Sunday, December 16, 2012

MASS MURDER, MURDER, AND CULTURE

In the aftermath of the firearm Newtown, CT, massacre, we should remember that the number killed in these massacres per year are dwarfed by the number of gun deaths, suicides, and homicides deaths per year.

Homicides & Suicides As for the number of deaths by homicide in 2010, the total was 15,953 of which 11,078 (11,101 in 2011, preliminary) were by firearms which is 3.6 per 100,000 population.  The number of suicides in 2010 were 38,364 of which 19,392 (19,766 in 2011, preliminary) were by firearms or 6.3/100,000 population.*  For comparison, the number of automobile deaths in 2009 were 34,485.*

Firearm Deaths for U.S. vs. Developed Countries  In total number of firearm deaths, the U.S. ranked number 12 at 9/100,000 population (2011), ahead of such countries as Switzerland 3.5 (2011), France 3.0 (2012), Norway 1.78 (2012), Sweden 1.47 (2012), Germany 1.10 (2012),  Australia 1.05 (2011), United Kingdom 0.25 (2102), and Japan 0.07 (1998).**

Assault Deaths Over Time The murder rate/yr in the U.S. has been actually declining, with a triple peak centered on 1980 with a steep rise from 1965  and a steep decline particularly since 1991, with additional decline since then.***  For comparison, motor vehicle deaths are also declining.****

Discussion  Though I see no reason for people to have assault weapons and semi-automatic weapons in general, our problem in this country is also cultural, our mythic "Wild West" mentality, our deifying the "gunslinger."  We are now a country of more than 300 million people and not the sparsely populated West or yore.  Yet, we live today as if we are more wild than the Wild West probably was.

The large population means that there are going to be more deranged people in a country awash with arms.  Those that commit mass murder ending in their suicide have distinct psychological profiles that are shared, unfortunately, with a lot of people that never commit mass murders (and the profile for school mass murders are different from others).  We may be able to decrease these mass murders because they do some extended planning of weeks or even months that probably are not done in complete isolation; however, with such a large country and such a large population, I doubt we can totally eliminate them.

And do these mass murderers really intend ahead of time to commit suicide?  If so, why do they go to the trouble of procuring and wearing body armor such as at Aurora and Newtown?  It seems as if the suicide may be some afterthought.

And has been shown above, homicides are much, much broader than the mass murders.  Should we concentrate on the mass murderers and learn to live with the others as we do to a great extent with automobile deaths?  I think our cultural problem with the use of firearms is even more important than gun control.

The question of suicide has been dealt with elsewhere in this blog.  See http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2012/06/suicide.html and http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2012/07/what-about-8000-others.html  When even the severe wounding of President Reagan and the turning of his press secretary, Brady, into a vegetable by John Hinckley didn't result in any sort of permanent gun control, even on semi-automatic rifles, I guess I have become very cynical about the matter.  In fact the country seems even worse today than it was then in such things as carrying concealed weapons and carrying weapons into national parks and colleges.

* http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm
Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2011 whereas homicide ranked 15th.
** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate
*** http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/
**** http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42370348/ns/us_news-life/t/highway-deaths-fall-lowest-level/#.UM5JkNuF8Rk

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