One of the most depressing aspects of the shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., is just how familiar it all is to the American experience.
We’ve seen it so many times, the body counts, the candlelight vigils, the search for motive, the gun control debate. The numbers may be different this time – 12 dead, four guns, 6,000 rounds of ammunition purchased online — but in an effort to put this heartbreak into a national context, here are some other numbers to consider.
In America, over one dozen guns are legally sold every minute of every day.
There are almost 300 million privately-owned firearms in this country — that’s almost enough to arm every man, woman and child — but while there is a gun in four out of every 10 of American homes, only a small percentage of owners have most of the weapons, with the average collection swelling in recent years to around seven guns per owner.
With this massive supply, prices have dropped. The cost of suspected gunman James Holmes’ massive arsenal was $3,000. And with bullets going for around 50 cents a piece, he could fill the 100-round magazine on his AR-15 rifle for around the cost of a tank of gas.
The National Rifle Association is quick to associate more guns with less crime, saying that since the early ’90s, when many states relaxed their weapon laws, violent crime has dropped 70 percent. Despite the rampages on campuses and military bases, as well as the hail of gang bullets in Chicago that has killed over 200 so far this year, the national murder rate is at a 47-year-low.
But on the other side of the argument, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit organization, points out that Americans still kill each other with guns at a level that is staggering compared to the rest of humanity.
A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined.
Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.
But regardless, polls show that public attitudes don’t change, even after a mass slaughter like this. Forty-nine percent say it’s more important to protect gun rights while 45 percent favor tighter gun control.
But no one of any political stripe can denying the human cost of our collective trigger fingers.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, in the 44 years since Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot to death, bullets have ended the lives of more than one million people — including 12 in Aurora, Colo., who came together at midnight, just looking to cheer for a superhero.