In reference to Mr. Salzberg’s letter of May 3 [“Gun control figures don’t add up”], in which he questioned the statistics I wrote about in March concerning mass shootings in the United States compared to those in Australia and Europe, I need to clarify several points.
First, I found my information by using Google and the internet. I read all the articles I could find at the time in at least five sources such as the American Medical Association, the New York Times, CNN, the BBC and others. In all of them statistics showed that the rate of mass shootings per hundred thousand people is much higher in the United States than in Western Europe and Australia. Gun homicides are also more common here than in Europe and Australia. However, after reading Mr. Salzberg’s letter, I went back to the internet, and found information about countries other than in Europe. I found that where cocaine is produced and there are many drug gangs, such as Honduras, El Salvador, Columbia, Guatemala, and countries with extreme poverty, such as in Venezuela, and income inequality, such as in Brazil, the gun homicide rate is higher than in the USA. “Mass shootings” are apparently not an issue, but murder between drug gangs does cause more deaths per thousand population than here.
In Asia and the Middle East, even though they are poorer than we are, there are many fewer gun owners and many fewer gun deaths. I also found the article Mr. Salzberg must have read — from a publication called Crime Prevention Research Center written by a gun rights advocate named John Lott. It uses mean statistics for France and Norway, restricted to the period between 2009 and 2015, during which, in France there were mass shootings mostly by Algerians in 2015 in which 150 people were killed and another incident in 2012 in which eight more people were killed, and in Norway in 2011, a right-wing extremist, Anders Brevik, killed eight people with a bomb, in Oslo, and then went to a Labor Party picnic on an island and shot 69 more — making a total of 77 people killed in all one incident. Thus the large number of victims in both France and Norway in only three incidents could be manipulated to raise the mean statistical percentage per million people, for those specific years, higher than in the USA. There was a mass shooting in Scotland and one in Britain, both of which resulted in a ban on rapid-fire weapons and a tightening of gun ownership laws similar to those in Australia, which have prevented further mass shootings in these countries. Meanwhile, in our country there were 38 mass shootings in 2009; 12 in 2010; 18 in 2011; 66 in 2012; 16 in 2013; 12 in 2014; and 37 in 2015, making 199 mass shootings in those years, plus we have had more shootings with more victims in both 2017 and so far in 2018. Mass shootings here are going up, not down.
I ought to clarify that the man I referred to who got a gun and conceal-carry permit was someone I heard about, but not an acquaintance. I do know the doctor who saw him. During the man’s exam (he was from New York), the doctor saw that he was wearing a gun in a holster under his shirt, so he was asked if he had a permit, and he replied “yes,” that he had obtained his permit that very morning. The doctor was surprised because the patient had had treatment for a mental illness in past years in New York. Thirty years ago, when this incident occurred, it is possible that treatment for mental health issues did not go on a database that was available to the police. Later that same afternoon, the man, in his car, chased a woman, shooting at her all the way to the police station in town, where he was quickly arrested. He put bullet holes in her car and also in a police car parked at the station.
The point I wanted to make is that increasing the age limit and strengthening background checks, although bringing some help, will not help enough, since we know that few of our mass shooters had a criminal record, and few if any had had any record of having been treated for a mental illness, even though most off not all the mass shooters probably did have mental health problems and might have been helped if psychiatric help were more available and affordable. We have reduced the number of mental health hospitals, and psychiatrists are in short supply. Most of our mentally ill people reside in jails and prisons, and some have bought guns of one type or another — including AR-15s.
That’s why I suggested we look at Australia’s solution, which seems to be working pretty well.