Editorial: 'Guns don't kill'? Then why are US deaths such an outlier when maniacs attack?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Op Eds

The knife attack that wounded an adult and three children in Dublin last week, and the subsequent anti-migrant rioting there, demonstrated the ways in which the U.S. and Ireland are part of the same chilling trajectory of political violence and intolerance that is wracking so much of the world today — as well as the one big way in which America remains a tragic outlier from other advanced nations.

Driven by unconfirmed rumors that the knife-wielding assailant outside a Dublin school last Thursday was an Algerian immigrant, some 500 rioters rampaged through the capital city Thursday night, smashing windows and burning police cars, some holding “Irish Lives Matter” signs. America is, sadly, not alone these days regarding the hateful xenophobia of many on the political right.

But the attack that started it all was notably different from what Americans are used to in that there was, initially at least, no death toll at all. That could yet change; a 5-year-old girl remains in critical condition with stab wounds as of this writing.

Still, it doesn’t discount the horror of that fact to note that, when sociopaths go on attempted murder sprees in gun-happy America, they’re generally far more successful than their counterparts in other advanced nations.

That’s because, unlike in Ireland and the rest of the advanced world, it’s easy for practically anyone in America to lay their hands on a semi-automatic firearm. The gun lobby and its Republican water-carriers have made sure of that by consistently blocking such commonsense reforms as universal background checks and red-flag laws.

The differing outcomes that result are sobering. On the same day that Ireland was rocked to its core by four stabbings, more than 100 Americans nationwide likely died by the gun, based on daily average statistics.

The American victims last Thursday — Thanksgiving Day — included a 16-year-old boy found dead in an SUV in Cahokia Heights, Illinois. Other fatal shootings that day were logged in or around Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere.

None of it spawned global or even national news coverage, let alone riots. Because we’re used to it.

Ponder that dichotomy. And then ponder the gun-culture trope that “guns don’t kill, people kill.”


The plain falsity of that trope is evident not just in these tragic anecdotes, but in the data.

In the U.S. — which has by far the loosest gun laws in the advanced world and by far the most guns per person — also has by far the highest gun mortality, both in total numbers and per capita. Every year, around 40,000 Americans die from firearms homicides, suicides or accidents. That’s a rate of around 12 deaths per 100,000 population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ireland, with its strong restrictions on firearms, experiences well under 1 gun death per 100,000 citizens. Generally, it totals around 50 deaths per year.

Is it the position of the gun lobby and its political lackeys that this differential proves that Americans are just more violent people by nature than those of other advanced countries? Are there many pro-gun Republicans campaigning on that national slander?

Of course not. Yet the only other explanation available is the obvious one that they dare not admit: The prevalence of guns in American society, and the stubborn refusal of national leaders to restrict their possession by criminals and the mentally unstable, wreaks havoc on scales that knives or other weapons alone simply can’t.

Ireland’s horrific knife attack came with an encouraging postscript: Irish donors and others have given more than $350,000 so far to a GoFundMe account set up in gratitude to the Brazilian immigrant who happened upon the attack and confronted and stopped the attacker. The haters of the right may command an outsized share of media coverage, but it’s clear that most Irish — like most Americans — don’t share their hatred.

Similarly, most Americans aren’t psychotics bent on killing others. But those who are have been abetted in their mayhem by an entrenched political obstinacy that refuses to acknowledge the undeniable: Yes, unfettered access to guns does kill people.

©2023 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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