Anyone debating gun laws has inevitably run into a pro-gun supporter who, pulling out his trump card, has declared: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people!"
But what happened in China hours before Newtown demonstrates the folly of this pithy argument.
Hours before Newtown, a deranged man in China walked into an elementary school building and began to indiscriminately attack everyone in his vicinity. Before his rampage ended, twenty-two children had been hit.
But while it sounds like Newtown, there were two crucial differences that share a common root. First, the man used a knife. Second, because the man used a knife, none of the twenty-two children were killed. The common root here is gun control. Effective gun laws prevented the Chinese man from obtaining a gun -- with which he would have doubtless done much more damage.
As Harvard-educated sociologist Ding Xueliang told CNN: "The huge difference between this case and the U.S. is not the suspect, nor the situation, but the simple fact he did not have an effective weapon."
For this reason, the "guns don't kill people; people kill people" argument is shortsighted. It ignores the fact that guns make killing much easier. Groups like the NRA try to stifle the statistics because they make this so obvious, but the statistics exist nonetheless. Here are only a few:
The United States rate of 3.12 deaths per 100,000 people is the highest among industrialized nations. At the same time, we also have the highest rate of gun ownership, with 88.8 guns per 100 people. The next country, Serbia, only has a rate of 58.2, and from there it begins to decrease dramatically. Finally, last year handguns killed 48 people in Japan, 8 in Great Britain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada -- and 10,728 in the United States of America. Again, to anyone with an iota of reasoning ability the common difference between these countries seems simple: The U.S. has the laxest gun laws in the industrialized world.
While guns themselves may not kill people, purveyors of the "guns don't kill people" argument should remember that, by their logic, F16s don't kill people and nuclear missiles don't kill people. Only the person who is "behind" the F16 or nuclear missile kills someone. Yet despite this, we still limit the sale of F16s and nuclear missiles to the common man. Why? Because in the hands of anyone, these weapons have the potential to kill. Now the example is obviously extreme, but it is extreme to illustrate a point -- like any other weapon, guns do kill people. Like any other weapon, guns are a tool that makes killing more effective and efficient. Trying to limit guns is a legitimate goal.
I do not think we should ban all guns -- of course I don't. But I do think we should introduce gun control laws that limit the amount of bullets in a clip, limit the purchase of semi-automatic rifles, require more than a photo ID before one purchases a gun, and require effective psychological screening. If these laws could have stopped just one of the many massacres we've witnessed over the past year, they would have been worth it.
Until we do something, however -- until we stop listening to pithy, bumper sticker arguments like "guns don't kill people; people kill people" -- more people will die. It is an absolute shame.
So please pray for the victims of Newtown, yes, and cry for them -- but also do something to prevent another Newtown from ever occurring: Support gun control laws.