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ZAKARIA: The solution to gun violence is clear

NEW YORK -- Announcing Wednesday that he would send proposals on reducing gun violence in America to Congress, President Obama mentioned a number of sensible gun-control measures. But he also paid homage to the Washington conventional wisdom about the many and varied causes of this calamity -- from mental health issues to school safety. His spokesman, Jay Carney, had said earlier that this is "a complex problem that will require a complex solution." Gun control, Carney added, is far from the only answer.

In fact, the problem is not complex, and the solution is blindingly obvious.

People point to three sets of causes when talking about events such as the Newtown, Conn., shootings. First, the psychology of the killer; second, the environment of violence in our popular culture; and, third, easy access to guns. Any one of these might explain a single shooting. What we should be trying to understand is not one single event but why we have so many of them. The number of deaths by firearms in the United States was 32,000 last year. Around 11,000 were gun homicides.

To understand how staggeringly high this number is, compare it to the rate in other rich countries. England and Wales have about 50 gun homicides a year -- 3 percent of our rate per 100,000 people. Many people believe that America is simply a more violent, individualistic society. But again, the data clarify. For most crimes -- theft, burglary, robbery, assault -- the United States is within the range of other advanced countries. The category in which the U.S. rate is magnitudes higher is gun homicides.

The U.S. gun homicide rate is 30 times that of France or Australia, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, and 12 times higher than the average for other developed countries.

So what explains this difference? If psychology is the main cause, we should have 12 times as many psychologically disturbed people. But we don't. The United States could do better, but we take mental disorders seriously and invest more in this area than do many peer countries.

Is America's popular culture the cause? This is highly unlikely, as largely the same culture exists in other rich countries. Youth in England and Wales, for example, are exposed to virtually identical cultural influences as in the United States. Yet the rate of gun homicide there is a tiny fraction of ours. The Japanese are at the cutting edge of the world of video games. Yet their gun homicide rate is close to zero. Why? Britain has tough gun laws. Japan has perhaps the tightest regulation of guns in the industrialized world.

The data in social science are rarely this clear. They strongly suggest that we have so much more gun violence than other countries because we have far more permissive laws than others regarding the sale and possession of guns. With 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has 50 percent of the guns.

There is clear evidence that tightening laws can reduce gun violence. In Australia, after a 1996 ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons, a real ban -- not like the one we enacted in 1994 with 600-plus exceptions -- gun-related homicides dropped 59 percent over the next decade. The rate of suicide by firearm plummeted 65 percent. (Almost 20,000 Americans die each year using guns to commit suicide, a method that is much more successful than other forms of suicide.)

There will always be evil or disturbed people. And they might be influenced by popular culture. But how is government going to identify the darkest thoughts in people's minds before they have taken any action? Certainly those who urge that government be modest in its reach would not want government to monitor thoughts, curb free expression, and ban the sale of information and entertainment.

Instead, why not have government do something much simpler and that has proved successful: limit access to guns. And not another toothless ban, which the gun lobby would use to "prove" that such bans don't reduce violence.

A few hours before the Newtown murders last week, a man entered a school in China's Henan province. Obviously mentally disturbed, he tried to kill children. But the only weapon he was able to get was a knife. Although 23 children were injured, not one died.

The problems that produced the Newtown massacre are not complex, nor are the solutions. We do not lack for answers.

What we lack in America today is courage.

Fareed Zakaria's email address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

Comments

JV 1 year, 3 months ago

Chinese man drives car into students, injuring 13

“China has seen more than a half-dozen school attacks in less than three years, though the death tolls have been mostly in single digits, largely because knives have been the most-used weapon. China largely prohibits private ownership of guns.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/Chinese-man-drives-car-into-students-injuring-13-4144574.php#ixzz2G9gA409R

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

New York = draconian gun laws = high gun violence. Washington DC = draconian gun laws = high gun violence Chicago = draconian gun laws = high gun violence Mexico = draconian gun laws = high gun violence

Due to the actions of one insane individual Canada enacted severe gun restrictions and registration schemes a few years back. After spending many hundreds of millions of dollars they are now dismantling the scheme because it had NO affect on crime and the money spent on this worthless scheme could be better spent on schemes that work without fail. Schemes like locking up forever or executing the violent criminals in our society. The recent shooting of 2 firefighters is a PERFECT example of the failure of our judicial system.

Here is another good write up on gun control.

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/335848/gun-control-ignorance-thomas-sowell

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kevin 1 year, 3 months ago

American citizens live by the Constitution, which gives law-abiding people the right to own guns to protect themselves, including against a government gone wild.

If anyone does not like to live by our Constitution, the please leave the country. When people become a "real" citizen, they take an oath to abide by the Constitution. There is no compromise. Take it or leave it. The door swings both ways.

As for you column, you have 3 reasons you think is causing all the killing. MAybe you should try the other to besides limiting our access. Maybe you should get the government to enforce our laws.

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

To use the second amendment as your reasoning for the right to carry any gun is a ridiculous argument. First, this was written and enacted by people that had not even dreamed of multiple shot weapons. In fact, for the first century after its ratification, the only guns to which it was applied were single shot muzzle loaders. Second, early supreme court decisions interpreted the second amendment as intended. This gave the rights only to those in a state regulated militia. Only recent court decisions have totally ignored the "well regulated militia" portion of the second amendment. Third, 'bearing arms" must apply to all weapons and yet no one in their right mind would believe an individual had the right to own a nuclear bomb. The question then becomes at what point must the line be drawn. Georgia laws prohibits carrying a concealed knife of any kind with a blade longer than 2 inches. Most states have similar restrictions. Is it rational to allow much more dangerous weapons carried in public areas? Of course not!!

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Jan writes - "Is it rational...." You people can't see that the problem is irrational people. The gang bangers, the robbers, the home invaders, the wife abusers/murderers, along with the insane. No law you can ever write will have the least influence on these people. By calling for more useless laws you show that your real purpose is to inflict another wound on your ideological enemies no matter that they have no intent of ever doing a crime with a weapon.

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JV 1 year, 3 months ago

In fact, the Second Amendment was written in a time when militias were simply any man with a gun during a time of conflict. Also you will notice that the Second Amendment does not say that militias have the right to bear arms, it states very clearly that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. The Second Amendment separates the “militia” from the “people” with a punctuation. Only a closed minded fool would read into this amendment as meaning that only the military should have guns.

At the time the second amendment was written, Muzzleloader Muskets and Rifles were the peak innovation of military arms. The second amendment was written for defense against tyranny and the use of those arms against us, Essentially it is saying that free people need the ability to match any government in strength of arms. No governments military now use muskets.

The 2” knife blade is in code section 16-11-127.1 - which discusses specifically the carrying of weapons in school safety zones, on school property, or at school functions. Otherwise, the state provides other definitions. Code section 16-11-125.1 reads:

(2) "Knife" means a cutting instrument designed for the purpose of offense and defense consisting of a blade that is greater than five inches in length which is fastened to a handle.

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

The anti-constitutionalists always studiously avoid discussion of ", the RIGHT of the PEOPLE to KEEP and BEAR arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED."

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

JV: section 16-11-126 begins: "A person commits the offense of carrying a concealed weapon when such person knowingly has or carries about his or her person, unless in an open manner and fully exposed to view, any bludgeon, metal knuckles, firearm, knife designed for the purpose of offense and defense, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character outside of his or her home or place of business, except as permitted under this Code section." The restrictions link in my comments gives knife laws for all 50 states some of which are much stricter than GA. While you are somewhat correct that the militia was a group of volunteers, this still clearly gave regulations, which must include proper training, to the states. You agree that the muzzle loaders were the peak of military arms and yet do not explain how you would justify outlawing some military weapons from private ownership while allowing others or do you believe someone with the money should be allowed to buy and operate a drone armed with missiles? . You also have no explanation why someone should be allowed to purchase numerous weapons when they have not been properly trained in their usage and safe handling.

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Training has nothing to do with the problem. Law abiding citizens are not the problem. The problem is criminals and the insane and the irresponsible. Adam Lanza was insane and his mother was irresponsible.

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JV 1 year, 3 months ago

Need to do some work on your babble today Jan. Perhaps this link will help you with what the GA laws say. Apparently it is a challenge for you. Also I don't believe I need to explain anything to you. That would be an impossible task.

http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/Default.asp

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

And yet you will not answer the question. If you put so mush belief in the "shall not infringe" then why isn't it lawful for a private citizen to own a drown armed with missiles? Do you believe citizens should be able to own a ICBM or ground to air missile? How many of the thousands of accidental deaths by gun would be prevented if we required gun owners to get proper training? Another intriguing fact. In most states during the early years of this country's history, the police force did not carry guns.

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Here are some numbers for contemplation. Basically there are the same number of guns in the country as there are people. App. 310 million. There are app 12,000 gun homicides in the country. Divide the little number into the big and you get .004 %.; ; ; In other words, POINT OH OH FOUR percent of both guns and humans in the country did the murders. The libs would the ecstatic if they could convince us law abiding citizens to throw all 310m of our guns into the ocean [ not counting the tens of thousands the criminals would keep ]. Why not lock up all 310m people in the country ?? Of course that's ridiculous. There ain't enough cells :). Of course since it's only .004% that's doing the murders why not lock them up and leave the innocent alone ??? NOOOO. It's the evil guns.

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

Once again we see how you want to paint your opposition as irrational extremists. I have not heard anyone say that everyone should give up their guns. My question is why people like you are unwilling to make any compromise when it comes to guns but quite willing to admit that a line should be drawn at private ownership of certain arms. How many lives do you believe should be allowed to not have any regulations on weapons firing bullets?

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Everything Adam Lanza did was against an existing law. Why should every law abiding citizen be punished for his deeds ?

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

So, in your opinion, learning to drive a car before getting a license to drive is a punishment. So it is also punishment to not be allowed to own an ICBM. We are also punished by not being allowed to prescribe our own medicines when only a few would abuse the privilege. You have put forth no rational reason why a sane person would be so interested in a weapon that can fire 30 rounds without reloading. Why would a law abiding citizen want armor piercing or exploding bullets. How can it be punishment to not allow something that a sane person would not need? If placing a gun lock on all your guns would save one life, would you be willing to do it? Regulation are not to just stop Adam Lanza. It is also to help reduce accidental shootings through proper education of gun owners.

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Do you know how many times policemen are involved in accidental shootings ??? Have you ever once made a stupid mistake ? If you are like most humans you make mistakes every day of your life. All the training in the world can't eliminate the human factor. PART 2. This whole situation has nothing to do with gun accidents or suicide. It's about murderers. Stopping MURDERERS. Stopping the minute percentage of residents who are EVIL . Stopping the perps that wear out the doors to the jail house. Perps with a long rap sheet. Where is your outrage ???? Those people aren't your sworn enemy. They actually get your sympathy. Your ilk are their enablers. The peaceful citizens of this country that don't worship YOUR ideology are who you perceive to be your enemies. Pretty sad.

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

I want to hit the gun banners right between the eyes with the reality of our society. In the story below the dead woman's ONLY chance was to buy her own gun [ or hire a 24hr a day bodyguard which she couldn't have afforded most likely ]. Buying a gun to protect herself was an option because the NRA fought for instant background checks among the other good things they have done protecting the constitutional rights of ALL citizens of this country. The courts have shown time and again that you are responsible for you own personal security. Like the saying goes, when seconds count the police are minutes away........................................One NRA program is teaching self defense to women. One of their slogans [paraphrased is ] "Refuse to be a victim". Far too many women are abused and murdered in this country and part of the reason why is the demonization of their only real chance of protecting themselves. Namely a gun.

Police: Fugitive wanted in Ga. slaying is arrested by Associated Press

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

You have only managed to prove you are blind to what is being said. No one is suggesting the banning of all guns. My first gun was given to me when I was 12 but was not allowed to use it without adult supervision until I was able to demonstrate the responsibility and knowledge to handle it safely. The questions you should answer: 1. What size weapon does someone needs for self defense? 2. Does the person know enough to make the probability of defense greater than the probability of an accidental shooting? Your anecdotal evidence is meaningless. I could easily match it with numerous articles of accidental shootings. I had one friend that accidentally killed himself while starting to clean his gun. Another friend whose brother was killed by his father who thought he was a burglar breaking into the house. I could go on.

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R 1 year, 3 months ago

The point you press is illogical as it only establishes yet more bureaucracy that grows and continues to change "definitions" of what should be controlled, limited, regulated, taxed and then BANNED.

It's just how it all flows.

Want to "limit" anything?

Make the effort to amend our constitution, the mechanism is right in front of you.

As to the regulation placed on cars and horses, I don't think those "rights" are spelled out so clearly. That may be why so many NON citizens think they should be able to drive while out of compliance without ANY consequences at all.

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Here are some stats from justfacts.com * In 2007, there were 613 fatal firearm accidents in the United States, constituting 0.5% of 123,706 fatal accidents that year.............................................................................

You are wasting your time trying to save 600 people. One half of one percent of fatal accidents.. You should use your excess busy body energy trying to do much more. Heck, take up the crusade of banning all forms of tobacco. 400,000 deaths a year that could be avoided. Go for it.

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eer5136 1 year, 3 months ago

Nice article on guns and violence and your complete and total disregard for clearly presenting all the relevant facts such as how virtually all of the countries you mentioned that have a lower rate of gun violence have laws that make it illegal for the citizens to own firearms.

Also since you and nearly all anti gun people here is the US have no real sense of their countries history in regards to the second amendment let me remind you that when the founding fathers wrote that amendment that the people were able to posses the same weapons as the military/government and it was possession of the same weapons as the military/government that kept those in government with leanings towards doing things the way England did them that kept those people in government from attempting to push the country in the same direction as England. And since most of you wont believe me go do the research; pick up a few books on our early history and the politics of the day and prove it too yourself.

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Jan 1 year, 3 months ago

Are you proposing that people should be allowed arms equal to the military? Would this include missiles and atomic bombs?

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

Have you priced either of these items lately ?

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jack 1 year, 3 months ago

My town has an ordinance that every household must possess at least one nuclear device.

Since enacting this law, there have been no atomic bomb-related homicides in the community.

Just that one suicide.

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JV 1 year, 3 months ago

Really need to give the atomic bombs and such a rest. Per BATFE they fall under WMD. Refer to § 842(p)(1)(C):

http://www.atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5400-7.pdf

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notblind 1 year, 3 months ago

That's how liberals "win" arguments. The instant some irrefutable facts show up they go off on some unrelated tangent { training ??? ] or resort to hysterics. Look at NY, DC or Chicago. 500 dead in Chicago in spite of draconian gun laws. Mexico might be a better look at what happens when the citizens are disarmed and the populace has to depend on the gooberment for "protection".

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Don 1 year, 3 months ago

Jan: Parents have run over their children with cars, friends kill friend who are passengers in cars. I guess the licensing for drivers does not work so what make s you think gun licenses will work?

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