For seven years now, a Swedish group has released their annual report on small arms ownership around the world and the consequences to the public and the world at large. This report is funded by various nations from around the world and it is internationally respected.What this report from 2007 tells us about American's and their guns is this:
With less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35–50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, heavily skewing the global geography of firearms and any relative comparison (see Table 2.3). Of some eight million new firearms manufactured annually around the world, roughly 4.5 million are bought by the people of the United States (US ATF, 2000, p. 1). With this sustained and unsurpassed level of routine gun-buying, American civilians will become even more dominant in global gun ownership. Therefore, any discussion of civilian gun ownership must devote disproportionate attention to the United States, if only because of the scale of its gun culture.
Exceptional civilian gun habits in the United States distort impressions of global trends. Without the US share, the global civilian total falls from 570–730 million to roughly 320–440 million civilian firearms, and instead of outnumbering military firearms by three or five to one, civilian weapons would outnumber their military counterparts by two or three to one. (Emphasis mine)
After the United States, a few disproportionately armed societies stand out. Only Switzerland and Yemen begin to approach American levels of gun ownership, and both of these cases are clouded by great doubt (see Boxes 2.3 and 2.5). Others also stand out, such as Germany, Finland, France, Iraq, and Serbia. But civilian ownership tends to be more even among other large gun-owning societies, where ownership rates of 5–15 per 100 residents are common.Table 2.3 in Chapter 2 lists, in descending order, the most gun-toting nations around the world. The U.S. dwarfs the competition. Yemen, in 10th place and with a population of only 19 million, comes in second to the U.S. in the number of small arms owned per 100 citizens. The U.S. population is around 300 million.
The yearly reports are incredibly comprehensive. In other words, they are friggin huge and in-depth. This Press Release from a past year will give you a general over-all look at the state of the world with regard to civilian and military small arms, so that might be a good place to start if you want an overall view. The online magazine Foreign Policy has today released a 9 page writeup about these reports as well, so I can highly suggest that for 'lighter' reading.
The NRA is fond of skewing the numbers of some of these reports to fit their own agenda. For example, they get a woody over the fact that Sweden actually requires automatic gun ownership of a certain segment of it's civilian population and that they also has one of the lowest homicide by gun rates in the world. But just listing those facts alone does little justice to the Swedes and how they approach guns and civilian gun ownership. From the Foreign Policy piece which uses the data from these reports:
But Switzerland's attitude toward gun ownership is a far cry from that of the United States.
All Swiss men are required to undergo military training, and between the ages of 21 and 32, they are considered to be front-line troops and issued M-57 assault rifles and 24 rounds of ammunition to keep in their home. Once discharged, they are allowed to keep the weapon, or if they prefer, trade it in for a bolt rifle. Women aren't required to own guns, but it's strongly encouraged through government-sponsored training programs.
In 2001, there were about 600,000 automatic rifles and 500,000 pistols kept in Swiss homes. There are few restrictions on the buying of weapons, and the government even sells off its surplus to citizens when new models are purchased. Many Swiss belong to shooting clubs, and marksmanship competitions are popular activities. A number of cantons have laws against carrying guns without a permit, but it's not unusual to see off-duty reservists toting their assault rifles in public.
The country did a bit of soul-searching in 2001 after a disgruntled Swiss citizen opened fire in a regional parliament building, killing 14 people, but the Swiss don't seem likely to part with their firearms any time soon. In most years, gun crime rates are so low that statistics aren't even kept. (Emphasis mine)The gun culture in all nations differs, depending on the economic, socio and political climates. Whether the country has an ongoing civil war, like many parts of Africa, has a massive effect on civilian gun deaths numbers as well.
But the United States does not have an ongoing civil war. Culture Wars..oh yeah, we got that in spades, but we are not at war within our own borders, like say, Sudan for instance.
One of the Culture Wars we have is with the NRA leadership and their lobbying for less civilian gun control regulations. As a gun owner, I want to be able to own a handgun. But that said, I do not believe we need to own large capacity clips that hold 30 friggin bullets. Only law enforcement and the military should have access to such heinous people-killing mechanisms.
As Mad Mike put it this week, the time has come for America to insist on mental health evaluations when civilians want to purchase any type of weaponry. Including this type of evaluation into the process of gun purchasing will keep individuals rights to own guns alive, while weeding out the VA Tech type killer and the Jared Loughner's in our population who's only goal is to kill has many innocent people in as short a time as possible.
If the NRA can not sanction this type of evaluation, we need to demand an explanation from them. We need to insist on a straight answer from them, not any ridiculous strawman arguments that detract from the serious need to control who owns weapons of mass destruction and their mental stability.
We also need to control ammo and large capacity clips. That a minuscule amount of gun owners use these clips for their target practice exercises does not lend credibility to allowing anyone outside the military or law enforcement to possess them. If they get heartburn because they have to stop and reload, that's too effn bad. The safety of the overall population is more important than their personal desires to have the ability to blow off thirty friggin rounds in a matter of seconds.
Lives depend on what we do, or if we as Americans do anything about sensibly regulating our love affair with guns. It's an addiction that affects thousands of innocent people every year when we turn a blind eye to who can buy them and what level of firepower we allow civilians to possess.
We are all guilty of murder if we do nothing or allow the NRA to control the national conversation on sensible and responsible gun ownership. Reinstating the federal gun law that was allowed to expire is a good start. The fact that many NRA members disagree with the NRA's leadership stance on responsible gun ownership laws tells us all something important...that the NRA leadership is driven by the gun manufacturing lobby and nothing more.