Every time a gun crime in the United States reaches the news networks we hear of renewed efforts to legislate greater control of firearms. Now, with the elections coming into full swing, the topic is once again a leading subject of political attentions as politicians use the subject as a rallying point. Will legislation targeting weapons have any appreciable effect on the number of innocent people killed with firearms every year? No. What we see every year from politicians is little more than political theater that has nothing to do with addressing the real issues underlying the problem of murder and gun crime in the United States. The evidence simply doesn’t support the premise of greater restrictions producing fewer crimes.
Australia: A Real World Example
A good example of this becomes clear when we examine homicide rates for Australia since they banned automatic and semi-automatic weapons in 1996. Are murder rates down? Yes. Are murder rates with firearms down? Yes. But, there is far more to it than simple lower numbers. Once looked at more closely, it becomes obvious that when you take away guns, it does nothing to stop criminals from breaking the law, and murderers from killing people. They will simply find other ways to do it.
In 1996 when the Australian gun buyback program was enacted, there were 354 murders country wide.
By 2007, that rate dropped to 282. Yes, after taking guns away from law abiding citizens there were 100 fewer murders, or a 20% reduction, however, that is total murders, not just murders with guns.
It is very important to note that prior to Australia’s gun ban, crime rates for guns were already on a steady downward trend, from 123 in 1988, to 67 in 1995. Now, in 1996 there were 123 gun homicides, due in large part to a single incident where 35 people died in a mass shooting, which in turn spurred the creation of Australia’s gun ban. Since that incident and the passing of the ban in 1996, Australia has kept to the same steady rate of decline in gun deaths which was taking place before the gun ban was enacted. In other words, Australia’s gun ban has had little to no effect on the rate of gun deaths. Spikes from year to year after the ban however, reach as high as 57 gun homicides, close to previous years’ numbers before the ban was enacted.
Effect on Crime
Here is where it gets interesting. Immediately following Australia’s gun ban, gun robberies soared from 1996 to 2000. However, by 2011 Australia’s gun robbery rate returned to right where it was at the time the ban was begun. In short, Australia’s gun ban has not reduced the number of robberies committed with firearms and thus criminals are still using firearms at the same rate as before. Worse, unarmed robbery rates increased after the gun ban, effectively suggesting that unarmed law abiding citizens are now easier targets. Robberies where the home occupant was present have also risen, known as a “Hot Robbery”, suggesting criminals no longer hold as great a fear of encountering an armed homeowner.
Next, total homicide numbers for Australia were at approximately 300 for 1990, and by 2007 the number was 253, a whopping 47 fewer deaths. Gun homicides however have stabilized at around 15% of total homicides during the same period. Again suggesting the Australian gun ban has had negligible effect if any, again considering that a steady downward trend in overall and gun homicides was taking place prior to the ban.
How Homicides are Rising in the Absence of Firearms
Since the Australian gun ban, deaths from knives and blunt instruments including hands and feet have risen. In the State of New South Wales, Australia, of 89 murders in 2006-2007, three were with firearms, the rest with knives and blunt instruments. From 1989 to 1998 there was a 20% increase in homicides involving knives and blunt instruments. From 2001 to 2012, knives and blunt instruments along with a small percentage of “unknown means” accounted for approximately 90% of homicides in Australia. Also, from 2009 to 2012 a slow but steady increase of non firearm related homicides has been noted. Strangely enough, despite such data, law makers in New South Wales are now calling for stricter controls of knives, even suggesting a knife buyback program similar to the prior gun buyback.
The Issue is the Intent to Kill. Not the Weapons.
Until we address the reasons why we have so many people living in the United States willing to kill others for no rational or justifiable reason, there will be far too many senseless killings regardless of whether law abiding citizens have firearms or not. Perhaps more disturbing, taking away firearms from law abiding citizens could very well increase the number of crimes committed both with and without firearms.
Statistics derived from the Australian Institute of Criminology
It’s a fact of life that in areas like Richmond County, a large portion of the population will be from somewhere other than North Carolina. For many folks who were born and raised here, it’s nearly incomprehensible why anyone would want to deliberately locate to a city or town in Richmond County like Rockingham, or perhaps Ellerbe. They’ll point to the weak jobs market, the few opportunities for nightlife, and then likely profess a desire to move anywhere that has a mall with more than one level and no Dollar General within 20 miles.
Overall, among locals under the age of 40, the general consensus seems to be that those moving here from out of state are simply mentally challenged, downright delusional, or intent on opening a new meth lab. Which only adds to the problems as the last thing anyone in an economically challenged area wants is an influx of delusional and mentally challenged transplants. The local meth dealers have it hard enough as it is.
However, unless you have actually lived outside of North Carolina, or even better, have spent a significant amount of time in a city like Baltimore or Washington DC as I have, it’s all too easy to dismiss all the things that make a move to Richmond County so appealing to out of stater’s. I have a couple of my own personal reasons which are as follows, albeit in my typically long winded fashion.
At the advanced age of 47, I have had time to live in several cities up and down the east coast, most notably the aforementioned Baltimore and DC. I’ve also lived in “less urbanized” areas like Hollywood Florida. I can say unequivocally that you couldn’t drag me back to any of those cities or states with a team of Clydesdales and a shotgun, which coincidentally, you can likely find in easy supply in Richmond County. That I am happy to have escaped with all my limbs and digits intact, as well as most of my sanity, only serves to underscore my authority on the subject of leaving the city for the country life.
I think much of the reason for my moving to the country has to do with my growing aversion to crowds and loud noise. Whether this is just a sign of maturity, where I forever cast off my previous youthful pursuits of nightlife and unchecked debauchery, or an unavoidable aspect of aging, (everyone under 25 knows old people can’t stand loud music for instance), is anyone’s guess at this point. All I know for certain is that when I find myself stuck in a crowd of more than three people, or I’m subjected to the latest in boom-boom wannabemobile’s at a stoplight, visions of Tylenol and rum shots start parading across my vision.
Another possibility is that I see too many parallels between John B. Calhoun’s Mice Utopia experiments and the state of society today. If you’ve never heard of Mr. Calhoun or his experiments, a condensed summary of his work says that when provided with a set amount of living space and unlimited food and clean water, rats and mice would soon breed like crazy and overcrowd their living space, whereupon they would begin exhibiting antisocial behavior, fight with each other, eat their young, and eventually stop breeding entirely until they all died off.
Now while we have yet to see a lot of parents consuming their children in places like New York, there is definitely a case to be made for the fighting and anti social behavior common to big cities. Not to mention, if you pay any attention to the news headlines, uncontrolled breeding among humans is a major problem in the cities, hence the popularity of contraceptives and Planned Parenthood despite quite a bit of political loony tunes regarding them. Said political loony tunes will be a subject for a later article. We can throw breeding right out of my own personal situation as I determined long ago the only thing I fear more than death, is creating a new life for which I will be forever morally and financially responsible.
I guess I see moving to the country as a way to avoid the conclusions of Mice Utopia. Essentially, I ruin the experiment by changing the controls, namely the fixed amount of living area and how often I have to interact with actual beings of the same species. Sure it’s cheating, but then again that’s the great thing about being a human and not a rat, (excepting some random parts of the population considering their behavior). I can cheat and live a quiet and peaceful life in the country, while everyone else can run the risk of rampant uncontrolled infant cannibalism in the city.
Living in a small town like Rockingham has its perks compared to life in the congestion and crowding of the urban city. When you pull out of your driveway for instance, you don’t find yourself immediately tailgated by an irate Mongolian sporting a topknot and blazing red eyes intent on ripping off your rear bumper. Said rabid Mongolian then flips you off the moment you turn onto the major thoroughfare, whereupon you immediately pick up another butt magnet and the process repeats until you finally reach your destination, 40 minutes and five miles later.
Another perk is the lack of competition when grocery shopping. So far after 4 or so years of country living, I have yet to have a single cart rammed into me as I contemplated between the expensive Cheeze Whiz and the 5 cent cheaper cheese emulating processed food product. The latter of which although looking and tasting the same, likely produces massive fatal neck warts in lab rats according to the state of California. Why anyone should care if rats get fatal neck warts is beyond me and if you’ve paid attention to anything about California over the last 20 years, you know their rationality can’t be trusted anyways.
Register racing too is a thing of the past. For the uninitiated, register racing is where you exit your last aisle before heading to checkout and lock eyes with another shopper also exiting their last aisle 5 rows down. In the space of a millisecond you both then immediately scan the available checkouts for the shortest lane. Eyes squinted and once again locked on your opponent, nostrils flared, adrenalin pumping, you grip your cart tighter as you flex your legs for the coming forward springing takeoff, much like a panther about to pounce on a rabbit.
By some unspoken rule, like gunfighters of the old west, you both then lunge towards the desired register at top speed at the same time, all the while trying mightily not to LOOK like your’e actually racing. In most cases, the result is a pair of shoppers with full carts speeding towards a checkout with a lurching knock kneed gait resembling an incontinent power walker who’s a block too far from home. Once at the register, the victor then proceeds to deliberately take their time emptying their cart, slowly digging through purses or wallets for coupons and discount cards, making nonsensical conversation with the disinterested cashier, and all around trying to prolong the misery of the now conquered opponent.
Not everything about small town living is great however. While your nearest neighbor may be half a mile away, small towns have the most sensitive and powerful grapevine in the civilized world. Note I did not say accurate and effective. Just powerful and able to sniff out and retain anything you may do or say for up to a year. So, telling your friend at the hardware store you aren’t much for getting to church these days, often turns into you being a godless pagan that dances naked by moonlight while offering up sacrifices to your dark lord by the time it reaches the other end of town.
Pizza delivery is a thing of the past, which is probably ok because although the pizzeria down in town might be named “Sal’s”, it’s also likely owned by someone named Joe who also happens to have “The Best Southern BBQ” on the menu.
When it comes to nuisances like pests well, the city has nothing on the country. If you think all the hype about city rats for instance is intimidating, consider that out here in the country they’d probably last all of 6 hours before being promptly eaten by something else. Out here the raccoons consider your garbage their own private buffet and rather than run when attempting to shoo them away, will advance on you in an effort to protect their stash.
The spiders well, good lord the spiders! Out here they aren’t spiders; they are fanged alien mutants intent on capturing anything smaller than a rhinoceros. I regularly see webs that look more like tennis nets, easily spanning 20 feet between a lamp post and tree. Leaving the front door after dark without a flashlight is an exercise in tempting fate, as you’ll likely find yourself shrouded in webbing while something you are grateful you can’t see but is clearly quite large, rapidly scuttles across your neck to your shoulder whereupon you no longer have any idea where it might have gone. In that moment you suddenly realize you are a Kung Fu master as you gibber and flail helplessly in the front yard.
All in all though, for me the slower pace, relaxed atmosphere and small population of the country wins out over the noise and congestion of the city. To me city living is almost like a slow and drawn out death, with the stress and frayed nerves that are part and parcel of urban life leading to a stint in the local intensive care unit as I await a heart transplant. At least here in the country, the cardiac arrest after a spider attack will be swift and decisive.
The following is a human interest piece I wrote for a small local paper several months ago. Here I am publishing it in its proper form, as the paper’s editor felt the need to make changes I don’t feel were of much value……………
Bringing Support for Those Affected by Breast Cancer to Richmond County
For most of us, the idea of a cancer diagnosis conjures up images of difficult hospital stays, wrangling with insurance companies, and yes, dealing with thoughts of our own mortality. Now imagine facing all of that alone. Carmella Johnson wants to help make sure that doesn’t happen in Richmond County.
Carmella is the supervisor of the Hamlet Public Library and last year provided support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month by distributing literature and the widely familiar pink ribbons symbolizing support for those affected by breast cancer. Now she hopes to help speed breast cancer awareness and support through the creation of regular cancer support group meetings in the Hamlet Public Library where she works.
“I want to let people know that they’re not alone.” Carmella said. “My grandparents died from cancer, so I just want to let them know that they’re not by themselves, and then I think it’s important to get that message out, that it’s never too early to start.”
In Richmond County, this is a message it seems too many people haven’t received. Many women find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the turmoil a cancer diagnosis brings, and it’s when things begin to get really difficult that they realize they have few people to turn to for support. Single mothers, those with little or no family, and sadly enough, those with families and friends who just don’t seem to understand how devastating breast cancer is, find themselves suddenly facing not only the fight of their life, but a fight they think they’ll have to make by themselves.
The small meeting was a quiet event with the attendees made up of a group of women that if anything, exemplified just how indiscriminate cancer can be. The women were young and just getting started with life. They were senior citizens who had already accomplished much and still wanted to do more. They were women trying to work while also managing a household. They were retirees who only wanted to enjoy what was supposed to be their free years. The one thing they all had in common was they in some way found their lives changed by breast cancer, and they wanted to do something about it.
Guest speaker Ann Wheeler knows all too well what these women likely have had to unwillingly accept into their lives. Co-chair of the Susan Sharpe Cancer Support Group which serves Richmond County, Ann is also a breast cancer survivor.
As Ann described her experience, “In 1999, 15 years ago, my youngest daughter had just gotten married, had a good job teaching in Durham, my oldest daughter was married, and it was like two years before it was time for me to retire. I was really excited. I mean I had taught school, been in school all my life, since I was six years old. Probably would have been five if they’d had kindergarten back then, but, I found a lump. And that’s something that not, not any woman wants to find.”
Ann suddenly found herself scared and terrified at a time when she was expecting to soon have fun enjoying her retirement. Ann and her husband were planning to travel, to welcome the arrival of grandchildren, to watch as their own children succeeded with their lives. Ann and her husband quickly decided that they were going to fight, and in her husband’s words, “fight with the best”. She quickly found herself not happy with cancer care environment in Richmond County. Although Ann did leave Richmond County to receive treatment which fortunately has been successful, one thing she realized was how lucky she was to have the support of a loving husband and family, and that although she couldn’t do a lot about how cancer care is provided, she could do something about providing support.
“I have told Carmella that since I have been involved with the Susan Sharp cancer group, I have found that there are lots of people in our county who don’t have the support system that I had”, said Ann. “We have people here in our county who don’t have family. We have people here who don’t have a church group. We got people here who don’t have colleagues at work. We had one girl who told the story of going to have her mastectomy, her brother picked her up, took her to her door, set her suitcase inside the door, and left. That to me is not acceptable.”
Women like Carmella and Ann recognize just how important it is to not only receive effective treatment when a cancer diagnosis is made, but how deeply important it is for there to be some sort of emotional and practical support available as well. Breast cancer is an issue that can affect any woman, at almost any age, and with the increasingly demanding roles women are finding themselves in these days, it can be nearly impossible to cope and succeed in treatment without some sort of added support.
This is the support that women like Carmella and Ann hope to make more women in Richmond County aware is available. With help from organizations like the Susan Sharpe Cancer Support Group and the Susan G. Komen Organization, the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer, Carmella and Ann hope if nothing else to deliver one very important message to Richmond County residents affected by breast cancer. That message is a simple one. You are not alone.
Ann summed up their goal succinctly at the end of the meeting with a few simple words.
“I have made a promise to god, and everybody. If it’s one o’clock or three am, I will be there.”