TRAVEL AND GUN DEATHS. Linda and I just returned from a 33 day European holiday. We visited six countries: Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Other than guarding our passports, credit cards and cash, we felt safe from gun violence. Indeed, the only time we saw weapons was in airports, the train station in Cologne, Germany, on a train to Barcelona and at some popular tourist venues. In all of these places, weapons (pistols and semi-automatics) were carried by security.

We needened have been surprised at the high level of safety in these countries. David Hemenway of Harvard University reported on “Gun Murders Per 100,000
Residents”. The USA rate is 3.7, while the rate for the Netherlands is 0.36, Germany 0.23, France 0.05,
Spain 0.19 and the UK 0.07. Additionally, we met two brothers from Scotland who pointed to Scotland’s extremely low gun death rate.

A recent study of gun suicides pointed out that the USA has 4% of the world’s population, yet accounts for more than a third of the world’s suicides by gun. “No other country has a comparable rate” says the study. The same study indicated that the USA firearm death rate in 2016 was 10.6/100,000, triple the global rate of 3.4/100,000. The bottom line is we felt safer in Europe than in our own country.

Why the great discrepancy? Number one would be the easy availability of guns in the USA. Illegal sales by private sellers, and lack of background checks make purchases too easy. Number two would be the loose gun safety laws. Too often a person can procure a weapon without any safety training requirement. European countries have much tighter gun safety laws. Number three would be carelessness. Guns are often too easily available in the home, like magnets for children or distressed adults. Number four is our culture of violence. Through the media and violent sports, through our bloated militaristic and nationalistic ethos, we are constantly poisoning our humanity with violent permissions.

The good news is that as people created this tragedy, so can people create a more gentle world by addressing the above four reasons. If we have the will, we can create a more peaceful nation. The Apostle Paul addressed this challenge: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters…. do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Rev. Ron Letnes