Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Murder: America vs Canada

A Right to Bear Arms?©

Maclean’s reported the following in the July 7 ’08 edition (“Lawless, but Gunless,” p. 58):

A. One-third of Canadians own a gun or guns; 90% of Americans do.

B. Canada has 60 gun murders for every million people annually; the US has 340.

C. Canada annually has 190 total murders per 1 million population; the US has 570.

Let’s crunch those numbers a bit:

  • Of the 190 people per million who are murdered in Canada, 60 die by bullet, 130 by some other means (knife, mostly, one imagines). That’s 31.5% by guns.
  • Of the 570 people per million murdered in the US, 340 die by bullet, 230 by some other means. That’s 59.6% by gun.
  • The murder rate overall in the US is 300% of Canada’s.

The appalling statistic here is that in Canada, annually, ca. 4750 and in the US, ca. 145,000 people are violently killed, by our own citizens, by and large. We fight wars abroad to combat terrorism’s threat; is that ironical when we look at the threat from within?

The statistics don’t prove anything about the efficacy of gun control. Gun murders in the US account for 60% of such events and in Canada only 32%. Obviously, people don’t murder someone because they have a gun available; it’s more likely that they decide to murder someone and then decide on the means. In Canada, murderers more often resort to knives, clubs or cars, possibly because handguns just aren’t as readily available here. Or does the possession of a handgun actually increase the likelihood that a person will contemplate murder as a way out of a dilemma?

It could be argued that in the heat of the moment, the clean, arms-length death that can be delivered with a gun increases the likelihood of a murder being committed. An angry person might be deterred by the messy nature of hand-to-hand killing, but might not be if a handgun, say, were available and the murder could be done without looking the victim so intimately in the eye.

Also, the “right to bear arms” may contribute to an overall cultural climate in which the use of guns seems to be legitimized, and by extension, the use of violence of all kinds to settle quarrels. Is that what’s behind the enormous difference between the murder rates in the two countries, so similar in so many other ways?

Lest we become smug about our superiority to the Americans in this, however, Maclean’s also reports in the same story that our break-and-enter, arson and auto theft rates are higher than theirs. Go Canada!

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