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Guns should be restricted to soldiers, police officers

A recent report by the U.S. Justice department indicates that Americans were victimized by gun violence in 2005 at a greater rate than in the previous year, after a long decline.

The report indicates there were two violent gun crimes in the U.S. for every 1,000 individuals, compared to 1.4 in 2004. There were 2.6 robberies for every 1,000 individuals, compared with 2.1 the year before.

At the same time, the New York Times published an article that should be considered in the light of the report on gun violence. It lists the volume of small arms produced throughout the world and — to no one’s surprise — the United States is by far the largest producer.

According to the Times, the U.S. exports $533 million worth of small arms every year. That is more than twice as many weapons as produced by Italy, the second largest producer.

The newspaper also reports that 1,000 people are killed every day worldwide by small arms fire — 365,000 people per year. Of those killed, 56 percent are victims of homicides, 25 percent die in war, 14 percent are suicides and 5 percent die in firearms accidents. In addition, three people are wounded for every person killed. That would indicate a total of 1,460,000 people killed and wounded annually with small weapons throughout the world.

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Unfortunately, most people do not relate the staggering total of gun casualties and the prodigious output of weapons by this and other countries. Since there is a need to reduce the tragic toll of homicides and other shooting deaths, one practical step certainly would be to stop putting so many guns in circulation.

However, the National Rifle Association and other gun enthusiasts maintain a constant pressure on political leaders to make gun usage more prevalent. The state of Florida has passed "shoot first" legislation — laws that give a gun wielder the right to shoot first in various circumstances.

While that sounds ludicrous to the average citizen, it is a reflection of the warped thinking of those who want more guns, not fewer guns, in every neighborhood.

That kind of thinking leads directly to the prodigious loss of life caused by flooding the world with guns.

Under the Florida law, if you believe you are threatened with death or great bodily harm, you can pull your gun and pull the trigger. This could be in your home, in your car, at public meetings or at any place you might be. Under this law, the person holding the gun is judge and jury.

Laws of this kind can only increase the inordinate number of people killed and wounded by gunfire. This is especially true since similar laws have passed in Kentucky and are being considered in other states.

It is time to cut down on crime and restrict guns to soldiers and police officers. There are other ways to settle disputes.

And it is long past time to reduce the tragic toll of 1,460,000 people killed or wounded every year as a result of the unwarranted proliferation of weapons.

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Bill Boyne is a former editor and publisher of the Post-Bulletin who writes a weekly column for the P-B.

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