Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Bang, Bang, We're Dead

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Bang, Bang, We're Dead

Article excerpt

The Second Amendment guarantees Americans the right to bear arms; it doesn't require us to take our sights off common sense.

When I was a kid, Brian abate and I used to play war behind his house with make-believe guns made out of sticks or an actual facsimile from a toy store. This is not something kids are likely to do today without inspiring a SWAT-team response.

But these days kids don't have to play guns. They can just pick up a real one someplace and play in a war that has real casualties. According to a 1997 survey by the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of firearm deaths among American children 14 and under is 12 times higher than among children in 25 other industrialized countries combined. Of the total homicides among children in the world, 73 percent occurred in the U.S. From 1980 to 1992, firearm suicides among preteens climbed 132 percent.

America's "we're No. 1" status with gun violence is not limited to the small people among us. In 1996, handguns were employed in the killing of 9,390 people in the United States. Of course, other industrialized societies also endure the scourge of gun violence. That same year, handgun murders claimed 2 lives in New Zealand, 13 in Australia, 15 in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, and 213 in Germany.

Why the exclusivity of the carnage in the U.S.? A recent study from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) suggests that it's simply too damn easy to acquire a handgun here. For years the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment ideologues have argued that changing laws to make handguns harder to acquire would not affect the U.S. crime rate since most guns used in crimes are acquired illegally anyhow--stolen or purchased on a mythological black market of illegal weaponry. But the ATF study, its first-ever comprehensive review of crime-gun tracing, reports that the vast majority of guns used in crimes originate in completely legal transactions conducted in the nation's gun market. In fact, of 10,000 crime guns traced in the Chicago area from August 1997 to August 1998, only 98 were reported stolen.

Criminals do not have to be geniuses to get their paws on handguns--their weapon of choice 80 percent of the time. They simply hire pals with clean records to drive to a town or a state with lax gun-sales controls and have them pick up a weapon. …

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