With the fierce debate going on now since the massacre of 20 helpless children in Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, it is clear that everyone can see the problem, but not the reasons for the carnage. As they search for answers, it is easy to compare America with the rest of the world on gun ownership and usage, and find that country wanting.
For example, while 35 people were killed by guns in Australia in a single year (2008/9), 39 fell victim to firearms crimes in England in that same year, and 60 people lost their lives in Spain, America wasted the lives of 9,484 to gun killings. The difference between four civilised countries is too stark for comfort.
There are 300 million privately held guns in America (almost one gun for every citizen), compared to:
Australia: 1 gun for every 15 citizens
England: 1 gun for every 18 citizens
Spain: 1 gun for every 10 citizens
One could argue that the USA is bound to have more deaths. Yes, but not on such an horrific scale!
It is clear that there is something more underlying operating in the rest of the world, and it relates to the priorities and mindsets of the countries involved.
Americans are guided by the Second Amendment of their Constitution that gives them the ‘right’ to bear arms to protect themselves, despite the fact that they are no longer living in the lawless times when the Constitution was created and amended. They seem to focus on that right as THEIR priority to the detriment of the responsibilities that come with owning guns - like firm checks and balances. The lives of fellow countrymen appear secondary in priority to owning a gun. Life is cheap because gun is king. Overall, there is a clear mindset of insecurity and fear around self protection and almost a puzzling paranoia in the belief that having a gun will save everything and protect one securely.
On the other hand, the low deaths across the rest of the world suggest that their priorities are about focusing on the responsibility of having a gun, not its right. A responsibility towards others of putting their lives as THE priority above gun ownership. Hence the laws are much stricter for owning a gun, the mindset is one of trust and public responsibility, and far less belief in a gun as an automatic defender or saviour in a time of crisis. For the rest of the world, guns take a back seat in preference to preserving life and giving greater priority to the responsibility of gun ownership, rather than just the empty right of possessing one above all else.
Priorities come from what we value and cherish as a nation, whether guns above life, while mindset comes from our beliefs, cultures, traditions and fears - all these form our crucial attitude to life and, whether caring or uncaring, and dictate priorities. Until America changes its priorities and mindsets, it will merely keep getting what it has always got, no matter what other palliatives are proposed in the aftermath of this alarming massacre. And that could have a disastrous effect on future generations.
Guardian: Gun homicides and ownership world list
Gunpolicy.org: Guns, Ownership and Laws