they can no longer shoot, maybe they will stop and listen.


Nancy Gaines is a Salisbury attorney.