The mass shooting in the small village of Sutherland Springs, Texas, carried out by a lone gunman during worship service at the town’s First Baptist Church last Sunday morning, illustrates once again that the improper use of guns always has the same result: death. Dozens were hit with bullets resulting in 26, at last count, losing their lives who ranged in age from 72 to 18 months.
Once again, America must take a stark examination of its current laws related to how easily citizens can purchase weapons and the disconcerting trend of how those guns are used to murder innocent people. A small town in Texas now becomes part of a list of murder sites that include Orlando and Las Vegas — all within the last year and a half.
But in each case, President Trump has put the blame on the wrong culprit — from “better mental health” to going after immigrants with new laws that ban their entry into the U.S. — rather than the true culprit — guns. When we look at countries comparable to the U.S. in socioeconomic success, that is income per person and average education level, America ranks ninth in the world, bested by Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Iceland, Andorra, Canada and Finland. Each enjoys lower rates of gun violence, while the U.S. has the 31st highest rate in the world: 3.85 deaths due to gun violence per 100,000 people in 2016 — eight times higher than the rate in Canada, which had .48 deaths per 100,000 people — and 27 times higher than the one in Denmark, which had .14 deaths per 100,000. Even extremely poor countries like Bangladesh and Laos have lower rates with prosperous Asian countries such as Singapore and Japan boasting the absolute lowest rates, although the United Kingdom and Germany are in almost as good a shape.
As for the U.S., we have a long, troubling history with our love for gun ownership and our innocuous claim on the right to bear arms as guaranteed in the Constitution. America stands in a class of its own when it comes to gun homicides and while each recent example of gun violence has renewed the debate over gun laws in the U.S., nothing has been done. Meanwhile, research shows that other developed countries do better than us because we have so many guns and such easy access to them compared to everyone else.
In 1996, after 35 people died and 23 more were injured in a mass shooting in Tasmania, Australia’s government teamed up with political groups to institute legislation that restricted gun availability including a buy-back program that reduced firearms there by 20 percent. Today, they have 0.1 gun homicides per 100,000.
When will America ever learn? We need to face our demons and reality and take guns and the ease with which they can be purchased, out of the equation. Will our legislators and president have the courage to do the right thing? For now, it does not appear so.