More Senseless Violence – Why And What To Do

I wrote several entries, here and here, this week about a shooting at a local high school in which a principle and assistance principle were shot by a student angry over being suspended. The assistant principle died and the student killed himself shortly afterwards.

Now we have news of another senseless shooting. This one involves U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona who was shot along with 12 others at a meeting she was holding at a grocery store in Tucson. A federal judge was also among those shoot. So far, 6 people have died, including the judge. The shooter, Jared Laugher, is in police custody.

There have been death threats against both Rep. Giffords and the judge in the past; Giffords for her support for President Obama’s health care bill and the judge for his ruling in an immigration lawsuit. It is too early to say if this shooting was motivated by either of this issues or who the intended target, if any, was.

I’m not a big propionate of gun control, but I do support laws to require background checks of people purchasing guns and laws requiring gun owners to properly secure their firearms. I believe that there should also be laws that will hold gun owners accountable for crimes committed with their firearms if it can be proved that they did not properly secure them.

For those who would assume that I am against gun ownership let me say that I don’t own a firearm, although I have on several occasions in the past. The only reason I don’t own one now is that I have teenagers in the house and I just don’t feel comfortable having one in the home. Personally, I enjoy target shooting and skeet shooting and once my kids are out of the house, I plan on purchasing a shotgun, rifle and possibly a handgun, all for target and skeet shooting.

To get back to the main focus of this post, it is unclear what the causes or solutions are for these sort of events. There will always be angry and violence prone people and they will always find a way to act on their violent impulses.

There are plenty of statistics to be thrown around. From the Brady Campaign and Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence we get:

In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada, and 9,484 in the United States. This seems to indicate that the number of people killed in the U.S. is disproportionally large compared to other western countries and when you run the numbers, they seem to bear this assumption out. I used estimate population for 2010 from the CIA Worl Fact Book and here is the number of people killed by guns per 1000 people in each country :

Country Percentage gun related deaths per capita
Number of gun related deaths per 1000
Finland 0.0032349724 3.2349724
Australia 0.001626715 1.626715
England and Wales 0.0006255168 0.6255168
Spain 0.0012901571 1.2901571
Germany 0.002357717 2.357717
Canada 0.0059242159 5.9242159
US 0.0305705847 30.5705847

So the US has 5 times the gun related death than the next highest, Canada. I’d call that significant. The real question is what to do about it?

This, of course, is something that has been debated for decades and this particular incident probably will inspire more debate, but with a Republican controlled House of Representatives you can be sure that no real progress will be made to address the issue of gun deaths in America.

There has been a lot of speculation on the motives for this shooting on twitter with some people pointing to Sarah Palin’s web site that used to have a Rep. Gifford’s district on a map with a target on it. That was removed from the site today after the shooting. Wether it was removed out of respect for the congress woman and other victims or because a target has been eliminated is unknown, but some people are trying to infer the latter. There is also many who are promoting the idea that the shooting was politically motivated, but until the facts are in as to the gunman’s motive, we can, and should, assume nothing.

The new Speaker of The House issued a statement condemning the attack in which he said, “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.” I heartily agree.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

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