Cross Curricular Project: Gun Laws in the US

After the horrifying shootings which took place in a primary school in Newtown, Conneticut, I’m sure that many of us have been glued to the news over the past few days to find out more about this tragic event.

There has, understandably, been debates surrounding gun licencing in the US since the event, one of which I saw yesterday with Piers Morgan. It got quite heated.

I’ve not analysed the data on gun killings in the US and around the World and hence I struggle to comment on exactly what should be done about the current laws. I did however recently see this poster on facebook which sparked a few emotions:

Hand Guns

Upon looking at this poster, do you now have enough information to make up your mind about gun licence laws in the US?

I was slightly worried that people would see this poster and immediately come to a conclusion. There are questions which need to be considered alongside the given information:

1) What is the population of each Country on the poster? The population of Switzerland for example is around 8 million and the population of the US is around 312 million. It only makes sense to talk about proportions/percentages of people who’ve been killed by guns since the populations of the Countries differ in some cases quite drastically. Whilst this may not make a huge difference to the rankings (???), it is still an important point of consideration.

2) Is this purposefully provocative? i.e. Are there Countries which have been omitted from the poster which also have a high proportion of people killed by handguns?

3) What proportion of people are murdered in each one of these Countries? This is important because it may be that in other Countries there is a much higher proporton of people killed in knife incidents. If guns were banned in the US, would people simply resort to using knives?

Taking the information on this poster just in terms of the actual numbers is not enough information to go off. An investigation into how the numbers have changed over time, considering proportions of people murdered in each Country and considering other weapons which could be used may shed a bit more light on the situation. I think it’s important that our students build up a way of debating issues such as this by concentrating on the facts.

Having said all of this, I doubt the facts would make the slighest difference to me if my child had been in the school at the time of the shootings. I think we all have our own gut feelings about how this should be dealt with but it is not in my nature to share my own gut feeling until I have a better understanding of the facts.

My sincerest condolances go out to children and the families whose lives have been forever affected by this terrible tragedy.

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