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Letter: Facts needed in gun debate

In a letter that appeared on this page on Feb. 20, I stated the fact that Americans kill their fellow Americans and themselves with their guns at a rate that far exceeds that of any other developed nation.

I noted that the causes of this national disgrace cannot be such factors as rapid social change, changing family structures, and decline in religious observance because all of those factors are in play in other Western countries. I opined that our excessive gun violence rate can be explained only by our number and availability of guns and by our peculiar gun culture, with the latter being the more important.

In a letter appearing on Feb. 28, Ed Mickelson expressed his general dislike of my letter, but he characteristically offered no facts to refute my positions.

He suggests that our gun violence rate may be due to excessive leniency in criminal sentencing. Yet, it is generally recognized that we have an incarceration rate that greatly exceeds that of any other Western nation. Our criminal sentences are generally longer than those in comparable countries. The death penalty has been abolished throughout the Western world with the exception of Japan, but most states and the U.S. federal government still have it.

As for those violent video games and entertainment, the National Rifle Association’s favorite excuse, do you think they are not available in Canada and everywhere else?

Mr. Mickelson suggests that some people are “just plain evil,” but I doubt that we have a higher proportion of “just plain evil” people in this country than anywhere else.

Facts are inconvenient things, particularly when they clash with comfortable, self-serving beliefs, but any meaningful discussion in this national disgrace must begin with the unvarnished facts.