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Over Easy – You and Guns, or The Beginning

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Yeah, that's me. No, it's not real

Good morning firedogs, and happy Tuesday.

Yesterday I was up against a wall. Suffering from a bit of writer’s block, even. I could not come up with a topic for today’s post that stirred my passion as an activist, a person, a parent… anything. My only semi-solid thought was a post about gun control, but it seems like such a large and complex issue. I wasn’t sure I wanted to try tackling it here at Over Easy.

So I did what I always do when I’m at a loss for ideas. I opened Twitter and began aimlessly scrolling through my timeline, chasing links and reading the first paragraph or two of each article. It wasn’t long before I happened upon this piece (h/t our very own Kit O’Connell for the RT that caught my eye).

My very own Texas Legislature, those bicameral blowhards who only work 140 days every 2 years, are currently contemplating legislation that would

… exempt firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition manufactured in Texas from federal regulation. Under the bill, as long as those items stayed within the state and were manufactured in Texas except for the import of basic materials from other states, they would not be subject to any federal regulations, including registration.

The utter idiocy and staggering tribalism of this move sparked my fury. Exempt from registration, even? Are you kidding me? Surely you jest. The article goes on to quote this sterling scholar, Elizabeth Saunders

Taking guns away from the people that are responsible is not going to help,” Saunders said. “There are other areas that need to be regulated…controlling the mental illness that is so high in this country, the drugs and the bullying. It is just not like when I grew up.

Now, Elizabeth goes on to make a couple of valid points, and I won’t pick her apart here. She’s a small business owner, and I’ve learned from every Republican that has drawn a breath over the last 30 years that she is to be respected and even worshiped as a lesser God, because she is a job creator.

So moving on. All of this is to say, dear reader, that my fire was lit. Gun control was squarely in my sights. Pun intended, of course.

I started writing an outline, quickly realizing that my word count would greatly exceed what even I would consider readable. I decided to break this out into a series of posts over the coming few weeks. Hopefully I’ll still have friends among you when I’m done.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

You are likely outnumbered, as a US Citizen, by guns. According to the Congressional Research Service in a report from November 2012 (big .pdf, figures on page 8), there are approximately 310 million guns owned by private citizens in the United States. Here’s the money quote:

Per capita, the civilian gun stock has roughly doubled since 1968, from one gun per every two
persons to one gun per person.

These figures do not factor in guns possessed by domestic military installations, nor guns possessed and housed by domestic law enforcement agencies. That figure is estimated at 4 million firearms.

The 2012 estimated population of the United States is 313,914,040.

This means that you are outnumbered. There are more guns in America than there are people.

You are more likely to die at the end of a gun if you own a gun, or if you live in a home where a gun is kept.

A study published in 1992 by the New England Journal of Medicine, conducted by researchers  in the Department of Medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, found that you are almost 5 times more likely to commit suicide if there is a gun in the home.

A similar study by researchers of the same department, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, found that you are almost 3 times more likely to be murdered if there is a gun in the home. From the study:

Rather than confer protection, guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

A study at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 concluded that you are 4.5 times more likely to be shot and 4.2 times more likely to be killed if you carry a gun.

Here’s another gem:

For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.

Looks like gun ownership actually increases the risk of death by firearm. Odd, because 67% of gun owners cite protection against crime as their reason for owning a gun.

Have we dispensed of any notions that any of us may have once had about guns making us safer? Good. Onward and upward.

You live in a nation with one of the highest numbers of gun death in the developed world. A list of homicides by firearm, sorted by country, shows the United States in 4th place behind only South Africa, Colombia, and Thailand. This list is based on total number of deaths, not proportional representation based on population. Gee whiz! Some of that American Exceptionalism at work.

Here’s a list based on number of deaths by firearm per 100,000 population. Thanks Wiki. It shows the United States with a total of 10.2 deaths by firearm, including homicides, suicides, accidents, and undetermined deaths. Take a look at the other developed nations on the list. Get a good look at how we stack up against our peers. It’s not pretty, is it, dear reader?

Hopefully the above links and figures clearly illustrate your relationship with guns in society. When a gun is present, there is a huge increase in your risk of bodily harm. With guns so rampant in our country, we outpace our peers in the number of homicides by firearm. Exponentially outpace them in most cases.

The simple conclusion that I draw from this information is that guns are a major part of the problem. As I examine the subject of gun control in the coming weeks please try to keep the above facts and figures in mind. Next week’s post will examine accessibility to firearms and the regulations currently in place that restrict accessibility in different states and countries.

Alas, I have reached what I consider to be a reasonable word count for a single post. I’ve passed one thousand, so it’s time to turn it over to you.

This is Over Easy. As always, off topic is safe and welcome. I’d like to hear today, though, about your personal experience with firearms. What are your reactions to the information above? Have you ever lost someone to a gun? Do you own a firearm or firearms? If so, what type? What is your level of training and experience with those guns? Why do you own them? What do you use them for?

I’ll see you in the comments.

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I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

-D.H. Lawrence