If guns kept Americans safe, then America would surely be the safest country in the whole world. Because, by a huge margin, America has the most guns. We have about 90 guns for every 100 people, making us the most heavily armed country per capita in the world. Yemen comes in a distant second. Yemen is a poor, developing country with warring tribes, heavily armed militias and an al Qaeda presence. And they have fewer guns per capita than we do.
If guns really kept developed countries safe, then we should be in great shape. Because we have the most guns. But it turns out that it doesn't work that way. Our guns do not keep us safe. If fact, our guns take a huge, bloody and totally predictable toll every year.
If you add together all the firearm-related homicides, suicides and accidental deaths, as well as all the non-fatal injuries that are caused by guns in America, you find that over 100,000 people are shot every year. About 10,000 people are murdered by firearms every year. And about 287 people are shot, every single day.
That puts the U.S. in the unenviable position of having more gun-related killings than any other developed country in the world. Americans are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than someone from another developed country.
And every year, many of the victims are children. In 2008 and 2009, a total of 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns.
Now, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and the unfathomable murder of 20 elementary school children and 6 adults, we have an important choice to make. There are fundamentally three choices before us today. We can choose to do nothing and just accept the status quo. We can follow the advice of some and permit even more guns in more places. Or we can take common sense measures to reduce the gun violence.
Accepting the status quo and just continuing with the same lax policy on assault weapons, and massacre size magazines means accepting the iron bound certainty that more innocents are going to be killed or injured. More children will be gunned down by more madmen, in more places like Sandy Hook and Aurora and Columbine. More moviegoers and mall patrons will meet a violent death as they go about the simple routines of their daily lives.
Or we could heed the advice of those who say that we should have even more guns in more places. We could lift restrictions on guns, arm the teachers, allow guns in movie theaters and churches, let people go "packing" in the workplace and in our parks. The solution to gun violence, they seem to imagine, would be to have the possibility of gun battles in crowded darkened theaters or elementary schools. That is a recipe for disaster.
The "more guns" crowd would ask us all to give up the every day freedoms we take for granted -- the casual unarmed walks at the mall, or the nights at the movies, free from fear and violence. They would ask us to give that up and live in a constant state of alert, so that they could retain their "liberty" to buy a weapon of war designed specifically to kill large numbers of people.
Or we could pass simple common sense laws that ban assault weapons, restrict the maximum size of gun magazine to 10 rounds and end the "gun show loophole." Of course, none of these measures would stop all the violence. But they could stop some. And we could pass them now. There will be those who argue that it's not the guns -- it's the video games, or the violence in movies. But take a look at Japan. Japan has video games. They have movies. They just don't have guns. Last year, Japan had 47 murders with firearms.
We all have a choice to make. I have made mine. Based on my voting record, I got an "F" from the NRA. I choose to wear it as a badge of honor.