Responding to the horrific massacre on Friday in Connecticut, Nicholas Kristof writes in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-have-the-courage-to-stop-this.html):
"The fundamental reason kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics or criminals — all countries have them — but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns."
Kristof's recommendations to curb this abomination? Simple:
"A starting point would be to limit gun purchases to one a month, to curb gun traffickers. Likewise, we should restrict the sale of high-capacity magazines so that a shooter can’t kill as many people without reloading.
We should impose a universal background check for gun buyers, even with private sales. Let’s make serial numbers more difficult to erase, and back California in its effort to require that new handguns imprint a microstamp on each shell so that it can be traced back to a particular gun."
I favor all of these recommendations, but will they make a difference, significant or otherwise, in gun homicide rates?
Let there be no mistake: By far and away the US leads the world in gun ownership with an average of 88.8 firearms per 100 people (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list). As further observed by this Guardian article, the firearm murder rate in the US is 2.97 per 100,000 people, which is the 28th highest in the world.
But now let's look at Finland, which has an average of 45.3 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of only 0.45 per 100,000 people.
And let's also have a look at Switzerland, which has an average of 45.7 firearms per 100 people, but a firearm murder rate of 0.77 per 100,000 people.
Although gun ownership in Finland and Switzerland is half that of the US, the firearm murder rate of Finland is some 15 percent of that in the US, and the firearm murder rate of Switzerland is some 26 percent of that in the US.
Israel? As reported by the Guardian, Israel has an average of 7.3 firearms per 100 people, and a firearm murder rate of a mere 0.09 per 100,000 people. But these figures fail to take into consideration the tens of thousands of automatic rifles which are brought home on weekends by soldiers. Now you might think that this plethora of automatic rifles would lead to disaster, but this is not borne out by the facts.
So is it the number of firearms in the US and the availability of large magazines that have led to the horrifying slaughter of innocents, or is there something else that is fundamentally amuck?
Don't get me wrong: I support all of Kristof's recommendations in the hope that they can curb, even minimally, the murder rate in the US, but I don't know if their enactment will prove efficacious in an increasingly intolerant society that has lost its ability to engage in civil discourse.