Last week the BBC ran an article in which the author tried to figure what would happen if we got rid of all the guns. The article is entitled, ‘What If All Guns Disappeared?’ The author, a freelancer named Rachel Nuwer, has actually written some decent stuff on big-game hunting in Africa, including a piece on the decision by D.D.D. Trump to life the ban on hunting of certain trophy species, probably so that his idiot son can bring back a tusk or a mane to decorate the den.
Nuwer’s article on getting rid of guns is, of course, music to gun violence prevention (GVP) ears. The only problem with her approach is that she focuses most of her argument on the situation in the United States, which is not really where the issue of gun violence rests. Now how can I say that when study after study tells us that gun homicides in America are 2 to 7 times higher than in any other developed country? I say that because even our outrageously-high homicide rate connected to guns is a fraction of what goes on throughout the globe.
The best figures we have indicate that gun homicides outside the U.S. but including the Russian republics, Africa, the South American drug countries and various other non-OECD zones probably total 250,000 victims every year. Our annual gun homicide number is somewhere around 13,000, and with a rate per 100,000 of 4.2, we rank far below most of the other non-OECD countries whose numbers can be trusted at all.
What is missing in Nuwer’s article is a much more compelling fact, namely, that virtually all of the gun violence which occurs in places like Angola (gun killing rate of 19,) Central African Republic (rate is 29.3,) Malawi (36.0) and other unfortunate spots is a function of what happens here. And by ‘here’ I don’t mean how many Americans die each year from gunshot wounds. By ‘here’ I mean the fact that we, along with a few ‘civilized’ European nation-states supply these killing zones with all their guns.
We started mass-producing guns at the Springfield Arsenal in 1799. But by 1854, Samuel Colt had established his own gun factory and sold small arms to both sides in the Crimean War. He quickly found himself competing with British gun factories, which by the turn of the nineteenth century were shipping guns to various colonial areas to the tune of more than 50,000 per year.
This movement of small arms from industrialized countries to lesser-developed zones if anything has increased because we have technologies (e.g., polymers, metal-injection manufacturing) which reduce the cost of gun manufacturing to a fraction of what gun making used to cost. These technologies aren’t so readily found in lesser-developed zones, but the demand for products made with such cost-saving technologies is sky-high. Know why you see all those ISIS fighters brandishing their AK-47s? Because it costs next to nothing to stamp out the parts which can then easily be assembled by hand.
Know how many handguns and long guns we exported between 2008 and 2015? Try 2.4 million and you’re just a tad below the total number which left the USA and shipped overseas. Of course that represents a tiny fraction of the dough earned by American companies that supply at least 36% of the arms and munitions we sold throughout the globe.
And you think we are going to convince our own gun-owning citizens that they should give up their guns?