With the Newtown tragedy still fresh in everyone’s minds, the eternal gun control debate refuses to become quiescent. To make sure the emotions remain high, President Obama has enlisted the help of parents who lost children in the school shooting to actively lobby Congress for stricter gun control measures.
Emotions can be the politician’s best friend. And dying children are one sure way to easily polarize and guilt people. “If you’re not for gun control, then you support killing children.”
Yes, I’ve actually heard people say that.
Each side has a great argument. Those against gun control want the government’s hands off the Constitution. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was quite clear on how he felt about the notion of giving up liberties in exchange for safety.
Those who support gun control quote statistics and share comparisons of US gun ownership with other nations to help prove their point that stiffer gun control regulations equates to fewer deaths.
I love statistics. They’re so incredibly flexible and can be used by either side of an argument to support their beliefs. Let’s look at some figures.
Between 2006 and 2010, the FBI reports there were 47,856 people murdered by firearms. These include accidental deaths, suicide, gang warfare, drug battles, etc.
In 2010 alone, there were 32,885 fatal car crashes. If we compare the same period of time as the above gun statistics, there were 176,937 fatal car crashes. Cars kills almost 4 times more people than guns. And while these numbers reflect total crashes, it isn’t stated if they have included all the deaths resulting from these crashes, a factor that could radically increase this number.
Why are not we discussing banning cars or making radical changes to laws affecting vehicles and their drivers? Since 31% of those fatalities were caused by speeding, why have we not come up with a system to ensure a car can’t be driven faster than road conditions would safely allow?
What about alcohol? Worldwide approximately 320,000 young people (ages 15-29) die annually from alcohol. The US represents approximately 75,000 of those deaths. Alcohol kills almost 8 times more people than guns. Not to mention that out of the above-stated fatalities, 32% were caused by a drunk driver.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 443,000 die prematurely each year from smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke. Tobacco kills 46 times more people than guns every year.
One of the other things that has fascinated me during the discussion of needing better gun control to “protect our children” is the complete lack of recognition of the number of children America actively kills every year.
In Afghanistan alone, 4.8 children are killed daily by drones. That means that since the Newtown shootings, 586 Afghani children have been directly murdered by the US.
Where is the outrage?
Oh, that’s right. I forgot that the lives of American children are worth so much more than those of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
If the gun control debate is truly about protecting children, then why aren’t we focusing on the bigger risks to children like cars, tobacco, alcohol, and drones?