Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Armed America - responding to Paul

I think I may have offended Paul, who has left a comment on Armed America - Scary Americans.


I started to post a comment back, but then thought, no. It's time to get on my soap box about this one. After all, we can all whinge on about how we don't like something, but what you need, is to do a wee bit of research. To kind of - put your (well my) money where my mouth is, as it were. So I did.

Firstly, I take your point that you are a human being, and that you should have the right to life, food, and shelter. I also agree with you that guns are used for sport, hobby, or hunting - although the word hobby strikes me as a touch innocuous to describe firing off a bullet that travels at roughly 1,705 mph, and has a tendency to cause absolute destruction when it stops - but anyway, I have no problems with people shooting for sport, or hobby, or even for hunting if it is necessary for food.

However, you quickly move on to the right to defend yourself. And here I have a problem. Yes, the criminals have weapons, but the way to eradicate fire-arms as used in criminal activity, is not to arm everyone, but to arm less people. And it isn't me saying it either;

"Homicide rates tend to be related to firearm ownership levels. Everything else being equal, a reduction in the percentage of households owning firearms should occasion a drop in the homicide rate".
Evidence to the Cullen Inquiry 1996:
Thomas Gabor, Professor of Criminology - University of Ottawa

From:Gun Control Network

Okay - so the Gun Control Network are probably going to be biased aren't they? So I thought I'd look at the other side of the argument. I'm not too bothered about sporting usages, so all I'll say on that is I can see the ingenuity of the fire-arm, and target shooting can be fun, but the fact remains that the fun is being had with an object that was purposely designed to cause injury or death. It isn't like the wings on a military fighter jet, that evolved from the dream to take flight like the birds. It's more like, we've invented to gun and everything is dead - wonder what else we can do with it? Gun use evolved to incorporate sport, but hunting and war were always it's primary concerns.


Okay. So you want to protect your family, and your property, from criminals - who are also carrying guns (er... because they know you are too so they aren't going to bring a baseball bat, are they?). What are you going to do if someone is stupid or desperate enough to break into your house? Are you sure you want to shoot them? They might not be armed with a gun.

As de-sensitised as Americans are towards guns, it is worth remembering that guns make a real mess of living tissue. A bullet travels at around 2,500 feet per second over 100 yards. That's 1,705 miles per hour. This is what bullets do;

Bullets produce tissue damage in three ways (Adams, 1982):
1. Laceration and crushing - Low velocity bullets, as in handguns, that travel less than 1000 fps do virtually all their damage via crushing.
2. Cavitation - Cavitation is significant with projectiles travelling in excess of 1000 fps. A "permanent" cavity is caused by the path of the bullet itself, whereas a "temporary" cavity is formed by continued forward acceleration of the medium (air or tissue) in the wake of the bullet, causing the wound cavity to be stretched outward.
3. Shock waves - Shock waves compress the medium and travel ahead of the bullet, as well as to the sides, but these waves last only a few microseconds and do not cause profound destruction at low velocity. At high velocity, generated shock waves can reach up to 200 atmospheres of pressure. (DiMaio and Zumwalt, 1977) However, bone fracture from cavitation is an extremely rare event. (Fackler, 1996)

See Gun Tutorials for full article.

I have to take issue with you when you say I am a criminal if I support the banning of guns. The banning of guns does not imply the end to the right to defend yourself and your property. Gun laws are extremely stringent in the UK, and we have no right to bear arms written or otherwise. If someone breaks into our house we call the police. If we are at home, then we might leave the house, or failing that confront them with a vase. You don't really need a gun. I take it you read about John Smeaton, the Glaswegian who confronted a terrorist. Yes. A terrorist! Mr Smeaton and a few others gave him the hiding of his life and then handed him, still smouldering, over to the police. No guns. Not a single shot fired.

Of course the other thing is, here we kinda know who is who, because if someone has a gun, and they aren't an armed police officer, there's no mistaking that you're probably dealing with a criminal, and not Sandy from down the road who just popped in for an iced-tea brandishing an AK47 and a gold bikini. You see we don't always get the best image of 'Americans and Their Guns' here in the UK.

What disturbed me most about those images referred to in my blog post, was the fact that guns were so everyday, so ordinary. There were a range of human beings celebrating their prized possessions, posing with them while their children are in the room. It keeps the culture going, that's for sure. There's no sign - no recognition that these are weapons not toys, or trophies. Safety catches are notoriously crap. Some are even made of plastic! See Violence Policy Centre – An agenda for genuine gun control. The dreadful truth is that these things can, and do go off. When you least want them to. With a bang. And the soft mass that is your child's head is not going to come off to well should they be investigating mom and dad's toys.

The statistics kind of speak for themselves;

In 1996, in the USA, 138 children (14 or under) died from unintentional gunshot wounds.

The minimum age to possess a firearm in the US is 18. Rifles and shotguns have no age restriction.

The most common age to commit gun crime in the US is 19. 18 is the second most common.

In the period 2005/06 there were 21,521 firearm offences in England and Wales. Of these, 5001 resulted in injury, and there were 50 homicides - down from 78 in 2004/05.

In 1999 there were 28,874 gun related deaths in the US (that's an impressive 80 per day) and in 2000 a staggering 75,685 people were shot and injured.

Since 1965, deaths due to gunshot wounds in the US have risen steadily from 18,671 to 30,708 in 1998, and since then has hovered around the 29,000 mark. It's still rather a lot though isn't it. Compared with 50.

Unintentional deaths due to gunshot wounds have dropped 2,344 in 1965, to 866 in 1998 - I'll warrant you that, but one has to ask why this might be... better education perhaps, people moving away from worshipping the gun and seeing it for the violent, lethal weapon that it is, regardless of what it's being used for at any given time. Maybe the recent tragedy at Columbine, Colorado, has made people take more notice and begin asking more challenging questions, such as why should it be a right to bear arms? Is there a guerrilla war going on that no-one has told us about?!

There have been 14 mass shootings (more than 10 people shot) between 1966 and 2002. Of these, 1 was in the UK, in Hungerford, when a farmer took a shotgun to the village, and 7 in the US. Of these 7, 6 involved legal weapons, killing a total of 101 people.

And size does matter!

The USA has a population of 301,139,947 people in an area 9,826,630 sq. km. That's 32 people per sq. km.

The UK has a population of 60,209,500 in an area of 242,514 sq. km. That's 246 people per sq. km.

So there's fewer of us, but we are a lot more crowded. And we don't, as a nation, see guns as a trophy, or a hobby. We don't feel we have the right to blow a huge hole in someone just because they were rude enough to threaten us, or our property. (Though we might knock 'em over the head with a vase - carefully so as not to actually kill them.)

On a final note, in response to your second comment. I have seen guns, yes. As a teenager I was held up at gun point by a boy who thought it was big to dress up in military greens and point guns at girls. I've seen guns poking out of pockets in Spain and of course their police are armed. As in France. I've seen rifles for hunting, and almost went clay-pigeon shooting once. I still don't like guns. And I like them less in the hands of my premenstrual and/or pissed neighbours.


Number and Rates* of Firearm Mortality—United States, 1965 to 2004 (pdf)

UK Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2005/2006 (pdf)

Violence Policy Centre – An agenda for genuine gun control

The Gun Control Network

The Internet Pathology Laboratory for Medical Education, Utah. Tutorials - Firearms.

Not to be Biased...

The National Rifle Association (UK)

The National Rifle Association (USA)

The Gun Information website has 30 Reasons to Oppose Gun Control. It makes interesting reading. It's worth a read.

*Clambers down from soap-box and is amazed at how much work I have to do... and how little time I have left to do it!

I hope that puts my point of view in perspective.


Lane said...

Excellent post Ms Scribe.

JJ said...

It's a great article, I agree with nearly all of what you write.

I have used a shotgun (for clay pigeon shooting while at University) and while most of us were normal, there were always the weirdos who dressed in combats and had all the gear to make them look like Rambo.


hesitant scribe said...

Lane - why thank you Ms Lane :)

JJ - Yes - There were/are always people everywhere who are 'into' guns, and unfortunately not all of them are sports people, or in the military!

Perhaps I should add as postscript that gun crime amongst the young in the UK is increasing at a horrifying rate. I don't know what the causes are (a lack of empathy in our youth, desperation derived from poverty and crime where the gang becomes the family, too many glorified killing sprees in the film industry... who knows). It is frightening though. And deadly serious.

Ho hum.

Jon M said...

Get off the fence Hesitant and say what you really think! sadly, I went and held a gun on Paul's advice...and I see exactly what he means now...(sarcasm doesn't work on the internet really does it?)The logic doesn't work either. Paul would argue that if the teachers at Dunblane were armed then maybe that atrocity would never have happened? So the answer is arm our infant teachers? And sadly all this violence leaks incontinently out into other cultures. Ho Hum indeed.

Jon M said...

Love The Cramps pic though! :-)