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Parlor Talk: Waco Shootings

Posted by Kyle Baranko on June 5, 2015 at 2:45 PM

America has a gun problem. It is generally assumed that as countries get wealthier, security increases. The risk of experiencing violence on any given day is expected to go down as infrastructure, stability, and quality of life improves. In developed countries, citizens are simply less inclined to fear violence. This trust comes from well-functioning law enforcement and a cultural shift away from paranoid, firearm-oriented self-defense. As quality of life improves, people worry less about getting mugged on the street or having their business robbed. Developing nations therefore have a higher rate of gun ownership and a corresponding higher rate of murder; it makes sense because these states are unable to consistently hold criminals accountable for their actions, and otherwise law-abiding citizens need some way to defend themselves.

Despite these trends, one of the richest nations in the world remains an anomaly and holds a gun ownership and gun related death rate just as high as many developing nations. Yes, the United States has the highest density of firearm possession and deaths from firearms in the developed world. Dr. Sripal Bangalore and Dr. Franz Messerli of the NYU Langone Medical Center compiled injury data from the World Health Organization and firearm possession data from the Small Arms Survey. They eventually put a list together of all the data from 27 developed nations, and found that America, by far, had the highest rate of both possession and deaths. According to their study, there are 88 guns per 100 citizens in the United States, and 10 gun related deaths per 100,000 people. These numbers were almost double the next closest nation, Switzerland, at 45.7 guns owned and 3.8 related deaths. In contrast, Japan had the lowest rates for both categories, with just 0.6 guns per 100 citizens and only .06 deaths per 100,000 people.

There are several types of gun violence that draw criticism from activists and eye rolling from advocates. School shootings are extremely traumatic and terribly unfortunate events, and repeatedly swell the firearm opposition population. Causes of these tragedies are usually attributed to psychological problems or social negligence. Gun control activists, when unable to directly call for a decrease in firearm ownership, fall back to a position of increased background checks and better awareness of the health crisis surrounding mental illness. Psychologically damaged people have been responsible for some of the worst tragedies in the history of our nation. 2012 especially was a terrible year. Everyone remembers how horrified they were when a mentally ill man murdered scores of children at Sandy Hook Elementary, or in Colorado when a lunatic, dressed as the Joker, brought an automatic weapon into the midnight premier of the new batman movie and started shooting. The age-old argument for self-defense usually holds up in cases of mugging and typical criminal activity, but how do you defend yourself in a dark movie theater against a machine gun?

The gunfight in Waco, Texas, was a different kind of violence. This was not a mass shooting by one mentally ill-person seeking easy victims. This was not an urban gang fight or some dispute over a drug deal. No, this was an open conflict between two rival biker “clubs”, the Bandidos and Cossacks. Make no mistake. These are not clubs, they are basically thugs in gangs. But this was not your typical gang fight over crack. No, these two, predominately white, conservative, overly masculine men decided to wage an Old Western style turf war. They also decided to do it in a public area. It is absolutely shameful that these two gangs risked countless innocent lives just to settle a stupid dispute. Officials were quoted from various sources saying how incredibly miraculous it was that no civilians were harmed in the crossfire. The actions were utterly and despicably irresponsible. And the most enraging part of the whole mess was that they were angry with law officials and cops who rushed to the scene in order to stop the fight. Some bikers even fired at the police. Their resentment for law officials gives off the impression that these people hold themselves higher than the law.

Yes, it is a constitutional right to own firearms. But how can we continue to allow a practice that brings so much pain? The advocates’ arguments seem to be centered on one core ideology: a peaceful but suspicious, individualistic, romantic attachment to the old Western freedom and need for self-defense. Times have changed. The technology has improved. There are guns out there that are not meant to scare off bad guys; they are meant for mass murder and intense violence. America’s problems with guns have now recently been exposed increasingly diverse sections of society: urban blacks, the mentally ill, and now suburban white conservatives. Time and time again, we continue to give ourselves another change to stop the bleeding. But we need an intervention. It is time to join the rest of the developed world and end our love affair with an outdated ideology.

Categories: Culture: Anthropology

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