The shootings at Newtown may be history, but the deaths created by guns continue. On Jan. 20, in Albuquerque, NM, a 15-year old teenager shot and killed five members of his own family. According to an AP story appearing in the Boston Globe (1/22/13), “The teen allegedly told the detective that he took a .22 caliber rifle from his parents’ closet and shot his mother in the head while his younger brother slept next to her.”
“(Nehemiah) Griego told the detective that his brother did not believe him that his mother was dead so he showed his mother’s bloody face to his brother and then shot him.”
“He’s accused of then shooting his two young sisters in their room. He retrieved an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle from his parents’ closet and waited in a downstairs bathroom for his father to come home. The statement said he shot his father multiple times after he passed the bathroom doorway.”
“The teen said he reloaded the guns so ‘he could drive to a populated area to murder more people.’”
Some people’s answer to these massacres is to put even more guns in the hands of people, so presumably individuals can protect themselves and each other. According to Elizabeth Rosenthal in the New York Times (1/6/13), “Scientific studies have consistently found that places with more guns have more violent deaths, both homicides and suicides. Women and children are more likely to die if there is a gun in the house. The more guns in an area, the higher the local suicide rates.”
Rosenthal continues. “I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the NRA’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.”
“Despite the ubiquitous presence of ‘good guys’ with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Columbia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.”
Pro-gun advocates also argue that gun safety measures are ineffective and simply increase the risk to the citizenry. Once again, the facts belie their argument.
In Australia in 1996, a lone gunman killed 35 people with a shower of bullets from semi-automatic weapons. Immediately, the Australian government passed gun safety laws that banned assault weapons, tightened licensing, introduced a waiting period following the purchase of a gun, and financed gun amnesty and buyback programs.
As a result, firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent from 1995 to 2006 (The American Journal of Law and Economics, 2010). In addition, from 1978 to 1996, Australia experienced 13 mass killings resulting in 102 deaths. No such multiple killings have occurred since the introduction of the new gun safety laws.
In the Times’ article, Rosenthal reports Bogata, Columbia’s mayor Gustavo Petro has attempted since last February to lower his city’s runaway gun homicide rate by forbidding residents to carry weapons on streets, in cars or in any public space. As a result, the murder rate has dropped 50 percent to a 27 year low.
The gun safety regulations proposed by the Obama administration are common sense ideas. Do background checks on all gun purchasers. Put more police in the hallways of our schools. Do away with private ownership of military-style assault weapons. Restrict the size of magazines to 10 bullets. None of these proposals takes guns away from or interferes with the activities of either hunters or homeowners seeking to defend their families and their property.
Defenders of the 2nd Amendment often cite their right to own a gun. They seem to forget, however, innocent bystanders have a right, too. The right not to be shot.