Viewpoints: Gun Violence in the Wake of Newtown

Twenty-seven wooden angel figures placed in a wooded area beside the road in Sandy Hook after the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (Photo: Tim Clayton, Corbis)

Australia –, Dec. 21: More than 400,000 people have signed "We the People" petitions on the White House's website calling for action on gun violence, making it one of the most popular issues since the launch of the site. … America has suffered an epidemic of gun violence over the last three decades including 62 mass shooting incidents since 1982. The vast majority of weapons used have been semi-automatic weapons obtained legally by the killers. There were an estimated 310 million non-military firearms in the United States in 2009, roughly one per citizen, and people in America are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than someone in another developed country. 

Canada – CTV News, Dec. 21: The chiming of bells reverberated throughout Newtown on Friday, commemorating one week since the crackle of gunfire in a schoolhouse killed 20 children and six adults in a massacre that has shaken the community—and the nation—to its core. … The National Rifle Association, at its first public event since the shootings, called Friday for armed police officers to be posted in American schools to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings." Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the nation's largest gun-rights lobby, with 4.3 million members, said at the Washington news conference, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

France – France 24, Dec. 21: Obama has called on Congress to pass legislation banning military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips. It would also close loopholes that allow people to purchase guns without background checks. He has also appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a task force to explore ways to prevent mass shootings, including by improving access to mental health care and addressing depictions of violence in popular culture. … Obama called on ordinary citizens, law enforcement officials and gun owners to campaign publicly and petition Congress in support of his reforms.

Germany – Spiegel Online, Dec. 19: [New backpack models] come with a contemporary twist: They're bulletproof. "The backpack can be quickly brought to the front as a shield or can serve as a center of mass protection while fleeing the scene of the shooting," the American maker of these ballistic backpacks, Amendment II, advertises on its website. This isn't some dark joke, either. Amendment II … makes armor for soldiers and cops, but also for even the smallest civilians. Since the massacre in Newtown, armored backpacks for children have become the company's latest bestseller.

Ireland – Irish Times, Dec. 21: Anxious parents are buying armored backpacks for children and firearms enthusiasts are stocking up on semi-automatic rifles in anticipation of tighter gun control measures following the Connecticut school massacre. While a spike in gun sales is common after a mass shooting, the latest rampage in Newtown has generated record sales in some states, particularly of assault weapons. Colorado set a single-day record for gun background check requests the day after the shootings, while Nevada saw more background checks in the two days that followed than any other weekend this year. Records were also set in several states.

Turkey – Hurriyet Daily News, Dec. 21: Half the firearms in the entire world are in the United States. The rate of murders by gunfire in the United States is almost 20 times higher than the average rate in 22 other populous, high-income countries where the frequency of other crimes is about the same. There is clearly a connection between these two facts, but it is not necessarily simple cause and effect. Here’s one reason to suspect that it’s not that simple: The American rate for murders of all kinds—shooting, strangling, stabbing, poisoning, pushing people under buses, etc.—is seven times higher than it is in those other 22 rich countries. It can’t just be guns.

Scotland – Herald Scotland, Dec. 21: To many inside and outside America there is no complexity to be confronted. The only place automatic weapons belong is on the battlefield, end of story. Scotland in particular needs no convincing about the evils of guns. To watch America debating the point once more exasperates and saddens in equal measure. But there are signs that Newtown has made a difference. With the exception of the fruit loops asking for schools to have armed guards, many Americans are looking at gun control with a new urgency. A number of Republican congressmen have come forward to pledge their support for a ban on so-called assault weapons (don't all guns assault?).

United Kingdom – The Guardian, Dec. 21: To outsiders, the point seems so blindingly obvious: More guns equal more death. In Britain, where gun laws are strict, the annual number of gun-related murders stood, at last count, at 41. In the U.S. the equivalent figure is just short of 10,000. Whether it's Britain, Japan or Australia, the evidence is the same: Strict gun control means fewer people die.