Monday, 17 December 2012

The US and Guns

I presume that if you're reading this, I won't need to tell you what prompted a post about gun control in the US. I presume that to have found your way here, you are already aware of the shooting of twenty elementary (primary) school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. It is a deplorable act, but as we speak, investigations are still ongoing into the mindset of the individual deemed responsible. We have seen unhelpful talk about his mental health, seen him labelled a 'goth' and a 'loner', as though these tags are somehow cast iron indicators of derangement, bubbling under the surface, ready to erupt at any time.

At Sandy Hook, the media circus will quietly disengage when the answers to the questions on a million lips tell us nothing about how to avoid the same things happening again. As Sandy Hook on an innocuous December morning, so Virgina Tech or Columbine. Once the revulsion of the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook wears off, there is a quiet resignation to what will happen next - the NRA-lovin' Good Ol' Boys flex their muscles and make statements about how if more people owned guns, more deranged individuals would get shot before they did serious damage. The political establishment wrings their hands, cries their tears, and declares that now is not the time to talk about gun control. We, safe behind a statistic that shows only 0.25 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people per year in the UK, can shake our heads and wonder why the States just don't get it.

So, to look at the underlying statistics, exactly how many gun-related deaths in the US are there each year? Wikipedia cites statistics from the World Health Organisation and, showing that the US, with 9 gun-related deaths per year per 100,000 people, you are 36 times more likely to die as a result of a gun-related incident in the US than you are in the UK. However, of those deaths, nearly two-thirds are suicides.

The US has 2.98 gun-related homicides per 100,000 per year. Assuming that the US has a population of approximately 350 million, this equates to 10,430 gun-related homicides from the years that these statistics were taken, and assuming that this trend continues, your chances of dying in a gun-related homicide in the US are 0.00298% in any given year. To put that in context, homicide remains the fifteenth most likely cause of death in the US, with heart disease claiming nearly 600,000 people in 2011, and cancer 565,000 of the 2.5 million people who die each year in the US.

If debate about senseless loss of life features in US political discourse, the figures suggest that it should be overwhelmingly focused on cheeseburgers and healthcare rather than gun control.

The statistics shown here are not an attempt to make light of any aspect of the killings in Connecticut, nor to play down the impact that such events have upon American society. However, they are a genuine attempt to try and extract some facts from huge walls of data and the emotive, political rhetoric that follows. Nonetheless, the arguments against assault weapons and weapons with large-capacity magazines would seem to be compelling. Your chances of dying in a car accident may be higher than your chances of being shot, but while a car is a functional method of transport, an assault rifle can really only be used for one thing.

There are signs too that the US is starting to ask the right questions. I followed the news surrounding Columbine and Virginia Tech, and at that time, there was much talk about youth disenfranchisement and almost nothing about mental health care. The fact that there now seems a willingness for such things to be discussed suggests that US society is now willing to accept that headway may be made by offering greater support to those individuals who might commit these crimes. The Republicans might do well to reflect that a legacy of Obamacare might be that they get to keep relaxed gun laws in the long term.

So if you'll forgive the unfortunate nature of the analogy, if the ongoing debate about mass killings is a lost battle for those opposed to gun control, are there signs that they are winning the war? The fact remains that however grim the media make gun crime in the US seem, the stats still show that the chances of the average American dying in a gun-related incident are miniscule - and that even then, the chances of said incident being a suicide are double the chances of it being a homicide. This may be small comfort for those families that are currently burying their children, but evidence suggests that such incidents don't severely impact upon public opinion about gun control.

Indeed, when you consider that there are supposedly nine guns in America for every ten people (that's 315 million guns, if you're counting), why is the murder rate not higher? Psychotic individuals will have the capacity to inflict greater casualties if they have access to guns, but statistics still suggest that the overwhelming number of American gun owners are responsible gun owners.

Violent crime is a reality for all societies, but whether we in the UK agree with it or not, the US still shows every sign of choosing their individual liberties over stricter gun controls. Despite this, perhaps the real unsavoury truth about America is that actually, despite appearances, statistics would suggest that it remains a very safe place to live. Unless you like cheeseburgers.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Guest Blogger: Sammie Faye Rogers - Christmas Reads

I would like to start this post by thanking Kris for his support and for allowing me to take control (ha) of his blog for one day to post this for you all. As a fellow writer and someone I met during NaNoWriMo, I have a lot of respect for Kris and am just so appreciative of his support. Today I have written a post on the books I plan to read this Christmas time.

Reading during Christmas is something that I love to do because I just love getting into that magical and spectacular feeling. Christmas has always been a big family holiday for me but it’s also a time for giving, loving, and there’s just this lovely magnificent feel to the entire season. Therefore, during this Christmas period I plan to read books that have the same kind of feel to them.


One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
I have long been a lover of Cecelia Ahern’s books and so when I heard about her newest release, I simply had to get it. And as I know her books usually fill me with happiness and are full of magic, I am looking forward to saving it for Christmas.

Heart Waves by Danielle Sibarium
The synopsis of this book sounds so intense and heart-breaking and magical, and I simply cannot wait to dive straight into it! But with all the romance side of it, I think it’ll be a perfect Christmas read.

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn
This book has such an amazing premise and the reviews of it have all said that it is amazing, plus I have read the first chapter and loved it. So I am looking forward to carrying on with this story but thought it best to wait until Christmas as it’s a wintry read!


The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable
I have had this book in my possession for way too long now without picking it up! It stares at me all the time and I just want to pick up because it is so pretty and purple. But it’s set in winter with a snowy cover and I have been waiting for the perfect moment to dive into it!

Night School by C. J. Daugherty
This I actually got almost a year ago and have been meaning to read all year but never got the chance. Because it’s about witches, sounds spectacular and has a sequel on the way next year, I really want to read this over Christmas.

A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton
This book has been on my radar for a really long time and it also makes me think it’ll give me the same feel that Christmas gives me so I’m looking forward to getting to it this month! It has also been recommended to me too, so I am really excited to start this.

As you can see, most of these questions aren’t your typical Christmas reads but that’s what I like about them. They’re different, unique, and can bring that Christmas feel to a person at any time of the year.

What books are you hoping to read this Christmas?

Did you like this blog post? Would you like to see more posts like it? If the answer to that question is yes, then I need your help!

If you have just one minute to spare, I would love it if you could watch this video. If I get the most-watches, I may win my chance to blog for Mira INK, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

If you like the video and wish to comment, like or share it, I would be truly appreciative!

At the end of the competition on Dec 11th, I will be choosing one lucky commenter or sharer and they will win themselves a Christmas Surprise! So what are you waiting for?

All interactions are truly appreciated and I want to thank you all now for the wonderful support! If you would like to get to know me better, feel free to follow my blog, my twitter, add me on facebook or goodreads, or e-mail me!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Giving Tree

Visitors to Waterstones in Norwich are being invited to be a part of an annual book appeal for children in care in Norfolk.

The Giving Tree, which is in Waterstones now, is decorated with tags that represent dozens of children’s book wishes. Customers then choose a tag, which includes brief details about a particular child and the book, or genre of book, they would like to receive, and take the book to the till. The books are then collected by the County Council and wrapped in time for Christmas. Last year, over 200 books were bought at the store for children in care.

I think the Giving Tree is a fantastic idea. Books are a magnificent present idea at the best of times and helping those children who are separated from their families to have something to look forward to at this festive time of year is a very noble cause. Please go along and support it!

Books need to be bought by 12 December in order to reach children in time for Christmas, though books bought after that date will still be passed to children in the new year.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Why Blog?

It's probably appropriate that after returning to Four Thousand Words from my successful Nanowrimo hiatus that my first blog entry for absolutely aaaaaaages is selling someone else's dream rather than my own.

My friend Sammie (also known as Faye), who I met through Nanowrimo, is attempting to win a competition run by teen fiction publishers MiraInk to win an awesome job - blogging for a wage.

Contrary to popular belief, those of us that bare our souls on the internet so that the rest of you have something to read that is slightly more informative than the Daily Mail or the Sun are, shockingly, not financially rewarded for our efforts. I know, I know. When I began this enterprise as a way of venting my spleen that wouldn't see me banned from public places or having an aneurysm at the sheer bloody awful state of things, I expected to have a following of millions of smiling, attractive followers within the week, and enough advertising revenue and merchandising to retire forever to Miami within a few months. After all, I have a IQ in three figures and a vicious sense of humour, which puts me on a rough social par with Frankie Boyle. But unfortunately, I'm also about as wealthy as a typical Glaswegian. Anyway, I digress.

Sammie is one of ten hip young things who have a chance to win the blogging contract, and it would really help her efforts if we could share her sixty-second entry far and wide to ensure that she nets this prestigious prize.

Click here to see Sammie's entry.

The question that Sammie asks in her entry is, 'Why Blog?' Unlike me, she has a slightly more in depth answer than 'if I don't get the crazy out, I'm scared I might pop a vein.' Sammie reviews books - those much vilified and sadly underrated cornerstones of civilisation that are disregarded by so many in an age of instant gratification and reality television.

In addition to a role contributing something positive to society, Sammie is sweet and friendly, and has lots of time for her audience. Her blog, 'A Daydreamer's Thoughts', can be found by clicking on the link.

Sammie is right that it takes guts to put a piece of yourself on the internet - that unforgiving, all-encompassing web that has access to all your drunken pictures and never forgets all the silly things that you have to say. But when you have the reward of knowing that something you have produced is enjoyed and shared with others, it makes the whole act of producing something so completely worthwhile. In short, it is what being a writer is all about.