Monday, June 11, 2012

You Are More Likely To Be Shot To Death In The U.S. Than In War-Torn Somalia and Yemen

Lately,  Oklahoma passed a law allowing open carry of firearms by anyone who could qualify for a conceal carry license, just in case you feel so paranoid about being shot that you must wear your gun on the outside of your jacket “for all the honest world to feel” as you walk into a Tulsa McDonald’s for your Big Mac.

"I am about the right to bear arms and constitutional freedoms," [Sheriff] Walton said. "I however have great concern for this law and the position it puts law enforcement in." 
The law could create more enforcement calls, create unnecessary distractions and interfere with public safety. 
Walton also points to the loss of tactical advantage for individuals that currently carry a concealed weapon. 
"There is a lot of 'what if' that surrounds the law and it will take some time to see how this plays out," Walton said.

Oklahoma isn’t alone.  Many states are moving this way as pro-gun extremist lobbies, particularly the NRA, urge them to do so, despite the fact that surveys show a majority of citizens oppose it.  Even in Tulsa, the opinion was evenly split.  Good enough for the NRA and their legislative lackeys.  By and large, law enforcement organizations in those states are strongly against it.  Apparently the NRA thinks it knows more about what is necessary to control crime.

27 states now allow open carry in some form.  12 of those don’t even require the same scrutiny of a conceal carry license.  17 others allow it under certain circumstances or passively allow it.  Only 6 actively oppose it in all circumstances outside of hunters and law enforcement.

Bolstered by these numbers, gun extremists continue to hold rallies to legalize unregulated open carry, like this recent one in Michigan featuring camo-clad gun fetishists with their assault rifles strapped to their backs as if they were headed off to Afghanistan.

Rallies like these remind me of scenes in some third-world countries, like Somalia or Yemen, where assault weapon-wielding men brandish their guns without fear of reprisal.  So I made the following poster:

But is this really a fair comparison?  Even I had doubts.  After all, Somalia has been in a decades-long civil war, with famine and drought, and is infamous for its hostage-taking pirates.  Yemen isn’t much better.  It, too, has been in a civil war, is a hub for Al-Qaeda, is the poorest Arabian country, has suicide attacks, and has a large swath of its territory chaotically ruled by local warlords instead of a national government (remember “Blackhawk Down”?).  So I researched some numbers. 

Here’s my shocking finding:

You are more likely to be murdered with a gun in the United States than to be murdered by any means in Somalia and Yemen.

Yes, that’s right.  Let me restate it:  Gun violence is more likely to be your cause of death here in the streets and homes of America than any form of homicide in either of these god-forsaken, war-torn, chaotic third-world countries (and I’m only talking about homicides here, not including accidental shootings, suicides, law enforcement, or defensive shootings).

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?  The most recent year in which I could find data for all three countries was 2004 (the last year I could find for Somalia).

In Somalia in 2004 (from a World Bank study, from THIS link), there was a civilian homicide rate of 3.30 / 100K for ALL methods.

In Yemen in 2004, there was a civilian homicide rate of 2.85 / 100K for ALL methods.  (also found from the same World Bank study, from THIS link; the most recent year cited, 2008, had a rate of 4.00 / 100K).

In 2004, the United States had homicide rate of 3.97 / 100K for FIREARMS ALONE (according to CDC WISQARS data) (to compare with the most recent Yemen data, 2008 gun homicides in the U.S. also had a rate of 4.00 / 100K).

(For those interested in the rate for all forms of homicide in the U.S., in 2004 it was 5.88 / 100K, and in 2008 it was 5.86 / 100K.)

It’s important to note that these shooting rates also mirror the rates of gun ownership (again, data is from

Rate of private gun ownership out of 179 countries:  America is 1st.  Yemen is 10th.  Somalia is 58th.

Private guns in America:  88.8 / 100 people
Private guns in Yemen:  54.8 / 100 people
Private guns in Somalia:  9.1 / 100 people

Every American should stand up and pay attention.  We are quick to condemn nations like Somalia and Yemen for their wanton violence and lawlessness (and they should be condemned for it), and yet these numbers show that we are dying in higher numbers right here in our streets and homes, from gunfire or any other method.  The NRA’s answer is to flood the streets with as many guns as possible, and to flaunt those guns openly with open carry laws and rallies.  But gun ownership numbers show that we already have a far, far higher rate of gun ownership in the U.S.  By the NRA’s flawed logic, we should be the safest nation on Earth.  Instead, we are one of the deadliest. 

We, of course, should fight gun violence in any form and in any nation, but let’s concentrate on where it’s worst – right here at our own door -- and create a new trajectory for our community against gun violence.