According to a CNN statistic making the rounds on social media networks lately, the U.S., which accounts for 5% of the world's population, owns 50% of the world's guns. I have a penchant for dissecting neatly-packaged little statistics like this one, so add this fact to the one above: Mexico accounts for less than 2% of the world’s population, yet produces 67% of the world’s marijuana.
So what does that CNN statistic say about gun ownership? It says something much less pejorative than the first time around, namely that Americans are mindless, greedy consumers of weapons. No, like all other human beings, we produce and consume what is legal and available.
It also says something else — that confined legality creates a density of supply. In plain English, like pot in Mexico, guns are more heavily restricted in almost any other place in the world. So it’s just common sense that not only is the United States the number one arms producer in the world, but also the most gun-toting.
Given all this, you would think the U.S. would be the most adept at weapons safety. But somehow we don’t seem to be succeeding in preventing tragic events like Columbine, like Sandy Hook.
The issue isn’t guns or not-guns. That’s a lot like saying the effective prevention of disease hinges on the elimination or proliferation of viruses. I find that either side is calling for action that is either unrealistic or irrelevant to the problem in question.
The fact that a person looking to commit mass murder is heavily armed is a given. I refuse to allow constructing progressive measures to be distracted by the particulars of the weaponry used in this terrible crime. I’m not agreeing with those who contend Adam Lanza could have wielded just as much damage with a knife as with a Bushmaster rifle. What I’m saying is that Lanza would have had that Bushmaster even if it was illegal.
Between Columbine and Sandy Hook, we see that these tragedies were planned. The gun-control logic breaks down over the magnitude of Lanza’s crime. Any individual determined enough to prepare himself to murder 26 people in 10 minutes is going to find acquiring a destructive weapon an inconvenience, not a deterrent. These gun-control policies only buy us time. We need to do more with our legal system. We need to find ways to identify individuals with cold-blood criminal capability and — most importantly — develop a system that protects their human dignity without also putting others at risk.
This isn’t a yes or no question. We have to face the difficult reality that these things do happen, regardless of how sound our policies are. But when we ask ourselves if this country is doing all it can to assist the mentally unhealthy and unstable, the answer must be yes. A single mother should never have to feel that the protective fear that only a mother has for her child is real and dangerous. She should have options. She needs support.
In order to improve, we must be able to ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to prevent these tragedies, whether it be facing our culture of guns or improving our health resources. And the answer must be yes.