It was pretty funny, as well as a keen insight, when Bugsy Siegel said (some 50 or so years ago) that “we only kill each other,” but times have changed and murder is not something we can shrug off nowadays with an insouciant, “Who cares?”.
In 2010, there were 638 murders in Britain and 12,996 in the USA. In Britain, 58 of the murders were committed with firearms whereas in the USA, firearms murders predominate with an astonishing 8775. These disparities cannot be explained by sheer population differences nor, as apologists would have it, by the fact that, compared to the USA, Britain and other European nations are monocultural. No, indeed, The only important difference is that the U.S. has a gun culture, a lust for guns. Why that is so is beyond my sociological abilities and, I suppose,beyond those of Charlton Heston.
For many years, I was a fan of Gary Kleck and Don Kates, two political liberals but for their appreciation of guns as the chief source of self-protection. They had me convinced because, after all, they were not gun-toting cowboys but respectable criminologists who came to their positions only after years of painstaking analysis. “The other side” had nobody who compared to them in honest, sober thinking. But, ah, the times have changed. Most of Kleck’s data is from 1994 and earlier, and that is just not good enough today. David Hemenway, at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, has conducted research that brings him into sharp conflict with Kleck. What are you and I to do? Nothing, if the numbers don’t bother you. Hemenway, however, is happy to share his data with anyone who is concerned. In the light of what Hemenway has produced, I have switched sides. As the saying goes, don’t take my word for it. Contact David at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/faculty/david-hemenway/