Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The inevitable comparison with the U.S. after shootings in Brazil and the Netherlands

You had to know this would happen. A few of the gun guys on my blog seem to want to excuse the gun deaths in the U.S. by pointing to Brazil and saying that their strict gun control laws don't work since a terrible school shooting just occurred there. So I have a cynical suggestion. Let's not try to change our gun policies to prevent people who shouldn't have guns from getting them. As long as gun control laws don't work anyway, and evidence of that is surely found in the terrible school shooting in Brazil, it is useless to even try. Really? Not. Since this has come up, I have decided to do a little research.

Here is what I found. There are varying studies and statistics regarding gun deaths per 100,000 which is the only fair way to compare. Yes, Brazil's population is less than that of the U.S. Yes, they have a lot of gun homicides but the numbers are different with each source. That is also true of the numbers in general comparing country to country. That is because each country has a different way of reporting their crime statistics and some do not include suicide and accidental gun deaths. Unless I specify differently, I include all types of deaths by gun when I talk about the statistics. But because they are sometimes not included, it is worth noting that according to almost every source I have seen the U.S. leads the world in gun suicides. I wonder why?  We have many accidental gun deaths not seen in other countries. I wonder why? Could it be access to guns in homes and lax gun laws in general that allow for people to have guns everywhere? I'm just wondering?

This chart seems to be a pretty accurate one and relatively recent comparing gun deaths overall per 100,000. I have quoted this one before from the University of Utah because of the way they did their comparisons. It also does not come from a  source that may not be neutral where there appears to be some opinion mixed with fact. Here is an older comparison from MedicineNet.com showing similar figures to the University of Utah chart. These both show that the U.S. has the highest number of total gun deaths per 100,000 than civilized countries not at war. Brazil is a fairly close second. Here is an article from Bloomberg News that discusses a 2005 referendum in Brazil concerning the country's gun laws. It clearly states: " Brazil, the world's leader in gun- related murders, is divided over a proposal to ban the sale of firearms that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says would help curb an increase of violence in the country." The 2005 article also says this: " Brazil's annual rate of gun deaths has climbed to 21.7 per 100,000 people, second only to Venezuela among 57 countries surveyed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization." This seems to contradict the studies I linked to above. It also discusses this fact about the 2003 gun law in Brazil that called for "turning in guns" : " ``The handover of guns was the only new fact that could explain a change in the trend last year,'' Otaliba Libanio, the ministry's director for health analysis, said in an interview in Brasilia. ``The drop in death tolls was bigger at states that had higher collection of weapons. ''More than 350,000 firearms were turned in after the campaign began on July 15, 2004, compared with an initial goal of 80,000, the Justice Ministry said."

Now before the gun guys get tied in knots over what I have written, let me say this. I understand that Brazil has a high number of gun deaths and appears to have a very high number of gun homicides. Different articles show different facts. And further, the NRA has a long arm and got itself involved in Brazilian gun politics. Why should I be surprised? From the article: " The NRA says it is worried that Brazil is a stepping stone to an eventual assault on the Second Amendment. They worry that global gun control momentum could mean a U.N. treaty that could come up for ratification at a time when the NRA's foes are in power. Furthermore, the NRA has recently been showing a northern neighbor tricks for building a lobbying group to head off what the Canadian Shooting Association calls the "U.N. Small Arms initiative to control and ban your guns.""We have a federal election looming on the horizon and we must be prepared," according to newsletter sent out in recent days by the Canadian group. "And who better to show us how than the most powerful lobby group in the world, the National Rifle Association and their Institute for Legislative Action?" Right.

I am intending this not as an argument about whether gun control works but to show that even in countries that have strict gun laws, shootings happen. I have never said that passing laws similar to what other countries have would prevent all shootings. Also, because there has been a school shooting in Brazil does not mean that I or other gun control groups will pack up and go home because other countries with strict gun laws also have school shootings. We will continue doing what we do knowing that our laws are too lax and too many people die every day due to gunshot injuries. That is an undeniable fact. And Brazil is not proud of their high number of gun deaths either nor should they be. They, at least, have made attempts at passing stricter gun laws. Their country has a lot of small arms trafficking as pointed out in the article above and also manufactures a lot of the world's guns. There are vested interests involved, as always.

Now to the Netherlands. The citizens there are horrified over the carnage caused by a shooting at a mall. Here is a country where very few gun deaths occur at all ( chart from MedicineNet.com showing .70 per 100,000) , let alone a mass shooting involving an automatic weapon and other guns allegedly legally owned by the shooter. Gun laws are very strict in the Netherlands with gun ownership seen as a privilege rather than a right. From the article: " "This is something you usually see in America, not in the Netherlands," said local resident Martin van der Ploeg as he fixed his motorbike near the mall in Alphen aan den Rijn, 46 km (29 miles) south of Amsterdam." Isn't it a great honor to be known for our mass shootings? 

Bad things happen even with the best attempts to stop them. We do not live in a perfect world. Guns are lethal weapons which is why most countries make attempts to regulate  who can own and carry them, where they can be carried and the type of guns allowed to be owned. Most countries have systems of licensing and registration of some kind. You can decide for yourself if these laws have made a difference when you look at the charts  of gun deaths per 100,000. Common sense tells us that these laws do matter. If they save one, two, three or more lives, they are worth pursuing and enacting. It will now be interesting to see if Brazil and the Netherlands engage in a national discussion about gun laws and if they do something to change their laws after such carnage. Our country can't have that debate because of the ever present NRA and it's powerful hold on the national gun culture and our elected leaders. It will also be interesting to see if the NRA decides to get involved in the gun politics of other countries. This article by a fellow blogger asks a good question: " It can happen anywhere. One response is to encourage more good people to carry guns in order to intervene quicker. Another response is to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns in the first place. Which one do you think is the right approach?" The answer from the gun lobby is always more guns. So far that hasn't worked too well so the second approach makes more common sense.


  1. Calls for tougher gun laws in Brazil are beginning- http://www.americanbankingnews.com/2011/04/11/brazil-demos-demand-tougher-gun-laws/

  2. Is that "demos" as in democrats? Seems only having half a brain is an international requirement for progressive thinking...

  3. Nice talk, anon. Progressives are very good at seeing more than one side of an issue and coming to conclusions that are not necessarily black and white. I am not going to get into it about progressives vs. conservatives on this blog because I would wrote a tome. But consider me offended at your comment.

  4. So let's see:

    Brazil and the Netherlands have very strict gun laws, perhaps even stricter than gun control advocates are trying for in the US. Although their multiple shootings are much rarer than in the US, they do happen because no gun laws can prevent every shooting. And when that happens, there inevitably are "calls for tougher gun laws" no matter how harsh the gun laws already were.

    There is an obvious "common sense" lesson here for US gunowners. Trying to pass more and more gun control never ends. An honest gun control advocate would admit that they won't stop at "reasonable" gun laws. Unless of course they thought that almost any anti-gunowner law was "reasonable," no matter how restrictive.

  5. I'm very intrigued by that "privilege rather than a right" idea. I think that's what we need here. The bastardization of the 2nd Amenedment cannot stand.

  6. "I'm very intrigued by that "privilege rather than a right" idea. I think that's what we need here"

    I thought thats what Italy already had? Or were you talking about what we need here in the US?

  7. mikeb30200 wrote: I'm very intrigued by that "privilege rather than a right" idea.

    I'm sure you are. Be careful what you wish for, Mike, because that idea leads to dangerous consequences.

    Is the right to free speech a "privilege rather than a right?" How about your right to not be subjected to unreasonable search - is that just a "privilege" too? Is the right to trial by jury just a "privilege?" The right to not be required to incriminate yourself - a mere "privilege"?

    The problem with the idea that rights are just "privileges" is that privileges are doled out by the State, subject to the interests of the State. SUBJECTS are "granted" privileges; and of course, the State that grants privileges may also deprive you of them.

    CITIZENS have RIGHTS. A right is something that does not come from the State. It is inherent; "inalienable," to use Jefferson's term. And the Constitution guarantees that gov't will not infringe on those pre-existing, inherent rights - it does NOT grant them.

    You may argue that this is just semantics, or philosophical ramblings. Yet that basic understanding is central to our relationship to the State. Governments - all governments - must always be viewed with deep suspicion. For governments always trend, if left to their own devices, toward tyranny.

    The Founders understood that: why do you think they set up this intricate structure of interacting powers and responsibilities? To require gov't to check itself.

    It's more than just philosophical meandering; it's central to the very idea of self-government. The State's sovereignty - it's very authority to govern - is granted to it BY the People. The State's very existance, in effect, is a 'privilege' granted by the people, who are themselves properly and ultimately sovereign.

    It's an idea that brave men have died for.

    The only bastardization of the 2nd Am. is by gun grabbers who ignore its clear language and historical intent. The 2nd has NEVER been held to protect only a collective right; even the dissenters in Heller and McDonald could not defend and did not take that position (the dissenters position, frankly, was "the Constitution protects individual gun ownership, but we want to ban them anyway, Constitution be damned").

    You may not like the 2nd Am.; you may disagree with it. Fine. That's your right (and note it's not a 'privilege,' it's a right). But you're not entitled to your own facts. At least be honest, Mike, and advocate repealing the 2nd Am., rather than "bastardizing" it.

    It's a losing battle, of course, there is zero political support for the idea. And even if the 2nd Am. were repealed, the right would still exist; as noted, it is not a "privilege" which comes from the State in the first place. Know this, too: Tens of millions of Americans will not disarm, no matter what law you pass. Period.

    Count me in that group.

    - GMC70

  8. "Progressives are very good at seeing more than one side of an issue and coming to conclusions that are not necessarily black and white."

    Which is why they are blind to the only solutions to these problems. They keep looking for technical solutions, which inevitably make things worse.

    The problems we're having with violent crime are symptoms of cultural dysfunction, and it's their underlying assumption that all cultures have equal value that makes them blind to any solution that might actually work.

  9. "Another response is to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns in the first place."

    The NRA supports that response. However, it favors putting the dangerous people into prisons and asylums rather than putting everyone into one huge prison.

    Do you understand what I just said? We agree. We must make it impossible for dangerous people to get guns. The question is how? Your answer: cage everyone in their own homes and workplaces. Our answer: cage the dangerous people.

    Which one makes more sense?

  10. Joan, what do you think of this activist's ideas?


  11. To be honest, I have never seen this one before and know nothing about who is doing it. I don't have time now to really read it well and will need to look into who this person is so no comment now.

  12. As I suspected, this blog is written by one of you guys posing as a gun control activist. If someone is so low as to do that, I have no time for them. This person can just come out and have an honest debate about the issues rather than acting like an immature person who is either afraid to say who he or she is or too dishonest to reveal a true identity. I will not be reading any more from this person. This is a lie!!

  13. Typical gun nut liars.


  14. The Supreme Court says that the Second Amendment prohibits bans on guns in common use for lawful purposes. The Brady Campaign says that almost any other gun law is still permissible.

    But Mikeb says that "cannot stand."

    That alone tells us something about the goals of "gun control." And, if "cannot stand" is true, it rebuts Paul Helmke's claim that gunowners no longer need to worry about sweeping gun bans.

  15. JayF, Abolishing the 2nd Amendment, or repealing it, is one thing, "sweeping gun bans" is another. You talk like they're the same thing.

    How about this? Imagine the makeup of the Supreme Court had been slightly different and Heller went the other way. No right to individual gun ownership is protected. That wouldn't change a single thing about the gun ownership in America except that you'd have to drop that silly justification that it's your natural human right protected by the 2nd Amendment. You'd have to be honest than and just admit you like guns. It's not about rights it's about wants.

  16. mikeb: Abolishing the 2nd Amendment, or repealing it, is one thing, "sweeping gun bans" is another. You talk like they're the same thing.

    It's not me saying that. It's those like Paul Helmke who have said that "sweeping gun bans" (my words) are the only things that Heller blocks. I use those words because Helmke has said that partial gun bans and almost any other kind of anti-gunowner law is still possible.

    So if one claims that Heller "cannot stand" then the only real difference that would make is reinstating the possibility of...sweeping gun bans.

    BTW -- if the SC hears a death penalty case and upholds it, which "silly" justifications for their opposition will opponents abandon?

  17. That wouldn't change a single thing about the gun ownership in America except that you'd have to drop that silly justification that it's your natural human right protected by the 2nd Amendment

    Can you provide a historical/philosophical justification for the position you apparantly take that rights are subject to the whims of government? What are the repercussions of such a position? Is such a position consistent with the history and framework of American government?

    Show your work, Mikeb. And good luck. You're going to need it.

    - GMC70

  18. Well- Mike B? Here's a demand from the teacher/professor/anonymous lawyer. If you don't show your work and provide the best answer, you will fail the class.