Since we had the Congressional hearings today with the incredible testimony of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, it’s worthwhile looking at a map of gun violence in United States cities compared to the rates in other countries. I am a realist here – I don’t see a reason for high capacity clips and assault rifles but the data is clear that most gun violence is due to handguns. NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelley was on CNN tonight and admitted as much – shootings here would drop less than 3% with a ban on assault rifles as it’s concealed handguns that are the weapon of choice. But tracking sales and background checks would help – as would addressing mental health issues. Ultimately, there is no single answer here.
The sports announcer Bob Costas was on The Daily Show January 28th and said in response to the recent controversy he stirred up: it is the culture of violence and permissiveness that needs to change. Smoking has gone from being cool to seriously not cool and we’ve managed to limit verbal bullying of people without taking away the First Amendment. But in too many subcultures in the U.S. it’s cool or hip to have a gun . . . and in some cases to use it (or at least threaten to). This is what has to change dramatically.
The map on gun violence in American cities published in the Atlantic comes from a number of sources – data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with work done by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute using additional data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and collated by The Guardian. Of course, the map is comparing urban areas to entire countries but it still reveals the staggering level of gun violence there is in some cities. I’m sure many residents would be fearful of traveling to some of the countries they are in line with even though, paradoxically, they have the same average number of deaths within their own cities.
New Orleans, sadly, takes the top honors for having the highest gun homicide rate, the same as Honduras:
A few more details from the article by Richard Florida:
The pattern is staggering. A number of U.S. cities have gun homicide rates in line with the most deadly nations in the world.
- If it were a country, New Orleans (with a rate 62.1 gun murders per 100,000 people) would rank second in the world.
- Detroit’s gun homicide rate (35.9) is just a bit less than El Salvador (39.9).
- Baltimore’s rate (29.7) is not too far off that of Guatemala (34.8).
- Gun murder in Newark (25.4) and Miami (23.7) is comparable to Colombia (27.1).
- Washington D.C. (19) has a higher rate of gun homicide than Brazil (18.1).
- Atlanta’s rate (17.2) is about the same as South Africa (17).
This level of violence should has no place in the United States. But like the issue of smoking, laws and restrictions are only part of a much larger, and much needed, cultural change.