(On Screen): The UN speaks!
America is now estimated to have between 238 million and 276 million firearms, compared with some 250 million legally owned guns, or 84 for every 100 people recorded in a July 2001 survey.
"By any measure the United States is the most armed country in the world," it said. "With roughly 83 to 96 guns per 100 people, the United States is approaching a statistical level of one gun per person."
We're within striking distance of parity, fellow Americans! Let's get with it; we need to break 1:1.
It's part of a review of progress in one of the many misbegotten international treaties that America has been condemned for not ratifying and participating in. This one aims to reduce private gun ownership worldwide and to limit international sales of small arms. An unarmed world is a happy world, after all.
Like so many of them, provisions of the treaty directly violated the US Constitution, in this case the Second Amendment. Like every other case, the European response to that objection was "So what?" And like the other cases the US declined to ratify the treaty, and like the other cases we have been castigated for not being multilateral and internationalist.
And so it is that an ad hoc UN committee to review progress on the treaty has evaluated the progress of the nations of the world in disarming their citizens, and issued its annual report on progress or lack thereof. And America is absolutely top of the list in terms of per-capita gun ownership. Obviously private ownership of guns is a Bad Thing.
Of course, small arms are only one piece of a complex and dynamic puzzle, and isolating the impacts of small arms availability and misuse on human development is a daunting task. In the various chapters of the yearbook, we have attempted to document how small arms availability and misuse can undermine the prospects for human development and to bring to light available evidence wherever possible. The result is an important and ambitious agenda for future research and action.
Especially when you have to try to explain why it is that the most heavily armed nation in the world is also the richest, most powerful and the one where "human development" is greatest and civil liberties of the citizens are least in peril. How to do that? Easy; ignore that inconvenient fact entirely, and just assume that civilian ownership of small arms is always bad. The "ambitious agenda" is not to attempt to determine whether there's actually any correlation, it's to try to find (or create) evidence that it's true. They already know that it's true; all that remains is to convince the rest of us.
Missing from this calculation is the question of whether the real problem is ownership of guns, or the willingness to use violence against others. Does the presence of guns cause more violence? The total absence of genocidal slaughter in the US, along with the fact that the majority of genocidal slaughter in Rwanda was committed with machetes rather than guns, tends to suggest that violence and gun ownership don't closely correlate, and that it's the violence that kills no matter what weapons it uses.
Well, just never mind that. The spotlight is on America because the citizens of the US own more guns per-capita than any other nation by a long margin. So we actually get our own colored bubble on page 61 (first in the report!), which specifically talks about American gun ownership. (You gotta love the color!)
Statistically, the United States is approaching one gun per person. It has 83–96 guns per 100 people. Except for machine guns and fully automatic rifles, which are registered by the federal government, most of the states in the United States have no requirements for licensing owners or registering guns. Even so, available data leaves no doubt that the United States is by far the world’s most heavily armed country, on the verge of the symbolic parity of having as many guns as it has people.
One widely-used estimate for the number of guns in America comes from a public survey conducted in 1994 for the Police Foundation, a private organization. This concluded that the American people then owned a total of 192 million firearms (Cook and Ludwig, 1996). It should be noted that this was a telephone survey, albeit carefully designed and statistically significant. Telephone surveys have lost credibility in the United States, as people increasingly refuse to co-operate or give false answers to sensitive questions.
Another approach examines gun buying. A report by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) showed that Americans bought 230.4 million newly manufactured guns between 1899 and 1994. This included domestic manufacturers’ shipments to civilian and police buyers of 207.5 million firearms, minus manufacturers’ exports of 16.7 million, plus 39.6 million newly-manufactured imported guns (United States BATF, 2000).
Whether the BATF report errs high or