Murder, American Style

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

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  1. A former colleague of mine (now deceased) tried to convince me that Kates, et. al. were correct in their assumptions. I was never convinced. Why do we require background checks for teaching tennis to little kids, but not for gun purchases? Why do we require stringent testing for drivers licenses, but not for gun purchases?
    Why is it that those who take the firearms courses are not those who kill scores of people? These are not rhetorical questions.

    Kates and his fellow libertarians were concerned that bad cops were killing defenseless blacks. That was true. Now the reasons that prompted gun-libertarianism are no longer good reasons, because crazy bastards have taken advantage of this excess of freedom. I could go on (and on, I know), but you get the point.

  2. When I was in basic training, I learned the pleasures of firing a rifle. I did well enough in target shooting to earn one of the lesser medals, and I wish I knew where it is now. So I certainly can be counted among gun enthusiasts. But I never wanted to own a gun. First of all, you have to clean it, when the fun of shooting is over. Second, knowing the darkness in my heart, I feared that I might kill some of my rascally colleagues, who well deserved it. Based on introspection, I am convinced that every gun owner is a potential assassin, and should be treated as such by the rest of society. The way the pack-one-for-protection people talk only confirms my opinion.

  3. Elmer’s view bears similarity with my wife’s and my own. We oppose institutionalized capital punishment but not private revenge against rascals who deserve to be shot. However, I don’t think that indicates darkness in my heart. I agree that the main problem with target shooting is that the guns have to be cleaned. I own a gun but never go near it. My main fear is that if it is accidentally discharged then I will have to clean it.

  4. Proving once again that it is never too late to learn.

  5. “Insouciant ‘who cares?’” is redundant.

  6. I am not Strunk/White. Anyway, I think some redundancies, as the one above, are a pretty good form of emphasis.

  7. Dear E.B. Furshtunkener, You do not even know there can be more than one protagonist in a book. Your opinions are worthless.

  8. Are any or YOUR books in the 3,947,622nd printing? I think not. So protagonist THAT!

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