It’s time to talk about a subject that makes some Americans uncomfortable. We here at The NYRD have been putting off delving into this topic for a while now as we know how divisive it can be, even if it really shouldn’t be. There are definitely hard core believers and zealots on both sides of the issue, but its time we, as a country, really sat down and started learning about and addressing our issues with Anime, and their gun control. You see when it comes right down to it, the truth is that you would probably not be too comfortable if Cloud Strife walked into your local grocery store carrying his giant mother-loving Buster Sword, so why are you comfortable if anyone person walks around with a deadly weapon? Because unless you’re expecting a few random encounters in Niblheim you need to ask yourself, “what is the point?”
The Weight of Dragonslayer
Dragonslayer is the impossibly large weapon of the Black Swordsman, in the anime, Berserk. More of a giant heap of raw iron, it weighs in excess of 500 pounds, but it is not the physical weight alone that gives it its true power. Its history of killing monsters and evil spirits has turned it into something more than just an ordinary blade, and that is really a microcosm of the issue we face with today, because much like history and momentum, once our problems get moving in a certain direction it can be hard to stop them, at least before a lot of people need to die. More importantly, the Dragonslayer was forged for a brutal and medieval world, full of demons and monsters, and is that the kind of world we want to live in?
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2013, there were 33,636 firearm related deaths, that is 10.6 Americans per 100,000. In comparison there were 33,804 motor vehicle related deaths, which is about 10.7 Americans per 100,000. The number of gun deaths is only 200 less than motor vehicle deaths. People may want to point to that and say, “Ha, driving a car is heavily monitored, licensed, and regulated, and there are still almost 34,000 deaths on record,” and that is true. Imagine how many deaths there could be if driving was not so regulated? Also consider that cars and other road vehicles are things we see everyday, and are things we operate everyday. They dominate our lives and are essential pieces of equipment we need to live and work. Equating them to firearms is literally like comparing apples to hand grenades. There should be no correlation, as gun serve very specific and few purposes in our day to day lives. Yet, the number of deaths each has caused is almost equal.
More importantly, consider a second and rarely talked about statistic, Of the more than 33,000 gun related deaths in 2013, only 11,208 were homicides, whether they be a mass shooting scenario, random encounter violence, or other similar incidents. That is about 33% of the total firearm related deaths for that year. 22,428 died of non-homicidal or accidental deaths, hundreds of which were children. In fact, children in America are 9 times more likely to die from accidental gun use than in any other developed nation. However, the vast majority of these deaths 21,175 people in 2013, were suicides. Now some may look to dismiss these deaths -and there is still some debate over the nature of suicide itself- but the statistics tend to show that states with better gun control laws have lower suicide rates, due in part to the fact that waiting periods and mental health screenings help keep firearms and other weapons out of the hands of people who are looking to end their lives in one brief moment of depression. Connecticut enacted stricter laws and saw suicide rates drop while Missouri repealed similar gun control laws and saw suicide rates increase during the same 10 year period. Even enacting laws that prevent open carry in California and Oklahoma were accompanied by a 3.5% and 1.7% decrease in their respective suicide rates.
Justice or Punisher
Punisher from the anime Trigun is extremely unwieldy and bit on the side of overkill. It conceals two machine guns, a rocket launcher, and it has a compartment that stores four handguns, all without any needed permits. It is also shaped like a giant cross which is carried on a person’s back in the most obvious anime symbolism since Goku rose from the dead to save the world. Sufficed to say it’s a lot more than a simple hunting rifle, but much like the guns that NRA lobbyists try to justify today, it is a weapon hidden beneath an obscuring icon that tries to mask its true nature. Unfortunately, the fate of its owner Nicholas D. Wolfwood, echoes the fate of many people who believe that having a firearm helps keep you safer.
Every time a gun is successfully used in the defense of a home, there are 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving firearms in or around a home. Do you know the number of mass killings stopped by a “good guy with a gun” in the past 30 years? The answer is 0. In fact, owning or carrying a weapon tends to make people more aggressive. Drivers who carry firearms are 44% more likely to be aggressive on the road. Stand Your Ground laws and laws that make it easier to carry firearms have been linked with a 7% to 10% increase in statewide homicide rates. A recent study that examined 30 years of homicide data in all 50 states found that for every 1% increase in a state’s gun ownership rate, there is also a nearly 1% increase in its gun homicide rate. States like New Jersey and New York, which have stricter laws and less firearm ownership, have seen very little per capita deaths as opposed to Wyoming and Montana, which have very loose gun laws and high ownership, and all this despite the fact that NJ and NY have more urban and gang-prone areas. The odds of an assault victim being killed were 4.5 times greater if he was carrying a handgun. A woman’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase by more than 5 times if that abuser has access to firearms.
We here at The NYRD are not advocating against gun ownership, but there is no question that less weapons and stricter laws keep people safe. Take the example of Australia. After the 1996 mass shooting at Port Arthur in Tasmania, the Australian people enacted stricter gun control and implemented an aggressive buyback program for handguns, rifles, and possibly cross-shaped machine guns. They bought back more than 600,000 weapons, one-fifth of the total number of guns in circulation. Between 1995 and 2006 their firearm homicide rate dropped by more than 59%. Firearm suicides dropped by 65%. Meanwhile home invasions and anime conventions did not increase at all over the same time period. Before 1996 there were 11 mass shootings in Australia. Since 1996 there have been 0. Australia never outlawed gun ownership. The government did not break down doors and take anyone’s weapons. America has more than 314 million guns, and only 4 million of those are owned by law enforcement or the military, that is a lot of fire power. Yet, whenever anyone suggests that we need to enact real and lasting change politicians and lobbyists hide under rhetoric and symbolic cross-shaped icons.
Nothing is scarier than a demon blade, one that can change from a normal-sized katana to a giant oversized blade in the blink of an eye. The Tessaiga is the demon sword of Inuyasha of the anime of the same name. When active the sword is capable of killing 100 demons in a single swipe, but in its inactive form it looks like nothing more than a harmless normal sword. It is literally a concealed weapon capable of killing hundreds. Unfortunately, the laws of America would not be completely equipped to deal with such a weapon. Our nation’s gun control laws are weak and ill enforced.
Take the example of Chicago, which has some of the nation’s strictest gun control laws, but also some of the nation’s highest firearm deaths -a statistic that many pro-gun lobbyists are quick to point out- but the facts are misleading. First of all, Chicago is a highly populated city and if you take the violence as a per capita statistic you see that Chicago is not as much of an outlier compared to smaller cities. However, and more importantly, the Chicago PD seizes more illegal guns than any other city in the nation. Here, the word “illegal” is a relative term, because these weapons are illegal in Michigan, but not in Indiana or one of the other neighboring states in which they were bought. 6.7% of the firearms recovered in Chicago come from Mississippi and 19% come from Indiana, both from legal stores and legal weapon shows in those states, and the problem is that there is no way to regulate any of that.
Federal Gun Control Laws are either non-existent or so toothless so as to be almost laughable. They do try to prevent transfer or selling of guns across state lines, “except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers,” which basically means most people who sell firearms. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed, and the Brandy Gun Violence Prevention Act requires background checks from anyone purchasing a gun, but “depending on seller and venue.” Even worse, if your name appears on a terrorist watch list, then you can still buy a firearm. According to the FBI, between 2004 and 2014, more than 2,000 people listed as known or suspected terrorists purchased rifles, guns, and even other assault weapons. These people aren’t even allowed to fly on airplanes but they can purchase weapons? Even worse-er the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the organization we have in place to police and investigate these very violations, has been slowly neutered over the years by aggressive lobbyists. The department is underfunded, understaffed, and often barred from enforcing existing laws. The ATF did not have a permanent director for seven years, and they are not even allowed to inspect gun dealers more than once a year. Yet, around 40% of all legal firearm sales involve private sellers and do not require background checks, and 40% of prison inmates who used a gun in their crimes got them this way.
The Truth Behind the Animation
You may think we are being ridiculous by comparing the very serious problem of gun violence in this nation with the absurd violence of Japanese based animation, and you would be right. Because when we look at anime we know that those weapons are too large, too impractical, and too over the top to be realistic, but when we look at the violence that takes place around us every day, the mass shootings, the suicides, the accidental deaths, the gang violence, and all the rest we just think of it as normal. So maybe it is time that most Americans began think about this problem the same way they do anime, because it is confusing, absurd, and at times disturbing.
Some people claim that it is too late to do anything about guns, the cat-demon is out of the bottle, but that is no reason to not try. Because the real amazingly absolutely ridiculous thing is that it is already illegal in most states to openly carry any sword of any size in public. That literally means that it is more of a felony in most states to walk around with a 500 pound impractically tall blade than an 11-ounce handgun, but unlike that Buster Sword, when it comes to the handgun, you do not need to have spiky hair or giant eyes to do serious damage.