There’s nothing small about the heartbreaking suffering caused by small arms.
Every day, a thousand people die from gunshot wounds, and three times as many people are severely injured. “If the death, injury and disability resulting from small arms were categorized as a disease, it would qualify as an epidemic,” said Rebecca Peters, former director of International Action Network on Small Arms.
Peters added that while there are many factors that need to be addressed to greatly reduce deaths and severe injuries from small arms, nonetheless, the school massacres in the U.S., the armed gangs in Brazil, and the systematic sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo all have one crucial fact in common: the wide availability of small arms – including handguns, assault rifles, and submachine guns.
According to the 2018 Small Arms Survey, there are over 1 billion small arms distributed globally, of which 857 million (approximately 85 per cent) are in civilian hands.
Sadly, my home country, the US, according to the Small Arms Survey has the highest rate of guns per person in the world. And with approximately 393 million guns owned by U.S. citizens, it is the only nation with more guns than people.
According to Politico, “The U.S. stands out as the only high-income country with a dramatically high firearm homicide rate. The number of deaths through physical violence by firearms is 100 times higher in the U.S. that in the U.K.”
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that in 2022, the number of homicide deaths in the U.S. from gun violence was 19,592. And the number of suicide deaths of people using a gun was 26,993.
Worldwide, according to World Population Review, in 2019 guns were involved in the deaths of over 250,000 people – 71 per cent of deaths were homicides, 21 per cent suicides and 8 per cent were due to gun accidents.
In a lecture sponsored by the Canadian Red Cross Society and the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa, Dr Walter Dorn, professor of Defense Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada, acknowledged that while annihilation from nuclear weapons is a real possibility, “The fact remains that most killings in our world are carried out with small arms, those weapons that can be carried and used by a single person.”
Driving home his point here, Dorn stated “Small arms are the preferred tools of violence in most internal wars, coups, militia and gang violence, government oppression and human rights abuses, as well as for domestic and transnational crime. Even in international wars, they play a major role, and in some cases a predominant one. Though not categorized as weapons of mass destruction, today they are truly the premier instruments of mass murder.”
Here are some commonsense responses to ponder: pass comprehensive national and state mandatory background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases, enact universal gun registration, end permitless gun carry, ban multiple gun sales (currently there is no U.S. federal limit on the number of guns an individual may purchase at one time), completely ban the sale of all assault weapons like the AK-47, provide full funding for a greatly expanded free network of easily available mental health services for all, make anger management and nonviolence education mandatory in all schools, drastically reduce the arms trade and arms sales between nations with the goal of reaching an international multilateral treaty ending the making, storing, transferring and using of all weapons – both nuclear and conventional (see: https://thepopevideo.org/eliminate-arms-trade/).
Regardless of our political persuasions and cultural leanings – be they liberal or conservative – these are nonviolent steps all followers of the nonviolent Jesus should wholeheartedly work and pray for.
We need to heed what Jesus said to the disciple who attempted to defend him by cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at email@example.com.