June 08, 2022
Many people in the US are pained by the senseless slaughter of the children of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. In most countries in the world, children are less likely to be gunned down because politicians in those countries are not held hostage by gun rights extremists.
Dozens and dozens of other countries are able to craft a balance between public safety and gun rights, but not the US. Only in two countries in the world can a teenager legally acquire a semi-automatic rifle without a license: the US and Yemen. In Philadelphia, teens say that it is easier to get a gun than cigarettes. With each passing year in the US, there are more guns and fewer gun safety regulations. Just last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott approved a law which allows Texans to carry a handgun in public without a license or training.
In most of the world, there are common sense gun safety policies which contribute to lower rates of gun violence. Figure 1 illustrates that the US gun homicide rate is a multiple of the rate in most other countries. Of the nine countries selected to illustrate the range of deviation between the US and the world, the closest is Nigeria. Still, the US firearm homicide rate is roughly twice Nigeria’s. It is nine times the rate in Senegal. The worst comparison for the US is Japan. The US rate is over 200 times the rate in Japan. There are over a hundred other countries with lower rates of gun violence than the US. In other words, there are a plethora of other examples of how to craft more sensible gun safety policies.
If gun rights extremists were not writing US gun laws, we also would be using scientific research to reduce the harm caused by guns. Car-related deaths used to be the number one cause of death for children. But after years of research and the application of effective policies, there has been a dramatic decline in child mortality from vehicle accidents. In contrast, gun rights extremists succeeded in banning government research on gun safety for two decades. In 2020, car accidents were no longer the leading cause of death for children—guns were. Although there is no longer a ban on government research on gun safety, it is still grossly underfunded.
The extremist gun rights policies of the US disproportionately harm Black children. Figure 2 shows that US Black children die from guns at three times the overall US rate. The lack of gun safety policies as well as systemic anti-Black discrimination and inequality all contribute to this high gun mortality rate for Black children in the US. As illustrated in Figure 1, in the majority-Black countries of Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria, the rates of gun violence are all much lower than in the US.
The US is a toxic country as far as gun violence is concerned, particularly for Black people. Only when US politicians are committed to common sense gun safety policies will we see any change.