Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gun violence in America - Part one of four parts

With the tragedy at Newtown and others over the last couple of years, we may be finally taking a serious look at gun violence in the United States.  President Obama has asked Vice-President Biden to chair a bi-partisan committee staffed by elected officials from both houses of congress to work through possible proposals for action.  Biden is also hosting discussion groups at the White House with representatives from all sides of the issue.

This post is part of a four part series because of the depth that the issue is explored.  Part one is on the current situation in the country.  Part two explores the issue of gun rights in context with all rights.  This third is about legal issues that need to be explored for possible legislation.  Finally, taking a page from the Communitarian philosophy, we look to the cultural and social pressures that should come to bare on the issue of gun violence. 
While the tragedies that have received national attention are horrific, the real problem is experienced by families and communities every single day.  The amount of people killed in the media spot light is less than the total amount of people killed every week in the United States.

Depending on what research is examined, it appears that we have more guns per capita than any other nation.  There are those that believe that by arming the citizenry it will make for a safe environment from gun violence. (I believe the phrase is, “An armed society is a polite society.”)  But, the reality is, that again depending on the research, we are among the top 15 nations for the amount of deaths by gun violence. 
An extension of the armed society concept are the stand your ground laws.  In Florida, a man is on trial for shooting a 17 year old, his defense being the stand your ground law.  The argument is that people will be less likely to initiate crime if they think the other person has a gun and is legally allowed to use it in their defense.  A Texas A and M study reports that the homicide rate has increased in states that has enacted stand your ground laws.  Again, the downside appears to contradict the basic argument.    

On the other side of the spectrum, some want to take guns away from everyone except police and military.  The argument is that by removing guns all together people will not have easy quick and disassociated action of firing a gun. Two cities in America enacted very strict guns laws to reduce gun violence.  In both cases, the Supreme Court struck down the laws.  In one of the cities, Chicago, after the law was deemed unconstitutional, the homicide rate increased sharply.  In the other city, Washington, D.C., the homicide rate went down.  Something else must be going on beyond the gun laws because, again, the evidence contradicts the theory.
The two extremes of the argument don’t make a lot of sense when examined against the facts.    Gun violence in America is happening at a higher rate than almost any other country.  Yet, we have more guns than anywhere else and a wide variety of gun laws in attempt to curb the violence. 

But, we have a right to own a gun.  We will examine that right in context with our other rights in the next blog post.

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