February 27, 2008:
The Organization of American States (OAS)
recently issued a study reporting that there 80 million privately owned
firearms in Latin America. For a region with 550 million people, that's a lot
of firepower. There were 90,000 attacks using firearms last year, which is about
16 per 100,000 population. The murder rate in the Western hemisphere (about 8
per 100,000 people a year) is much higher than in Europe, where it is about 3-4.
Middle Eastern nations have rates of between 5-10. The United States is often
regarded, at least by Europeans, as a wild, gun happy place. But the national
murder rate is about six per 100,000. There are other parts of the world that
are more violent. Iraq has a murder rate of 26. That's not a lot higher than it
was under Saddam (10-20 a year), but less than a third of what it was a year
ago. In Africa, especially Congo, Sudan
and South Africa, you find similar murder rates. Only South Africa has a
sufficiently effective government to actually keep accurate track of the murder
rate, mostly from crime, but it's over 50 per 100,000. It's worse in places
like Congo and Sudan, but the numbers there are only estimates by peacekeepers
and relief workers. In southern Thailand, a terror campaign by Islamic radicals
has caused a death rate of over 80 per 100,000.
While firearms make it easier to kill,
they are not necessary for a high murder rate. Parts of Asia, Latin America and
Africa have murder rates of over ten (or much more) per 100,000, without the
presence of many firearms. To lower the murder rate, something has to be done
about anger management, more so than weapons control. Criminals can always get
banned weapons, and in some parts of the world, the anger issues are much worse.
Corrupt and ineffective government are the most common cause of anger, and this
has been a problem that is difficult to deal with.
Frontier areas have long been noted for
less law and more violence. Tribal societies are more violent than those using
more advanced forms of government (monarchy, democracy), a fact which is often
ignored. But anthropologists, archaeologists and historians continue to uncover
more evidence that tribal systems are very violent. One reason for the enormous
population growth in Africa after the 19th century, was the European colonial
rule stopped the incessant, and debilitating, tribal warfare. While the
colonial administrations were none too gentle, tribal wars often ended up in
the extermination of the losing tribe.