So we have yet another high-profile murder of many dozens of people. Once again we are getting deafening calls for gun control to fix the problem. But will it? What do the population-level statistics say between USA gun violence and the levels of gun freedom? Will banning Muslims stop the violence? What is a Real Man to think and do? Guy discusses this heated and emotional topic from a non-American perspective.
Once again we awake to the news of another mass-shooting tragedy overseas.
This time in Orlando Florida where it appears at least 50 people are dead and as many again with gunshot wounds.
Yet again another mass shooting.
Yet again – it appears – murder in the name of Islam.
Yet again another ‘soft’ target – where many defenseless people are congregated with difficulty escaping someone with murderous intent.
This follows 6 months after at least 14 fatalities from Islamic extremists shot up a Christmas party in San Bernadino, California.
What Are The Stats?
Understandably, a growing mass of Americans and others world wide grow in frustration at the continued slaughter. According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2015, more than 1,000 people have been shot in this style of shooting out of over 12,200 killed by gun violence and over 24,700 injured.
Given the US population size of 319M, on the surface that means 1 in 26,098 (3.83 per 100,000 population) chance of being killed and 1 in 12,903 of a gun injury (7.75 per 100,000 of population) excluding suicides. Obviously this rate doesn’t really apply in practice, because gun violence rates vary across demographics, but it is just a way of comparing whole populations across nations. This calculation is similar to what is reported on Wikipedia of ~3.4 (2014) homicide deaths per 100,000.
What we all tend to do when something like this happens is that we search for answers. We ask “Why?”, but we tend to search for answers in line with our existing assumptions, views and prejudices.
These assumptions and prejudices tend to congregate people (at least through the prism of the media) to two sides
1/ A gun problem, and
2/ A problem with religious extremist (especially Islamic)
First, let’s ask does America really have a problem (relative to other countries) given it’s population size or is it just that American murders are in the media more?
America, Do We Have A Problem?
Many point the finger at the USA and judge, and I see this perspective a lot especially given that I am not American and do not live in the USA. But first we must at least know how the rate of USA killing compares to other countries.
Wikipedia has a table on exactly that, and you can find that table by clicking on the image below.
The table shows the highest 25 or so countries sorted by Homicides rates. Obviously, Wikipedia is not a definitive source, but it should be sufficient for our purpose.
The USA is listed as the 18th worse, down from 15 two years ago. (Note this table changes a bit, so it might not be exactly the same by the time you click to it).
The USA has a rate of 3.43 fire-arm related homicides per 100,000 of population.
The chart of the data shows the gun related homicides by country. They are sorted according to a horizontal line at the median of 0.36 gun-related homicides per 100,000 of population. Those to the right are worse than the median; those to the left are better than the median. The USA is shown by the red column. Note that the scale used is logarithmic, which visually makes the worst countries look better.
Observing the data, we can clearly see that the USA is not the worst country, but most of the 17 or so countries that are worse than the USA are not part of a group that you would really want to compete with on this topic.
Is The Problem Getting Worse?
Another important question – Is the situation getting worse? That is, how has the USA homicide rate changed over time… is it going up or down?
Homicide rates (note, not all using guns) reached a peak of about 10 per 100,000 in 1980, fell during the 80’s to 8 then rose again during the drug fueled battles in the 90’s and then fell to about 5.5 by 2000. Since then it rose slightly then fell again to the current level of about 3.4 (2015). According to Wiki, about 1.43 of the 3.4 homicides (~40%) are firearms related [editor: there is some inconsistency in the Wiki data … looking into this].
This declining rate of murders is quite remarkable to me and not what I expected to find. The USA is actually more than 60% safer than it was at its peak in the early 1980’s.
As a side note, something that I picked up on this chart that we need to address at another time .. is that the USA has THE HIGHEST GUN RELATED SUICIDE rates of any of the countries on this list at 6.69 per 100,000 people. Wow!
Overall Peacefulness ..
In recent days another report has surfaced rating countries according to their ‘peacefulness’. What ‘peacefulness’ means exactly is open to interpretation (reference below if you want to read the full report), but it is interesting to see where the USA sits and the change over time:
The ‘color’ of the USA hasn’t changed. It’s ranking has changed slightly from 122nd worst in the world in 2008 to 103rd worst (out of 163) in 2016 – and improvement of 15%. Of course, this is a relative measure, and as the world has become more violent and less politically stable (http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/our-gpi-findings), the worsening peacefulness of other countries could cause the USA to improve even if it really got worse in absolute terms.
The chart below shows where the USA rates compared to other countries in how it has changed in its peacefulness index 2008 to 2016. Countries to the left of the blue line have got worse and those to the right have become more peaceful. The closer to the edge the bigger the change.
As you can see, the USA has improved a lot (well to the right of the chart) compared to other nations. The majority have become less peaceful. The USA has become more peaceful, according to the Vision for Humanities index.
So, based on this data, the USA has improved it’s peacefulness – become less violent overall – but is still quite lowly ranked compared to other major countries.
From these two sources then, we can make the conclusion that the USA has a high murder rate, but it is reducing in comparison to other countries and compared to it’s own murder rate in the last 30-40 years.
What is the cause of the violence problem?
Firstly, one camp says it is because Americans have more guns. Let’s examine that topic first:
Reason 1: MORE GUNS = MORE VIOLENCE
In America there is a very strong divide on whether guns are to blame, ….. according to http://www.diffen.com/difference/Democrat_vs_Republican, it is a big topic divided along political lines.
Democrats generally voice that a large part of the America’s gun-violence problem could be solved by a heavy restriction on gun access – looking on in envy at what Australia did under Prime Minister John Howard following the Port Author killings. For those unfamiliar with this event, it was a Government mandated compulsory buyback of semi-automatic and other weapons following a mass shooting.
Republicans generally appose gun control and support the right to bear arms (including concealed weapons in public). With the Democrat Party having a membership of about 43 million and Republican Party around 30 million (as of 2012), the battle over gun laws in America is extremely divisive and emotive.
With the issue such a political one, you can bet that the truth is the biggest casualty.
Big Guns; What is all The Fuss About?
I am not a firearms enthusiast, but I do have some gun experience, as I have enjoyed hunting small game and deer for the table in the past. But I realized I needed first hand experience with ‘assault style’ rifles and hand guns. So on a recent trip to Arizona, I went to an indoor shooting range in Scottsdale, north of Phoenix to see what all the fuss was about.
It was a Tuesday – normal workday – and it was busy. The array of guns that you could rent to shoot at the range blew my mind. I recognized a few of them hanging on the walls; AR-15s, AK-47s and 74s, and even a world war II era Thompson machine gun (rumored to be a favorite of Hillary Clinton).
I hired a semi-automatic commercial version of a special forces assault rifle – SCAR 16S (5.56mm NATO round version) – and my daughter tried out a Gloch 9-mm pistol similar to what many Police forces use (and coincidentally, what was used in Orlando).
Just Squeeze The Trigger
As I loaded up the rounds into the magazine and then the magazine into the rifle, my heart was beating a little faster as I thought about the noise, the recoil and just making sure I kept the rifle pointed down range in case it went off. Then I primed the rifle, looked down the sights and squeezed the trigger. I have to admit that I enjoyed the sensation – and fired off the remaining rounds until the magazine was empty. Perhaps it is all the plastic and the low recoil, but it certainly had a bit of a ‘toy’ feeling to it compared to a .308 deer rifle.
I can see the attraction that a weapon of this type has. It was fun to shoot.
My daughter saw it a little differently though, and while she enjoyed the shooting, she was put off by the extreme noise of all the other weapons going off around us in the indoor range.
Now that I had some first hand experience with the type of weapons in question, back to the issue it hand. Are guns the main problem and will gun control (what ever form it takes) reduce the problem?
Guns Vs Peace … Is there a worldwide relationship?
Firstly, I decided to examine if a relationship exists between the number of guns in a country and the country’s Vision of Humanities peace index.
This is the result:
You can see the USA sits right out on its own with its gun ownership of about 112 guns per 100 people, but sits in the pack as far as the peace index goes.
For the record, the correlation is -0.097. ie no correlation at all.
This analysis isn’t perfect, but it is hard to see from this chart, how reducing the volume of guns in the USA will make it a more peaceful nation. Yes I know, the devil is in the detail of course, and this is very high level stuff.
If you look just at the USA its self we find some interesting things:
|guns bought: rifles & shotguns %||62%||40%||-35%|
|guns bought: pistols %||38%||60%||58%|
|permits to carry concealed pistol||4,600,000||11,300,000||146%|
|deaths by firearm per 100,000 pop – homicide||4||3.4||-15%|
|deaths by firearm per 100,000 pop – suicide||6||6.69||12%|
Gun ownership has skyrocketed, with rifles being replaced by pistols. Tellingly again, homicide rates are falling.
Clearly though, the number of guns does not seem to correlate highly – and can not be the cause – of America’s high murder rate.
Reason 2: Islamic Extremism
The first thing that should be pointed out is that Islamic extremist-inspired murders are a growing, but relatively new problem for the United States.
Wikipedia has a list of terrorism in the United States. Once again with Wiki, I don’t know and can’t vouch for it’s accuracy.
The first occurrence of Islamic based attacks in this list that I can find is the fire-bombing of the Riverdale Press in 1989. It is not my purpose to list out the other events, but it should be obvious that if this is the first instance of Islamic-inspired killing in the USA, it can’t possibly explain the rate of 10 homicides per 100,000 people in the USA in the 1980s!
Looking specifically at Islamic-inspired terror, we can plot a chart of deaths and injuries from the occurrences of attacks since the first one in 1989.
The chart to the right shows a plot of them. September 2001 dominates in terms of overall size (hence the log scale), but the chart clearly shows the number of attacks by Islam inspired attacks causing injury and death has increased.
Now, of course Islamic based terror is not the only reason for terrorism and it is still a relatively small part of the overall rate of homicides on American soil. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, is an example which killed 168 people and injured at least 680, which was not motivated by Islamic world views. In this attack, the motivation is reported to have been anti-government views linked to the tragedy in Waco, Texas.
A Different View
I have a different perspective, and a third and much more important reason why America (and most other countries) have unacceptable homicide rates. Actually, hopefully we can all agree that even one murder is unacceptable. I come from a small town in a small country and can remember when one death was all over the news for days …. they were a very infrequent thing…. today we are so used to death; but even one murder is one to many.
No, my view isn’t a romantic paining for the “good ol’ days”; but rather a statement that we should never get hardened hearts that accept the grisly statistics.
Exhibit one: Greed causes us to fight with one another
A greedy man stirs up strife,… Prov 28:25a
How many wars can you think of fueled by greed? I think this is best explained by James 3:16
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
Exhibit two: Scoffers
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease. Prov 22:10
A scoffer is one who who mocks, ridicules, or scorns the belief of another. How much of that do we see today? It used to be that other peoples views were respected, even if they were not agree with. But today you are ridiculed if you hold any contrary beliefs and views.
Exhibit three: Prone to anger
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Prov 15:18
Do you think the level of anger in the community has increased and shows its self more easily than it did before? I’ve noticed it. 2015 was called the “year of being offended”. As a community we are quick to find reasons to get angry and offended, and we do not value the character quality of being ‘slow to anger’. Is it any surprise then that the anger gets acted out!
Exhibit four: Your self-serving passions
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? James 4:1
but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury – Romans 2:8
We all have the capability to do horrendous things when our focus is turned to serving our own desires rather than exercising restraint and looking to the needs of others. After serving ourselves for long enough, it becomes easy to justify every type of evil practice – including murder.
Not many who commit murder – even mass murder – think they are wrong. They almost always believe they are right and justified in what they are doing.
A Way Forward
So then what is the answer?
We have to desire to want to change ourselves, and also desire to help one another.
That is why Real Men 24/7 exists. It exists because we realize that the world needs many more Real Men. Men who recognize that they need to change and to encourage other men to look at themselves – not in a selfish way, but in a way that implements what Michael Jackson penned in his song:
“If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change” – Michael Jackson
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19) and If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18)
Fortunately, this is achievable. The Bible writers would not tell us to do this if it was not possible.
Jesus said to his disciples and to all those who trust in him:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you – John 14:27
But it is not possible for long if we just try and do it out of a strength of will. Humanity has tried and failed on that path over and over.
But rather it is about trusting in Jesus; and to all those who trust in Him, will be given a helper (See rest of John 14). And the fruit of the change in us is a real change that isn’t just outward, but that comes from within. Isn’t this the sort of world we would like to live in?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law -Galatians 5:22-23
Isn’t this what we would like to see in America and in every country of the world?
Love – Joy – Peace – Patience – Kindness – Goodness – Faithfulness – Gentleness – Self Control
This would solve America’s homicide rate and many other problems!
This is by far the longest article I have written. Thanks for making it to the end!
In summary then, where does all that leave us?
We are all horrified by the disturbing rates of murder in a country that many of us outside of the USA have historically looked up to.
But gun-related murder rates in the USA are falling, … will it continue?
While we continue to argue over gun control or profiling or immigration or radical hatred and lie-based ideologies, we ignore what would really make a difference.
The cover photo of this article is a magazine cover that says “God is not fixing this”
But he has fixed it – but we ignore the solution because it doesn’t suit us.
The scriptures tell us what the solution is – but we continue to ignore it and look for another way because we don’t like the implications for us of admitting that God is God and we are not god of our own lives.
But His way works. God says so … and there are millions of real followers of Jesus who demonstrate it in their daily lives. I’ll leave our God with the final word:
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14
what do you think? … and what will you do?
Leave a comment an let me know what YOU think is the biggest factor that will reduce the levels of violence in America.