My wife and I left Iowa some 20 years ago to see the world. We lived in France, Japan and the UK before returning to America last December. We settled our family in Ahwatukee so our children could be closer to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. But we are deeply troubled that something went very wrong in our country while we were away. We don’t want our kids to be gun violence victims.
Gun violence became some sort of ingrained “fact of American life” while we were away. It does not have to be that way.
Our experience living abroad showed us that democratic and freedom-loving people do not need heavily, privately armed communities to enjoy their lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness.
Facts clearly support our experience. The accompanying graph plots annual gun-related deaths against gun ownership for France, the UK and the U.S. Our country has nearly one privately owned gun per citizen and just more than 10 gun-related deaths (murders, suicides and accidents) per 100,000 people annually. France and the UK have much, much lower rates of gun ownership and gun violence. Japan cannot even usefully be added to this graph because all the numbers are essentially zero.
The sizes of the bubbles in the graph highlight perhaps the scariest part of this comparison. The bubbles represent relative gun homicide rates. The U.S. bubble (that is, our gun-related murder rate) is a shocking 20 times greater than France’s and a horrendous 90 times greater than the UK’s.
We never once thought at all about being shot in a London movie theater. Sadly, we do sometimes think about that here in Ahwatukee.
Kindergartners travel all by themselves on the subway system in Tokyo. Japanese mothers and fathers do not worry in the slightest about deranged gunmen with assault rifles mowing down their 6-year-olds at school. American moms and dads do not enjoy that wonderful freedom.
French news media has no daily litany of gun deaths. Gun violence is still a deeply shocking thing there at all levels of society … not local TV news filler before the weather and sports reports. Unhappily, we become more and more desensitized to our gun violence horror each day here, falsely believing that it is somehow “normal.”
France, Japan and the UK are of course imperfect democracies, but they have societies enviably free from gun violence.
Can’t we do more to save American lives and greatly reduce the threat of gun violence in our communities? Of course we can … the Brits, French and Japanese do already.
Can’t we take common sense legislative action like we used to after ghastly mass shootings occur? Of course we can … Brits successfully did after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996 and Australians did too after the Port Arthur massacre occurred in their country only weeks later.
America should be an inspiration to peer countries when it comes to freedom from gun violence, not a frightening cautionary tale. If you agree, please become active with groups in our community like AZ PASS, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, and Americans for Responsible Solutions, to name just a few.
• Ahwatukee resident Bryan L. Brinkley is secretary of Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society (AZ PASS). For more information, visit www.azpass.org.