Atheists are a small minority in the U.S.  Advocates of gun control might be a minority in America as well. In light of the recent shootings in Aurora I am curious as to how atheists in this network view the lack of gun restrictions.  There are probably divergent views.

I have trouble believing that both presidential candidates are steering away from any call for reform after the horrific mass shooting. In my opinion it is insane to allow citizens access to assault weapons that can kill scores of people in a few minutes.  It was even more shocking to hear on a news show that a family had to raise money to pay for the immense hospital bills for one of the victims while they were already crippled with medical bills from the mothers fight with breast cancer.

As a Canadian I came to stand with my U.S brothers for the reason rally and freedom from religion.  I would be willing to come down to the capitol and march for two other important causes.  Gun control and universal health care.

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There is another aspect of this issue that needs attention: the reluctance of people to get involved in a situation where foreknowledge could prevent a tragedy. I have a specific example in mind, but it suggests the broader context.

My youngest son lost a friend in a campus shooting exactly twenty years to the day before the shooting at Sandy Hook. In this case the college knew the shooter had weapons in his dorm room against their rules, but preferred not to invade his privacy. The campus mail room knew that he had received ammunition through the mail, but did not confiscate it or notify anyone. The resident assistant in the shooter's dorm was warned by friends that the shooter was after him and that he should leave campus for the weekend. He did, but told no one in authority. The shooter positioned himself so he had a bead on the library door and killed one faculty member and one student, my son's friend.

Stricter gun laws can help to reduce violence overall, but in individual instances there are often people aware that someone is becoming dangerous and there are authorities who can act. Our laws should protect those who give advanced warning. Often people with mental problems only hurt themselves, but you don't know that in advance and speaking up can make the difference between tragedy and tragedy averted.

More thorough background checks, even to the level of investigations, might prevent some of the shootings.  Maybe applicants for gun permits could be required to submit documentation, character references, or some such assurances.  A more thorough system might weed out some dangerous characters rather than just hoping someone will notice danger signals and act on them.  Maybe. 

Charles M. Blow has an op-ed piece in this morning's New York Times accompanied by a chart that shows clearly how exceptional the United States is among the high income countries of the world in its policies and their results. (Unfortunately the chart exceeds the size allowed here by quite a bit, but you can find it online at the NYTimes.) Blow summarizes the statistics in these words:

In the wake of the horrible school shooting in Connecticut and on the heels of politicians finally being smoked out into the open to talk seriously about sensible gun control policies, it’s important that we understand just how anomalous America is on the issues of guns and violence among developed countries. This table shows how shamefully we measure up against other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the O.E.C.D. countries that the World Bank groups as “high income,” America has the highest gun homicide rate, the highest number of guns per capita and the highest rate of deaths due to assault. In fact, America has more homicides by gun than all of the other high-income O.E.C.D. countries combined.

It’s just shameful.

[My emphasis]

Thanks for that info.  Some interesting graphics here.    also here.    How do people get past, we have the most guns and the most gun-related murders.  Coincidence?  Of it's Americans that the gun owners are afraid of, since they consider Americans so violent?  

I like the usefulness of the "Surging gun and ammo purchases", surging purchases yes, BUT look at the trend in crime over time I posted, during that very same period, crime was going down faster in the USA than Canada. Graphs that do not take trends over time are useless and  cherry-pick data.

You seem to be equating the terms crime, homicide, and firearm homicide. See my reply above—your trend graph doesn't show what you think it does.

Dr. Clark,

I hope the measures you cited are not the only measures that lead you to conclude that the US of A is exceptional, anomalous, and unique among the world's high-, medium-, and low-income nations.

BTW, is not the phrase "sensible gun control" an overused cliche? It says as little about gun control as the House Republican term "spending cuts".

As the saying goes... Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn... how they're dying, only the total homicide rate is of interest to me. Looking at one one homicide style and closing our eyes to the other homicides is a wonderful form of cherry picking data for an ideological stance. The facts are that the total homicide rate is and has been for a long time, on the decrease, and all of the knee-jerking going right now on because of a couple of highly mediatised events is totally irrelevant to a rational assessment of facts. It depresses me that people who claim to have critical thinking do not see through this media hype.

I'm not confusing them at all. I think segregating them is an emotional shutting down of the brain's faculty of rational thinking.

I heard in the following in a humanist newsletter:

"Religious Right extremists such as Mike Huckabee and William J. Murray used the recent Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy to blame the violence on the lack of God and prayer in public schools."

Finally something everyone can agree on -  Religion and prayer won't solve this problem.

Michael OL wrote:

However, I would argue that while any life lost to violence is regrettable, the percentages even in gun-happy America are astronomically small.  That the rate is 10 in 100,000 or 1 in 100,000 is not a palpable difference for the "average" person who will never personally know any victim of gun violence.

--- --- ---

I know someone who tried to kill himself with a firearm (a roommate) and wrestled the gun away from him (a scariest thirty seconds of my life, and I was in the military).

Ten times is not a palpably small difference. It is the difference between 3,000 deaths per year (1:100 000), or the entire population of my rather rural Nebraska county, or 30,000 deaths per year (approximately 1/15th of the entire state of Wyoming). In other words, we can knock off all of Wyoming in fifteen years (barring no population growth).

30 000 is approximately the same as all drunk drive deaths in the USA every year, and drunk driving is entirely outlawed.

On the flip side, all Western democracies have much stricter gun laws than the USA, and a much lower death rate from guns.

From (Eggleston Group, an insurance firm) Note firearm homicides are the seventh leading cause of death in the USA, and a significant portion of suicides are by firearm as well. Moreover, their death numbers by firearms are much higher than yours (and they are in the business of making money off death - they have to get the numbers right or they do not profit)

Real Time Estimate
Top 7 Causes of Death
Since 1 Jan, 2012
Cause Annually To Date
Tobacco: 529,000 520,622
Medical Errors: 195,000 191,912
Alcohol Abuse: 107,400 105,699
Vehicle Accidents: 42,000 41,335
Suicide: 29,350 28,885
Drug Abuse: 25,500 25,096
Firearm Homicide: 10,828 10,657

I remember the days when a smoker got indignant when asked politely to just blow their smoke in a different direction.  Never thought I would see the Berlin wall fall, never thought that the "It's a free country" argument for smoking anywhere at anytime would lose it popularity.

A strategy that could work:




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