The first essay I wrote on this blog, back in January 2017, was about gun violence in the US. It was entitled appropriately ‘Gun nuts’1. At that time, the essay was based on data from between 2013 and 20161. Since then, that gun violence has only worsened.
One of the sites dedicated to documenting gun violence in the US is the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which commenced its efforts in 20132. It details much of the data from 2014 onwards. In that year, 34,347 people died from guns in the US.
In 2015 it was 35,576
However, data from these only included an estimated number of suicides (estimated at 22,000 per annum)3. At the time, this estimated suicide rates came from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, when GVA reviewed and summarised that data, the actual suicide numbers were incorporated. As a consequence, they found that, in 2016 total gun deaths from all causes ran to 38,077.
In 2017 it was 39,596
In 2018 it was 39,375
In 2019 it was 39,450
In 2020 it was 43,850
In 2021 it was 47,337
In 2022 it was 44,353 (again with the estimated number of suicides, as that data is still pending from the CDC)2
Up until May 10 this year, there have been 15,038 gun deaths in the US, including 96 children under 11 years of age and 534 teenagers (aged 12-17)2.
When I wrote the original essay, the death rate from gun violence in the US was 10.35 deaths per 100,000 population and in Australia it was 0.94 deaths per 100,000. Now, the US death rate from guns has climbed to 13.6 deaths per 100,000 population4, while that in Australia is down slightly, to 0.88 deaths per 100,000 population5.
One of the factors which has presumably led to the increased death rate in the US is the dramatic increase in the number of mass shootings, up from 383 in 2016 to 647 in 20222. Why this has occurred, I can only guess. Research has previously suggested that states with more relaxed gun laws and greater numbers of gun owners were linked to higher rates of gun deaths by murder and suicide. However, more recent research indicates there is a widening gap in mass shootings between states with lax gun laws and those with more restrictive laws6. From this, it seems that the availability of guns is a factor in the numbers of gun deaths and the number of mass shootings.
As if to cap off these appalling statistics, in the US, guns are now the leading cause of death in children and adolescents (aged 1-19), having overtaken those from motor vehicle accidents in 2020, with the current death rate being at about 5.5 deaths per 100,000 children and adolescents7. In the US, in 2020, there were 4,357 deaths of children and teenagers (aged 1-19) from firearms. In Australia, in the same year, there were 10 deaths from firearms4. Given that the population of the US (334.7 million8) is about 12.8 times that of Australia (26.1 million9), that makes the gun death rate in the US 34 times worse than that of Australia on a per capita basis.
And yet, Republican members of congress refuse to do anything about such horrific statistics. Indeed, as if to demonstrate their disregard for the deaths of children, some of them wear lapel badges/brooches in the shape of an AR15 assault rifle, the weapon of choice for mass murderers10-12. All Republicans do is take aim (excuse pun) at other factors as a way of excusing their complicity in these mass shooting. Often, they will say that there are not enough guns in schools. This echoes the equine ordure spouted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’. There are very few if any guns in Australian schools.
Another piece of drivel from Republicans is ‘there is not enough god in schools’13. The proportion of people without religion in Australia is higher than in the US14. One could even argue that there is too much god in American schools; after all, when those who believe in god can commit a crime, and obtain forgiveness and still get to heaven. Some say the lack of armed law enforcement officers in schools is the problem13. There are no armed law enforcement officers in schools in Australia.
Some Republicans say it is the breakup of families and ‘fatherlessness’ which is the cause13. In the US, 37.6% of marriages end in divorce and 21% of children are raised without their fathers14. In Australia, for marriages begun in 2000-2002, 33% are expected to end in divorce15.
One Republican blamed ADHD medication13. The proportion of children diagnosed with ADHD in the US is about 9.8%17. In Australia, it is estimated to be between 6% and 10% of children and adolescents18.
Republicans have also blamed the availability of violent video games, and the internet in general, for the mass shootings19. Australia, and all other western countries, similarly have the internet and violent video games.
A common excuse, and perhaps the one I have heard the most, is that it is a mental health problem. About 20% of Americans live with a mental illness20, while in Australia, it is also about 20% of the population who live with a mental illness21.
Republicans even blame the elites, specifically the ‘liberal elite’19. This is a common refrain from conservatives who are always looking for someone to blame. Conservatives do it in Australia too; blame the elites for everything, whereas it is simply a way to deflect blame from one or other of their cockups.
None of these idiotic excuses offered by Republicans stack up because the features on which they rely are not peculiar to the US. The only difference between countries like Australia and the US is the idiotic ‘right to bear arms’ amendment to their constitution of which the Republicans seem so enamoured, and the nearly 400 million guns throughout the nation22.
What is vastly more important, to Republicans especially, is the money they get from the NRA and the gun manufacturers to pay for their election campaigns. It would be interesting to see how many millions of dollars are donated to political parties of both persuasions and divide that by the number of gun deaths of children and teenagers to see how much value those politicians place on the lives of other people’s children.
A failing nation of religious hypocrites and simpletons, tens of millions of whom support a man who lies virtually every time he opens his ugly mouth, is dishonest to a fault, is a known and convicted sexual predator, who courts anyone with money and similar bottom feeding standards/principles – including the mass murderer Putin, white supremacists, and racists. In the past Trump would have been tried for treason and dealt with appropriately. He may not have been the instigator of the USA’s problems but he took advantage and is symptomatic of the disease which is consuming that ‘bastion’ of democracy. Will it turn around or disintegrate further? In the short term I can’t see anything other than deterioration because there are no inspirational leaders with the determination, reason, ethics and morals to unite a society riven by ideology.
The only hope there is for the US is something I wrote about a while ago about fearing the young. Unlike all the previous generations who get more conservative with age, the two younger generations (i.e. those under about 40) are becoming less conservative with age. The problem with most democracies is that there are people out there, especially psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists (e.g. Trump, Putin, Morrison, Johnson, Bolsonaro, Orban, Netanyahu ….) who will keep prodding and manoeuvering to find out what they can subvert and pervert to gain power or self-aggrandisement. When those after power get it, their main aim is to weaken institutions so that democracy loses its credibility. As a consequence, the democratic system has to be constantly updated and modified to keep these bastards out.
I think I have made this comment before to your previous posts on this but I will repeat that is my very strong view that anyone who wants a gun should not be allowed to have one. Anyone who wants to kill something with a gun should definitely not be allowed near one. Even those people who are supplied with, or need, guns as a tool for their work should not want guns, and they should love to not use them. It is an immature person who wants to have these things. The USA is an immature nation.