From an editorial Tuesday in the New York Times:
Like other shootings before it, the Newtown, Conn., tragedy has reawakened America to its national fixation with firearms. No country in the world has more guns per capita, with some 300 million civilian firearms now in circulation, or nearly one for every adult.
Experts from the Harvard School of Public Health, using data from 26 developed countries, have shown that wherever there are more firearms, there are more homicides. In the case of the United States, exponentially more: The American murder rate is roughly 15 times that of other wealthy countries, which have much tougher laws controlling private ownership of guns.
Theres another important difference: Other nations have suffered similar rampages, but they have reacted quickly to impose new and stricter gun laws.
In Australia in 1996, a lone gunman killed 35 people with a spray of bullets from semiautomatic weapons. Within weeks, the Australian government was working on gun reform laws that banned assault weapons and shotguns, tightened licensing and financed gun amnesty and buyback programs.
The laws have worked. The American Journal of Law and Economics reported in 2010 that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006.
Similarly, after 16 children and their teacher were killed by a gunman in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, the British government banned all private ownership of automatic weapons and virtually all handguns. Hours of exhaustive paperwork are required if anyone wants to own even a shotgun or rifle for hunting. The result has been a decline in murders involving firearms.
In Japan, which has very strict laws, only 11 people were killed with guns in 2008, compared with 12,000 deaths by firearms that year in the United States a huge disparity even accounting for the difference in population. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed on Monday while ratcheting up his national anti-gun campaign, We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. In the whole world, the only one. Americans do not have to settle for that.