Statistics may be a bad excuse for prose, but those which pertain to this subject make chilling and necessary reading. They demonstrate that there is a pathological pleasure at large in the United States. There are nearly 300 million guns to be found there, one third of them handguns – which are useless for hunting purposes, but brilliant as tools for killing. This represents the highest concentration of private ownership of murder weapons in the entire world. The rate for murder by gunfire is 100 times that of the United Kingdom.
Every year, 17,000 people are killed in America, 70 per cent of them with guns, and nearly 20,000 people commit suicide by shooting themselves to death in the home – where a gun is readily to hand in the cupboard. Almost half of all US households have a gun stored as easily as the knives and forks, the bed linen and the toothpaste. People are shot at work, at school, at the supermarket, at bus stops, or even at the front door if they ring the bell at an inconvenient time. In the whole world, only Colombia has a worse record.
The statistics are even more heart-breaking when applied to the young. The slaughter of children by gunfire in the United States is 25 times the rate of the 20 next largest industrial countries in the world combined. If you add them all up, since the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968, well over a million Americans, children and adults, have been shot to death, and even now 80 people die in this manner every day. The terrible slaughter on Friday is not as unusual as it should be.