Gun Deaths: The Real American Carnage

by Nick Gier
Children having their tomorrows taken away.
Small sacrifice if we can keep our assault rifles.
—Maureen Dowd’s “America’s Human Sacrifices”

In his inaugural address, arguably the worst by any American president, Donald Trump vowed that “the American carnage stops right here, right now.” He pointed to crime in the inner cities, drug trafficking, and gang violence.

Trump said nothing about gun deaths, which reached their highest ever in 2020 at 45,222—124 per day. So far this year there have been 230 mass shootings (four or more shot or killed), and that included 27 school massacres. Total gun deaths so far in 2022 (150 days) are 17,923 (

74% Decline in Violent Crime
Focusing on declining general crime, as most on the right do, is simply fear mongering, and a bad reason to blame liberals and buy more weapons. From 1993 to 2019 the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported a 74 percent decrease in violent crime. For the same period the FBI found that there was a 47 percent drop in murder/non-negligent manslaughter and 43 decline in aggravated assault.

Trump has blamed immigrants for murder, rape, and drug smuggling, but according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison 2020 study, U.S. citizens, “compared to undocumented immigrants, were twice as likely to be arrested for violent felonies in Texas from 2012 to 2018 and two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for felony drug crimes.

Very Few Self Defense Cases
At the NRA’s convention in Houston less than a week after the Uvalde massacre, CEO Wayne LaPierre claimed that “each year, over 1 million law-abiding men and women use a firearm to save their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.”

This assertion appears to have been made up solely for propaganda purposes. This is most likely a false generalization from anecdotal evidence, such as a woman who recently used her pistol to kill an active shooter in West Virginia.

Meticulous research done at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center reveals that an armed household is much more likely to be the scene of gun murders (especially of women), suicides, and accidental gun deaths (8 per day among children and teens). The leading cause of death for children and teens is a gunshot.

From 2007 to 2011, according to a Department of Justice report (May, 2013), “less than one percent of victims in all nonfatal violent crimes reported using a firearm to defend themselves during the incident.” Millions of gun owners are being assured by an NRA fantasy.

There is a direct correlation between states with the lowest gun deaths and the lowest number of household guns. The extremes are Mississippi with guns in 51 percent of the homes and 26 gun deaths per 100,000, and Hawaii with 1o homes with firearms and 4 gun deaths per 100,000. Needless to say, the states with higher gun ownership also have the weakest weapons control laws.

Republicans Cut Mental Health Funds
Without any diagnosis in most cases, most Republicans describe mass murders as mentally deranged, but they rarely support sufficient funds to address this issue. In fact, a month before the slaughter of the innocents, Gov. Abbott signed a bill cutting $211 million from state mental health programs.

Trump’s 2019 budget recommended a half billion-dollar reduction for the National Institute of Mental Health. Of the 30 states that have the highest mental health outlays, only seven are red states, and the 23 blue states generally have the lowest number of gun deaths. As it is in most social services, Idaho is dead last in mental health facilities.

Gov. Abbott Lowers Age Restrictions

A week before the mass shooting in Uvalde, Gov. Abbott signed a bill reducing the age for buying rifles from 21 to 18. Abbott’s reasoning was that it was more important to address mental health problems than talking about age restrictions. We have seen, however, that he cut mental health budgets rather than following his own preferences.

As soon as Salvador Ramos celebrated his 18th birthday, he spent $4,000 (wages he had earned at a local Wendy’s) to buy two AR-15s, body armor, at least 17 magazines, and over 1,000 rounds of ammo. Loading seven magazines with 210 .223 caliber bullets, Ramos was then ready to put his deadly plan (posted on Facebook and related to a friend) in action.

Children Dying in Greater Numbers
The New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof asserts that “in a typical year more preschoolers are shot dead in America than police officers.” Accidental deaths of children with unsecured guns are happening not only in homes but in cars and public places. Texas has the unenviable status of being the state with the most child gun deaths, which have doubled since Abbott has been in office.

Harvard professor David Hemingway, an expert on gun deaths, reports that what “we found is that most of these children are being killed by other children, but two to four-year-olds are more likely to shoot themselves. It’s so common for a boy to kill his best friend, a boy to kill his younger brother, younger sister.”

Peer Nation Comparisons
Hemenway continues: “If you compare the United States to any other high-income country, say Germany, a police officer in the United States is 30 times more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer in Germany. Why? Because we have lots of guns. Also, a civilian in the United States is 30 times more likely than a German civilian to be killed by a police officer and it’s just the guns.”

It is instructive to contrast our “accursed land of locked and loaded,” as one author quipped, to other countries. The latest data from 2019 shows the U.S. at 12 gun deaths per 100,000, and the closest peer nations with high gun ownership are Finland at 3.5 and Switzerland at 3 gun deaths per 100,000. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most Western European countries are in the 1-2 gun homicide range.

225 Years of Life Lost
Another metric is the number of years of life lost to disability and premature death. Once again, the U.S. is an embarrassing outlier. According to the Kaiser Foundation, the U.S. has, so far, has lost 225 years of life per 100,000 people. The average for our peer nations is 12 lives. For every gun death in America, there are three persons injured, sometimes seriously, especially if they are shot by assault rifles.

Salvador Ramos Was Bullied
The shooter was a student at Uvalde High School and had attended Robb Elementary School. The school district had a bullying-prevention poster contest. The caption of one winning entrant was “Kindness Takes Courage!”
One reporter wrote that “the Uvalde district used software called Social Sentinel, which monitors students’ social media posts for threats, and an app called STOPit, which allows anonymous reports of bullying.” Ramos had been bullied repeatedly, and he took out his frustrations by drive-by shootings with his BB gun, and harassing young women at his workplace.

“Hardening” Schools has Failed
Since 2017, the Uvalde school district has spent $650,000 on security and monitoring systems. The district had four police officers dedicated to their schools, and it had “additional security staff who patrol door entrances, parking lots and perimeters of the campuses.” The charge that a teacher had left a door unlocked turned out to be false. Evidently, the levered door did not lock properly.

“Hardening” America’s schools has generally found that most of the procedures have not worked. A 2019 detailed review of 18 years of school security measures was published by Jagdish Khubchandani and Jim Price, public health professors at New Mexico State University. They did not find “any evidence that such tactics or more armed teachers reduced gun violence in schools,” so they may be giving school districts “a false sense of security.”

Ron Avi Astor, an expert on school violence at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found that none of the security procedures have been sufficient to prevent “suicidal, often ideological young men from accessing guns and carrying out attacks. The focus should be on referring high-risk individuals to mental health treatment while preventing them from buying or owning guns.”

Religion and Good Families Don’t Help
Conservatives propose that America’s gun carnage is the result of a general break up of families, declining church attendance, and, of course, immigrants. (The Hispanic Uvalde shooter was born in North Dakota.) Germany, however, has absorbed nearly 1 million Syrians since 2015, and it has seen no appreciable crime increases, certainly not renegade shooters.

Soon after the Uvalde massacre, Congressman Jim Jordan tweeted that America needs more “family, faith, and freedom,” but Fred Guttenberg, who lost a daughter in the Parkland school shooting replied: “My family is broken. My daughter’s freedom and faith has been terminated.”

God, Guns, and No Guts
Jordan’s trinity of values is sometimes rephrased as “God, Guns, and Guts.” It does not take any guts to load an AR-15 and start shooting. Not only are Ramos and other mass shooters broken souls, they are also cowards. And where is a presumably omnipotent God, one who presumably can control human wills, in all this? Human police have no qualms about restraining would-be criminals.

Couples in the countries listed above are divorcing at a higher rate than Americans, and 50 percent of them are cohabitating. Because of very low church attendance, these nations (even some of the Catholic ones) are now described as “post-Christian,” but a residual Christian morality keeps their crime rates low. Why does our presumably more religious country have higher crime rates?

Much Lower Levels of Trust in U.S.
In the 1950s, Americans had interpersonal trust levels as high as Europeans (currently 58 percent), but only 38 percent of us now say that we have faith in others. Significantly, while 77 percent of whites trust the police, only 36 of Blacks do. (It is no secret why that is the case.) Armed individuals who don’t trust one another are a toxic mix, and it is seen most dramatically in high homicide rates in Central and Latin America.

Gun Control Works in Australia
In April 1996, a man in Tasmania shot dead 35 people and wounded 23 others. The conservative government implemented some of the world’s strictest gun controls, banning semi-automatic weapons, and instituting a mandatory buy-back program that reduced the number of weapons by 20 percent. Gun homicide rate fell 42 percent, and mass shootings fell to zero.

This policy was nation-wide, because letting the states go their own ways, as it is the U.S., allows, for example, gunrunning across state lines, which is wide-spread. Most the guns used in murders in Chicago are from red-state Indiana. Even then, Chicago is 28th in gun murders, but the first in St. Lois, Missouri, in a red state region.

The wide availability of weapons increases the possibility of gun suicides. In Australia guns are now used in 10 percent of suicides (down by 47 percent), whereas 62 percent of Americans who take their lives do so. This phenomenon has increased 13 percent in the U.S. over the last ten years, especially among veterans.

Buying a Gun in Israel
One would think that Israel would be the nation that would want its citizens to have easy access to weapons for self-defense, but the restrictions are by U.S. standards, draconian. The results are two deaths per 100,000 residents in 2019, in contrast to 12 per 100,000 people in the U.S.

An Israeli must obtain a license, which, according to journalist Rob Eshman, requires a doctor’s attestation of “sound physical and mental health and a written and practical gun safety test.” That done, Israelis “are permitted only one gun and 50 bullets at any given time. About 40 percent of requests for gun ownership are rejected.”

Why Only in America?
In an interview with British Sky News, a reporter asked Sen. Ted Cruz repeatedly “Why does this happen only in America?” and Cruz refused to answer, and I think I know the reason why: he was cornered. The good senator is either disingenuous or ignorant of the successes of gun control in other peer nations.

Other countries have their troubled youth, but they don’t have access to a weapon of war. Using hollow-point bullets on a battlefield is a war crime. Ramos’ hollow-point bullets shattered the bodies of many Uvalde fourth graders so badly that their parents could not recognize them.

Let me conclude with this declaration from Minnesota Democrat Dean Phillips: “Do not tell me your AR-15 is worth more than another 19 children’s lives.”

Nick Gier of Moscow taught religion and philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read his other articles at htpp:// Email him at for sources and discussion.

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