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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/18/13

The High Homicide Rate in America and Guns

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Before1.NavyYardShootingVigil.8M.SE.WDC.17September2013 by Elvert Barnes

The prevalence of guns within a country does not always a result in high homicide rates. Guns are widespread in Switzerland and Israel, yet these nations have low homicide rates. Gun control is needed more in America due to the social distance between Americans that renders it easier for its citizens to kill one another. The fundamental problem is therefore not guns, but rather the very cultural soul of the United States, with its emphasis on individualism that separates Americans from one another, rather than bringing them closer together as a society. This is not to suggest this is the only factor, but it is part of the puzzle.

Sociological studies, conducted by Geert Hofstede and others, revealed that no nation in the world has a greater shared sensibility of individualism than America. This deeply held value that each individual is responsible for himself rather than a shared responsibility within society is implicitly a national rejection of a sense of community. It is currently reflected in the saying of some Americans, "why should I pay for someone else's health care?"

Statistics compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reveal that the homicide rate for the United States (4.2 per 100,000) was four times greater than other advanced nations of Europe (Sweden 1.0, England 1.2, Norway 0.6, Italy 0.9, Spain 0.8, Germany 0.8, and France 1.1.) Given the higher incidence of homicides, the United States has its work cut out for it to join the other nations of high human development in achieving a lower homicide rate.

Strict gun control is therefore essential simply because it is too easy for Americans to kill one another. There are 12,000 dead Americans in the last year to support this argument.

However, greater efforts have to be made to help the United States become a nation  of shared dreams and aspirations. This will not be an easy task. The spirit of 19 th -century rugged individualism runs deeply through the core of American society. The Welfare Reform Act of 1995 that resulted in millions of children being thrown into greater poverty was called "The Personal Responsibility Act." In effect, the message that was sent was, "don't tell us you can't get a job, don't tell us you have no one to take care of your kids, don't tell us that the job you found does not pay enough to support your family, do something about it yourself. Don't expect society to help you."

If America is to achieve homicide rates commensurate with other advanced nations, social distance between Americans must decrease. Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos are more open to having government play a role in their lives than are the majority of whites, according to a PEW research study. Given the decline of the percentage of whites in the total population of the United States, there is hope for  shared aspirations for an improved quality of life in the future, but how long will it take to achieve this?


(Bill Honer is a an author, former Consultant to the Hawaii Office of the Attorney General, and former Researcher for the New York State Joint legislative Committee on Crime.)  


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Bill Honer has served as a Consultant to the California State Department of Education and the Office of the Hawaii Attorney General, along with non-profit agencies in Hawaii, California, and Costa Rica. In addition to writing comprehensive business (more...)
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