Thursday, 5 April 2012

Trayvon Martin: The strongest case yet against gun ownership

I don't want to try or sentence George Zimmerman.  The case of Trayvon Martin is still young and in spite of the highly charged emotion and outrage, many facts surrounding his shooting are to date still unknown. These facts will indeed become more blurred as the lawyers from both the defense and prosecution will do all they can to paint the picture they want.

However there is one fact we can all agree on:
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, was shot with a 9mm gun.

The USA is a country with over 270 million civilian guns.  There are 88 guns for every 100 people in the land of the free.  Nevermind its armed forces, US civilians are packing more firepower than many small armies.

If it's easy to do something, we tend to do it more often.  Guns make it easy to end a life, so with very few exceptions (like Canada) more murders occur in countries where more guns are in the hands of people.  

The US has had 9,484 gun homicides in 2008.  The rate of gun homicides per 100,000 people is 3.12.

The UK is pretty even with the United States on standard of living, education and way of life, with the one glaring exception being that there are 6.7 firearms per 100 people there - 13 times less than the US.  In 2008, wait for it, the number of gun homicides was 32 in total: that equates to 0.05 homicides per 100,000 people.  The United States has a gun homicide rate 62 times greater than the UK then.

From that fateful night of Trayvon's murder to today there would have been hundreds of additional gun related homicides.  Those who say "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" need to dispute the above statistics and glaring correlations with gunpolicy.org, hosted by the University of Sydney.

The solution: Ban guns, promote tasers
Guns should not be sold to civilians, full stop.  Only security forces and the military should have lethal projectile based firearms.  But how do you as a civilian protect yourself against a nutter or someone with a knife then?  The answer has been in front of us for a few years now: non lethal weapons.  You don't need to kill a person if they're a threat; you just need to firstly neutralize the threat they pose to you and secondly immobilize them for long enough in order for the authorities to come over and arrest him.

Electroshock weapons (tasers), pepper spray and tranquiliser guns are available at a few security shops, but of course don't give the absolute assurance of a Smith & Wesson.  Our primal nature and an illogical attachment to the 221 year old Second Amendment sees us wanting a threat killed rather than neutralized.  Guns in our hands are therefore dangerous.  We need to open up to non lethal weapons as an effective and more ethical form of protection.  We have to give them more attention and gun stores need to give them more shelf space.

How ridiculous is it that you can literally end someone's life by pulling a trigger with one finger?  The Stand Your Ground law allowing civilians to protect themselves is not the problem; it's that we equate self defense with murdering whoever is threatening us.  With the rise in population comes a rise in unstable people - it's inevitable.  There are now too many such people on earth for us to have guns circulating so freely.  If the solution presented above were a reality - and there's nothing radical about it - Trayvon Martin would have probably been walking today, maybe with a few bruises or a concussion at worst.  If murdering a person is made to be as difficult as possible, it will become a lesser occurrence.  Statistics and common sense dictate so.  People may kill people, but guns make it too easy.  

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