Gun violence

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Gun violence refers to violence committed with firearms, especially murder, assault, rape, robbery, and suicide. While most advanced industrial societies have much lower rates of gun violence than less developed countries, the United States is a major exception. Firearms are comparatively easy to obtain in the United States. While people not in the possession of firearms can still kill other when they are of a mind to do so, and while possession of a firearm does not in itself cause one person to kill another, situations in which people are strongly motivated to do violence to others and in which guns are readily available are particularly volatile. One side maintains that "guns do not kill people, people kill people," and the other side maintains that gun availability leads to killings. Neither side seems to pay much attention to the question of why people are being motivated to kill others in the first place.

Contrary to popular expectation, suicide with firarms takes more lives than any other form of gun violence. Suicide is frequently the product of situations in which individuals are or at least feel powerless to express their rage in an effective way against those who oppress them, and therefore they redirect their rage against themselves. Of the 28,663 gun related deaths in 2000, some 16,586 or 57.9%) were suicides. Another 10,801 or 37.7% were homicides and 776 or 2.7% were unintentional. Another 500 or 1.7% were either police shootings or undetermined. At least the unintentional killings have a relatively easy remedy since so many of them involve children who find loaded weapons to play with. Gun locks and/or locked gun safes could substantially reduce the rate of unintentional shootings. But most of the rest of these gun killings involve anger or rage that the individuals cannot defuse in less damaging ways.

Children and Gun Violence

American children are more at risk from firearms than the children of any other industrialized nation. According to the centers for Disease Control, in one year firearms killed no children in Japan, 19 in Britain, 57 in Germany, 109 in France, 153 in Canada, and as astonishing and shameful 5,285 in the United States.

In 2002, some 3,012 children and teens were killed by gunfire in the United States. That is one child every three hours; eight children every day; and more than 50 children every week. And every year, at least 4 to 5 times as many kids and teens suffer from non-fatal firearm injuries.

In a well-functioning society, there would be little motivation to kill others. Removal of guns might well reduce the rate of killing among American people. Tight control of guns kept in the home could reduce the rate of accidental killings. Keeping guns out of the hands of impulsive teens and young adults could at least force their aggressions into less destructive channels. But the problems of which the gun killings are a symptom would most likely persevere.

The authoritarians among us, who are generally more attracted to the Republican party, will continue to seek to inhibit gun violence by the imposition of controls and penalties. They show little concern for other people's welfare, and great concern for their own safety and comfort. Unfortunately for them, the subject assurance that a method will work is not a guarantee that it will be productive in the real world.

Democrats and other progressives will seek to understand the underlying causes of this phenomenon and to dig the problem out at the roots. If society is understood as a cooperative effort to provide the conditions for growth and gaining autonomy of individual conscience, the way is open to making legal and other forms of retribution a last resort in the effort to control this kind of violence. It is better to have one cooperative community consisting of members who have no reason to wish each other harm than it is to have a community at odds with itself that is forced for its self-preservation to prevent interactions, or at least gun interactions, between members of the society and/or groups of members of society.

Arguing for an effective solution to gun violence is a far more difficult sell than arguing for retribution against erring members of the society, the use of the power of the society to inhibit members of the society from acting out their various desires for revenge and/or domination.


  • CDC Report
  • Kristin A. Goss. 2006. Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691124247.


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