Some ‘Dutch-Danish’ Thoughts on Gun Violence
Invariably, after every tragedy such as the one that took place last week in Parkland, Fla., stories are published of how in such-and-such a country the gun crime rate is “infinitesimally” small or of how things were much better in the “old days,” or of both.
The following anecdotal experience, in a way, would qualify for the “both.”
Living in the Netherlands as a teenager, I remember our family religiously gathering around the vacuum-tube television “receiver” every evening to watch “The National News” at 7pm. As a matter of fact, we would often start gathering around the set several minutes before 7 to “watch” and/or adjust the test pattern.
This was in the mid ’50s.
If I remember correctly, at the time there was only one Dutch TV channel, Nederland 1, and it only broadcast two or three hours a night.
Our family must have been fortunate because, in 1957 there were only 100,000 television sets in the whole country.
But we – and the whole country – were even more fortunate in another way.
In those days, homicides in the Netherlands were very rare and gun crimes almost non-existent. Although the national records agency did not start compiling homicide figures until 1996, if my memory serves me correctly, a murder in the Netherlands — whether in our hometown of Rotterdam, in our province of Zuid Holland or in the entire nation — certainly “made” the national news. I honestly do not remember if any of those rare murders were committed with a gun, although there may have been one or two.
I could not ascertain how many of those murders were committed with firearms. However, a study of homicide cases in the Netherlands for the period of 1992-2009 finds that during that period an average of 223 persons per year were murdered, with 37 percent of the victims killed with a firearm.
Even today, the Dutch homicide rate is very low and had been steadily falling. In 2016, the number of murders committed in the Netherlands had decreased to a total of 110 for the entire year — 10 fewer than in 2015.
The Netherlands does not have a Second Amendment (no NRA either) and has some of the strictest laws and regulations when it comes to firearms ownership, registration, control and use. With one firearm per 85 people, the Netherlands ranks 107th in the world when it comes to gun crimes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing our Second Amendment.
As a matter of fact, I emigrated to the United States because of the freedoms and rights represented by the Bill of Rights – which includes the Second Amendment – and because of all the other blessings America had to offer and delivered.
To be totally frank, as a teenager I loved the remnants of the “Wild West” culture in America.
I devoured books about Cowboys and Indians and fancied myself one day riding a bronco — cowboy hat, boots and all — through the Texas badlands, a six-shooter on each side, shooting at everything that moved.
A year after I finally arrived in the promised land, I did “bear arms,” but as in the armed forces of my newly adopted country.
Why am I writing all this?
Perhaps because every gun massacre in my new country makes me yearn back to the “way it was” in another place, at another time.
Perhaps because every such tragedy prompts me to long for a day in America when children will feel absolutely safe at the schools they attend and adults as safe as possible at their places of work, recreation and worship.
In a nation where everything is possible, there must be a way to balance the inalienable right to keep and bear arms given by an amendment to the Constitution with the inalienable rights of life and the pursuit of happiness granted by the Creator.
To be sure, the Netherlands is not the only place where gun statistics are in favor of people and not guns. One just has to look a Japan, a country of more than 127 million people which rarely sees more than 10 gun deaths a year.
Another country, Australia, was dealing with a spat of gun violence in the ’80s and ’90s, culminating in a 1996 gun massacre that claimed 35 lives.
The Australian government took some common-sense measures — including a ban on and a massive buyback of certain semi-automatic weapons — which drastically reduced the number of gun killings, from 98 in 1996 to 35 in 2014, despite a population increase of five million over the same period.
Another country with a low rate of gun violence is Denmark: “In 2016 only eight shooting deaths.”
It so happens that a good friend, an American, has been living in Denmark for many years now. I will let him describe Danish gun laws and how…
“It’s a shame that USA doesn’t take aim
On Denmark’s gun laws: to help them be sane”
Your guessed it, in poem form.
The Danes have no “God Given Right” to own a gun
Rather it’s free healthcare and higher education: and biking for fun
Now “open carry” means a child with you on a bike seat
Not some phony armed “tough guy” strutting about the street
Danes can’t go out and buy guns and ammo for the “heck” of it
Only licensed hunters, target shooters or gun collectors authentic
You can’t get one thru the mail or a gun show
Every gun is registered: if you own one: the authorities know
To buy one you must demonstrate you’re mentally stable
And before owning one: you must prove that to use it you’re able
A gun safe must be provided: for the authorities to see
Bolted to a wall or floor under lock and key
Now automatic weapons are strictly forbidden
To even own a pistol is an exception rarely given
The 2016 number of weapons per 100 was 12: in the USA it’s 101!
USA had 27 times the gun murder rate: when the calculations are done
In mass murders the USA is way ahead of the Dane’s zero amount
It is now early in 2018: and the USA already has a 60 count
No sane Dane: would allow a single AR-15: it’s simply insane
Nor permit handguns for every Tom, Dick and Harry to carry
And now and again, a gang-against-gang killing has occurred
But in 2016 only 8 shooting deaths: not the USA carnage absurd
Of course, there may be some illegal guns on the street
Europe’s borders are open: total control is hard to meet
“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun: is to arm everyone”
The NRA says with bravado: but the Danes show less: is best!
It’s totally ridiculous that the USA allows its gun slaughter
It should use Danish gun laws: to make it safe for your son or daughter
I will bet my bottom dollar that a teenager in any of the countries mentioned above would not have been able to buy one gun, let alone “at least 10 firearms.”
Lead image credit: flickr.com