At least keep track of all those guns

Amidst the estimated 5,000 people who attended a Valentine's Day rally at the state Capitol last week in support of stricter gun control stood Ginna Ortiz with a sign carrying the word: "Enough."

Indeed.

As the debate over gun control continues, here are some statistics that should concern all of us, even a few card carrying members of the National Rifle Association.

There is only one country in the developed world that doesn't license gun owners, the United States.

There are only three countries that do not register all guns, the United States, Canada and New Zealand. But Canada and New Zealand do register handguns and military-style automatic weapons; they exempt rifles and shotguns. That leaves the United States alone in not registering guns of any kind.

The United States has a population of 313,914,000, not counting those added this year, and about 270 million guns or not quite 89 firearms per 100 people of all ages. No other country comes close. India is second with about 46 million guns, four for every 100 people.

When you subtract the children, the elderly, the infirm, the incarcerated and others not likely to possess firearms, the 89 per 100 population figure would increase to well over 100 guns per 100 people. There's more…

The United States has 4.5 percent of the world's population and about 40 percent of its firearms. This does not include the firearms in the hands of its military forces, the world's largest.

The U.S. death rate by firearms - homicides, suicides and accidents - was 10.2 per 100,000 deaths in 2009, the last available year for worldwide comparisons. Finland was second at 4.47 per 100,000 and the United Kingdom, with the kind of gun control that renders the NRA apoplectic, is well under one death at 0.25 per 100,000 British deaths. These statistics come mainly from the U.S. and other governments, from universities and the United Nations and its World Health Organization.

True, governments, universities and the United Nations are not quite trusted by the NRA, conspiracy theorists and gun zealots of various species, but that's their problem, not ours.

The numbers are sufficiently discouraging to support fears that even with the strictest new gun legislation, this nation is going to continue to have too many guns. But that doesn't mean we have to remain the only nation that doesn't license gun owners. We don't have to be the only civilized nation in the world that doesn't register handguns and military-style weapons.

If we can't stop ourselves from drowning in guns as a nation, our Congress can reduce the violence they reap by banning weapons designed for the military and multi-shot magazines meant to be used on an enemy, not six-year-olds.

At the very least, we can keep track of them. We have been registering cars and licensing drivers for nearly a century and no one has ever raised a bogus fear about the government using the documents to confiscate cars or round up drivers. And no one doubts that licensing and registration make it easier to track down drivers who break the law with their cars.

We can do the same thing here by following the example of the rest of the civilized world - by licensing gun owners and registering their guns. We can also conduct background checks of those buying guns at gun shows, where upwards of 40 percent of all sales are conducted.

Connecticut can and hopefully will do more, like banning the military-type assault weapons and the magazines used in Newtown, but if the nation fails to achieve at least some modest licensing, registration and gun sale reforms, the NRA can disband.

Its work will be done.

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