Gun Control and Human Rights: Introduction
Gun violence, defined as a crime committed with the use of firearms, threatens human rights across the globe. From pistols to machine guns, gun violence affects thousands of people and accounts for more than 500 deaths and 2,000 firearm-related injuries every day. Note that even the presence of arms is enough to cause long-term psychological damage to people and communities.
Although easy access to guns correlates with the firearm-related crime, distress, and incidents, the gun industry is booming, with more than 875 million firearms being in circulation across the globe and over 15 billion rounds of ammunition being produced every year. The US, in particular, produced more than 11.5 million rifles, revolvers, and shotguns in 2016. Since the gun industry is expanding and the number of firearm-related tragedies increasing, where does gun control stand?
Gun control and legislation aim to restrict access and use of firearms. Proponents of gun control state that strict regulations can save lives, while opponents claim that guns are an adequate mean for self-defense. In the US, in particular, gun violence has already reached pandemic levels, dividing citizens and policymakers over whether restricting gun control is the sought-after national panacea.
The Truth behind Firearm Violence
Given the high rates of firearm-related deaths, injuries, and incidents, gun control is becoming a hot topic worldwide. The facts speak for themselves; research data collected between 1996 and 2016 from over from 195 nations and 2,500 sources revealed:
- In 2016, more than 250,000 people worldwide died as a result of firearms across the world. In the US alone, 37,200 people died as a result of firearms.
- Half of all of those 250,000 gun-related deaths occurred in six nations which together account only for 10% of the global population: Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala.
- Statistics show that 64% of gun-related deaths were homicides, 27% were suicides, and 9% were accidental shootings.
- Globally, the rates of firearm-related deaths outside conflict zones are significantly higher than those as a result of the war.
Forms of Gun Violence | Is Gun Control the Key to Reducing Gun Violence?
- Gun-related Homicides and Gun Control
In 2016, Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Guatemala produced half of the world’s gun-related deaths; 43,200, 37,200, 15,400, 13,300, 12,800, and 5,090, respectively. The US, in particular, has six times more gun-related homicides than Canada and 16 times more than Germany. Additionally, gun violence results in high societal costs. To provide an example, in the US alone, the total societal cost reached $174 billion in 2010. A review conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center shows that gun violence rates across the US are higher than in other countries simply because there are more guns. Note that there are more than 300 million privately owned guns in the US.
- Mass Shooting and Gun Control
Perhaps one of the most distressing aspects of gun violence is mass shootings, which also draw the most media attention. Although there’s no single definition, mass shootings are defined as gun violence involving multiple victims and in which motivation is unclear. Mass shootings in the US, in particular, have reached pandemic levels. According to the Gun Violence Archive, since 2012 – after the mass shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – there have been more than 1,600 mass shootings across the country. In 2016 there were 384 mass shootings of four or more people, while in 2017 there were 346 mass shootings, which equals one mass shooting a day over two years. Alarmingly, the first 45 days of 2018 were marked by 17 school shootings, including the one in Parkland, Florida, which triggered gun control actions across the nation.
- Firearm Suicides and Gun Control
While gun violence is a global problem, firearm suicides account for a large fraction of the public health burden of gun mortality. Note that suicide is the leading cause of injury death in the US, with half of all suicides caused by firearms. Gun control regulations can result in a decrease in gun-related suicides. An Australian study revealed that after the Australian government set up a mandatory gun buyback program to reduce the number of firearms, the number of suicides also dropped with up to 74% (Leigh & Neill, 2010). An Israeli study also suggests a drop of 40% in suicides after the military stopped Israeli soldiers from taking their guns home (Lubin et al., 2010). Interestingly, governmental actions can prevent suicides. To provide another example, in 1960, asphyxiation with gas accounted for almost 50% of suicides in England and Wales. When the UK Government switched from the British gas supply to North Sea gas free of carbon monoxide, gas suicides declined. Additionally, in 1995, Sri Lanka had one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, with a large number due to pesticide poisoning. When these pesticides were restricted, suicide rates in Sri Lanka also dropped. Thus, gun control is logically an influential factor in decreasing gun-related suicide rates.
- Crime Rates and Gun Control
Access to guns often leads to lethal violence. According to an analysis by UC Berkeley’s Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, the US doesn’t have more crime than other Western industrial nations; yet, the US has more lethal violence due to the prevalence of guns and the lack of adequate gun control policies. Surprisingly, 9% of US citizens who own a gun report impulsive angry behavior (Swanson et al., 2015). Riding with a gun is also a predisposition for aggressive behavior (Hemenway, Vriniotis & Miller, 2006)