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The facts: Guns and death in South Carolina

First Posted: 6:11 am - July 10th, 2015

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The recent murder of nine people at Emanuel Church in Charleston has sparked many different reactions. Confederate flags are coming down, people are talking about race in different ways and the subject of guns and violence is now back on the agenda in our state and country.

As readers of this space know, we frequently write about a wide range of studies and analysis of various public policy issues. In today’s political environment, far too often politicians and their supporters pick out an isolated fact or two and use it to spin out their rationale for some line of rhetoric or pre-determined position. These folks, Democrats and Republicans, use facts not to determine what policies should be pursued but instead they use a couple of fact to justify their bias, prejudice and pre-existing position.

That said, below are some facts from recent studies – simple fact with no rhetoric or political spin – about guns, death and violence in South Carolina:

Between 2001 and 2010, 5,991 people in SC were killed by guns. This is 15% higher than all US combat deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

In South Carolina, a person is killed by a gun every 14 hours. There is an aggravated assault with a gun occurring every 90 minutes.

In 2010, we were the 7th deadliest state in the country for gun murders. For every 100,000 people the gun murder rate was 5; this is 39% higher than the national average of 3.6 per 100,000.

We rank number 2 in the county in aggravated assaults with a gun, two and a half times higher than the national average.

When it comes to the killing law-enforcement offices with a gun, we rank 4th in the nation. For the years 2002 thru 2011, 16 officers were killed with a gun.

From 2001-2012, SC ranked 4th in the nation in the number of women killed by a gun, 64% above the national average.

In the category of women killed by men in domestic violence in SC, we ranked 2nd and more than half of these murders were committed with a gun.

In 2001, the rate of guns from South Carolina being ‘exporter’ to other states and used in the commission of a crime, was twice that of the national average. We exported 33 crime guns per 100,000 people compared to a national average of 14.

In a statement after the Charleston shooting, President Obama made comments about how gun violence and deaths were so much worse in the US than in other industrialized countries. The statistics show that he is right.

The US ranks number 1 in the world in the number of guns per 100 people at 88.8. By comparison, the rates for other industrialized countries are: France 32.1, Canada 30.8, Germany 30.3, Australia 15, Italy 11.9, Russia 8.9, United Kingdom 6.6, Ireland 4.3 and Japan 0.6.

The ranking and rates of firearms deaths per 100,000 people by county for industrializes countries are similar to those of gun ownership: US 3.5, Canada 0.5, Italy 0.3, France 0.2, Germany 0.2, Holland 0.2, Australia 0.1, and United Kingdom 0.05.

For the most recent year reported, Japan’s murder rate with a gun was 0 – none. Japan has a population of 127 million, SC is 4.8 million.

All of this would lead one to ask – why? Why are the bad statistics for South Carolina so dire? At this point there is a danger of wondering into a more subjective analysis about gun safety legislation – or lack thereof – in our state.

But, let’s stop here. Instead of getting into a political or policy discussion, which by definition leads to division and disagreement, let’s just focus for now on the problem.

The key take away from all this is that we have a problem in South Carolina – a big problem. We are killing each other with guns at a freighting rate. We are killing each other at rates that are among the highest in the country and our countries rates of gun violence are among the highest rates in the world.

For now, let’s all agree on this. We have a very big problem – a very, very, very big problem – and we need to do something about this.

(Note on sources: SC data: Institute for Southern Studies, global data: see Wikipedia, ‘number of guns per capita by country’ and ‘list of countries by firearm-related death rates’)

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